President Novák said Transcarpathia Hungarians are "in our thoughts, words and prayers every day”

The president assured the community that “we are with them in our thoughts, words and prayers every day, especially at Christmas time.”

In an interview with local weekly Kárpáti Igaz Szó, President Katalin Novák expressed her support and sympathy for ethnic Hungarians in western Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region. The president assured the community that “we are with them in our thoughts, words and prayers every day, especially at Christmas time.”

In the interview published on Thursday, President Novák noted that she had visited Kyiv at the invitation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky twice this past year, with her latest visit having been in August. The president said she had conveyed the intent to make peace, along with the wish for the guarantee of the rights of the Hungarian minority to her Ukrainian counterpart. She said ethnic Hungarians had to simultaneously endure the difficulties of their everyday lives, the burden of war, restrictions to their rights and the consequences of internal migration. Novák said the Transcarpathian Hungarian community could find strength in their faith and their Hungarian identity. “The free use of the mother tongue isn’t just a requirement for the survival of an indigenous national minority, but one of the most fundamental European human rights norms,” the president said, adding that the leaders of the motherland could not ignore this right being questioned.

Concerning the talks, Novák advised caution about drawing conclusions, adding, however, that it was a “good sign” that she had spoken with Zelensky multiple times since. She said it was important that Zelensky had visited Berehove (Beregszász) for a second time after their talks to meet with the leaders of local ethnic Hungarian organisations. She said ethnic Hungarian leaders, too, had spoken of “meaningful progress”, but what that would be enough for was still to be seen. Novák said the new law on minority rights passed by Ukraine’s parliament was a “necessary but not sufficient” step towards easing the restrictions on ethnic Hungarians’ rights. She said the aim to restore the rights of minorities prior to 2015 was not just “Hungarian stubbornness”, arguing that taking away previously acquired minority rights and the right to the free use of the mother tongue was not acceptable in Europe, either. Hungary’s demands, she said, were actually European requirements. “This is the bare minimum now that Brussels has decided to enter into accession talks,” she said. Underlining the importance of peace, Novák said it was difficult to say how the conditions for peace could be reached, adding that the most important aim now was to bring an end to the “destructive phase” of the war. The president called for negotiations on how each side could achieve their goals by peaceful means and talks. She said Transcarpathian Hungarians had an interest in both Ukraine’s and Hungary’s prosperity and peaceful coexistence with their broader environment. Novák said progress required unity between Hungary and Ukraine, adding that Hungary was prepared to maintain fair relations if it saw that ethnic Hungarians were respected. Ukraine, she said, still had a “long road” to navigate to join the alliances Hungary is a part of, adding that it would be impossible for the country to get there without Transcarpathian Hungarians. Novák said she wanted her meetings with Zelensky to convey the message that if the Hungarian president was able to engage in talks with the Ukrainian president, then dialogue between Ukrainians and Hungarians was also possible.