President Katalin Novák said Hungary will prove it is capable of “being a good president of the EU Council” when it takes over the presidency in the second half of the year.
Speaking at the event held in Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts for members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Hungary, President Novák noted the falling demographic numbers in Europe. While one-fifth of the world’s population was European 50 years ago, now it is only one-tenth, she said. EU member states account for 6% of the planet’s population, and that ratio is expected to fall to 4% by 2070, she said. She said Europe was also losing economic importance. “The question is whether we can change this,” she said. At the European parliamentary elections this year, 400 million EU citizens will have the opportunity “to determine the direction of European politics,” she said. Hungary will take over the presidency on July 1, shortly after the elections. Its priorities will include the EU’s addressing the demographic challenges and carrying on with the enlargement process, with a special focus on the Western Balkans, she said. President Novák said 2023 had been a difficult year, plagued by wars in Ukraine and Israel, economic woes, political uncertainty and early elections in many countries, environmental disasters, illegal migration, misinformation, the emergence of artificial intelligence on a large-scale, “non-political stakeholders with hidden political ambitions” and the influence of technology companies in a near-monopoly position. “The question is how the international community [and] world leaders will handle these challenges.” Meanwhile, 2024 would be a year of “democracy and elections”, she said. Fully 76 countries will hold elections impacting some 4 billion people. “I hope that the outcome of the elections will be respected everywhere.” Among the memorable events of 2023, Novák highlighted the apostolic visit of Pope Francis, Budapest hosting the World Athletics Championships, and the Nobel Prizes of Katalin Karikó and Ferenc Krausz. In 2024, Hungary will again host a Demography Summit, as well as the first meeting of female heads of state, she said. Novák said diplomats’ presentation of a country in their own lands was crucial, as they were credible sources of information. She called on the diplomatic corps to seek good relations with Hungary. As a credible source of information, Novák said diplomats were crucial in projecting a favourable image of the country. Archbishop Michael Wallace Banach, the apostolic nuncio to Hungary, lamented the fate of the elderly, women and children suffering in war zones or due to other difficulties. He also expressed concern over the wars in Ukraine and Israel and called for ending the conflicts by negotiation. He said he hoped Hungary would continue to play an active diplomatic role in finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts.