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Novák Katalin és Rumen Radev 2023.02.02. Szófia - Bulgária

Katalin Novák: the Russian-Ukrainian war must be brought to an end as soon as possible

The Russian-Ukrainian war must be brought to an end as soon as possible, the most important goal is peace – said President of Hungary Katalin Novák at her press meeting with President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev in Sofia on Thursday.

Katalin Novák recalled: the Russian-Ukrainian war in the neighbourhood of the two countries has been raging for almost a year, and there is no sign of peace. The aim is to achieve peace as soon as possible, and to prevent the war from escalating and military pressure from increasing.

"There are also Hungarians and Bulgarians living in Ukraine, and we have already suffered causalities because of the war. So the most important theme was that we must end the war as soon as possible," she stressed.

She said that, in addition to the possibility of a path leading to an early peace settlement, the discussion also covered the issue of minorities in Ukraine, Bulgaria's accession to Schengen, illegal migration, energy issues and the demographic crisis.

Katalin Novák said: " We will do our utmost to fully guarantee the rights of our minorities in Ukraine."
She recalled that the members of the Bulgarian minority in Hungary do not only enjoy full status in their daily lives, but also have a representative in the Hungarian Parliament. " This also shows that we are not only committed to supporting minorities living in Hungary in financial terms, but also want to give them every opportunity to live and expand their own culture, traditions and rights. Hopefully this can be a good example for others", she added.

She highlighted that Hungary supports Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area as soon as possible, as we also consider Romania’s accession necessary. This is in the interest of the European Union as well – she pointed out.

Concerning illegal migration, she said: "Both Hungary and Bulgaria protect the EU’s external borders, our countries are at the frontline. Illegal migration pressure on our borders is on the rise, while the aggressiveness of illegal arrivals is also increasing. Our countries and Italy will take decisive action to stop this", she added.

Speaking of the issue of energy, she explained: "From an energy perspective, Bulgaria’s geographical conditions are more favourable, the country has easier access to energy sources, is less dependent on others, and has access to the sea. We are in a more difficult situation, and accordingly, we are looking for opportunities to diversify our energy supplies, with the aim of reducing and then eliminating dependence on Russian gas."

The President highlighted: nuclear energy is of key importance to Hungary and Bulgaria, but the supply by Bulgaria as a transit country of 3,5 billion cubic metres of gas arriving along the Turkish-Bulgarian-Serbian line has been uninterrupted, and Hungary needs this source very much as well.

Katalin Novák also spoke of the demographic crisis, an issue that afflicts Bulgaria as well, as its population declined by 13 percent in the last two decades. Hungary and Bulgaria will also cooperate on supporting families, and Katalin Novák invited the President of Bulgaria to join the Network of Family Friendly Presidents and also to attend the Budapest Demographic Summit.

In response to a question she explained: 150 thousand Hungarians live in Transcarpathia, for whom the right to use their mother tongue in their daily lives is key. She added: we insist that their rights are guaranteed, but recent amendments to the law point in the wrong direction, depriving the Hungarian minority of the exercise of its rights. Currently, numerous actions are taking place in Transcarpathia that are insulting to minorities.

She recalled: she already indicated this to President of Ukraine Volodymir Zelensky, but has still not received a reply. She underlined: if Ukraine’s goal is EU membership, it has to guarantee the rights of its minorities. There is a common stance on this matter, as those who become aware of the problem, including the President of Italy and the President of Austria, support the cause of the Hungarian minority.

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev said that his country endeavours to strengthen its trade, economic and cultural ties with Hungary. She thanked Hungary for supporting the cause of the Bulgarian minority, and providing support to those living there not just in financial terms, but also in preserving their culture. He said that Hungary’s behaviour towards its minorities is a true example of European tolerance. He also thanked Hungary for its consistent policy of supporting the Schengen accession of Bulgaria and Romania.

He underlined that the two countries share the same position both on illegal migration and the Russian-Ukrainian war.

President Radev explained that a large and historically recognised Bulgarian community lives in Ukraine. He stressed that it is very important for the community living there to pass on its traditions and preserve its identity. The Bulgarian President stressed that in order for Ukraine to be able to join the European Union under the fast-track procedure, at its own request, it is important that it takes into consideration and respects human rights and preserves European values.