Hungarian president on a mission to mend fences with Romania

Joint press conference of Hungarian President Katalin Novák and her Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest on September 7. (MTI/Noémi Bruzák)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

Hungary’s first female president, Katalin Novák, took upon herself a task none of the country’s male politicians were able to successfully tackle in over a decade: restoring bilateral relations with neighboring Romania, which is also a fellow EU member and NATO ally.

The president’s role in Hungarian politics is largely ceremonial, unlike in Romania, where the president is in charge of foreign policy. Hence, Novák met President Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest, aiming to untangle the mess in bilateral relations, which has been hindered by the two countries’ different approach to the issue of the 1.5 million-strong ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania.

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“We also agreed that we would like to reduce the existing tensions, not increase them. We won’t agree on everything, we haven’t agreed on everything yet, but the most important thing is to be able to talk to each other, to be able to listen to each other. Maybe then, we can better understand the other’s point of view, even if we don’t have the same interests in all areas and the agreement is not complete,” Novák said at a joint press conference with Iohannis.

For his part, the Romanian president reiterated Romania’s long-standing grievance that Budapest’s financial support of the ethnic Hungarians in his country is discriminatory.

Iohannis called the contribution of the Hungarian state to the projects implemented on the territory of the Romania of fundamental importance, but at the same time, they “cannot be discriminatory on ethnic grounds and cannot violate Romanian, European or international law.” In relation to the visits of Hungarian officials to Romania, Iohannis emphasized that the speeches given on such occasions must be in line with the spirit of the strategic partnership and the Romanian-Hungarian basic agreement.

In addition to the bilateral presidential meeting, Katalin Novák also met Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, Acting President of the Senate Alina Gorghiu, and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Marcel Ciolacu. She additionally held talks with Hunor Kelemen, president of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), the main party of the Hungarian minority, and other RMDSZ ministers of the government.

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