The defence cooperation of the V4 has recently gained in strength, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Defence Ministry stressed on Wednesday in Budapest, at the press conference held as part of the meeting of the deputy defence ministers of the V4 countries.

Tamás Vargha said the V4 cooperation is more important and stronger than ever before. The Parliamentary State Secretary took the view that the V4 had recently proved that their cooperation was strong and had to be taken seriously.

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The Parliamentary State Secretary told the press they spoke about the most important challenges relevant to the V4 and Central Europe as well as about the common answers and solutions to be devised in response thereto. Terrorism and illegal migration were priority topics at the meeting. Mr Vargha highlighted that while the terrorist organisation called Islamic State has weakened in Iraq, the threat of terrorism has not abated.

Attendees of the meeting agreed that it is necessary to increase defence expenditures. Hungary will reach a 2 per cent to GDP defence budget by 2024, the Parliamentary State Secretary reiterated. He informed his counterparts about the Zrínyi 2026 defence and army development programme launched at the initiative of Defence Minister István Simicskó, the plans it entails and the first measures already adopted as part of it.

The four countries’ deputy defence ministers, including Tomasz Szatkowski (Polish), Róbert Ondrejcsák (Slovak) and Jakub Landovsky (Czech), said at their joint press conference that they discussed, inter alia, the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (Pesco) seeking to reinforce the European Union’s defence dimension, projects funded from the European Defence Fund, the preparations of the V4-EU Battlegroup to be set up again next year and NATO’s new Command Structure. Regarding the new Command Structure, they all stressed the importance of a regional approach. Mr Vargha also said Hungary wishes to take part in the work of the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration as well.

Czech deputy defence minister Jakub Landovsky also highlighted the importance of raising NATO’s command capabilities, and pointed out that all four countries are ready to make a contribution to the new Command Structure.

By their account the deputy defence ministers agreed in the context of common European security and defence policy that it has to be made more effective, and this will also require an independent military force. At the same time, the representatives of the four countries confirmed they do not wish to duplicate forces: the force in question would not be one that operates parallel to NATO, but rather an independent military capability which would enhance Europe’s security.

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Slovak deputy defence minister Róbert Ondrejcsák said the V4-EU Battlegroup will be one of the main priorities of the Slovak V4 Presidency. He invited his colleagues to a meeting concerning the Battlegroup to be held in Slovakia in the second half of the year. Slovakia will reach a 1.6 per cent to GDP defence budget by 2020, and the 2 per cent budget expected by NATO by 2024, he said.

Slovakia will send 150 soldiers to Latvia in July in order to reinforce the defence of the Baltic region, the Slovak deputy defence minister told the press, indicating that the defence of the Baltic region will be one of NATO’s most important operations during the period to come, and Slovakia intends to take part in it on a long-term basis.

Polish deputy defence minister Tomasz Szatkowski, too, stressed the importance of the participation of the V4 in the eastern wing of NATO, and took the view that they were making major efforts to enhance security. The Polish deputy defence minister described the Hungarian Presidency as a success. He believes the V4 have reinforced their cooperation which is now effective and successful, and they are heading in the right direction in the long run.

After the press conference Mr Vargha and his Czech, Slovak and Polish counterparts met with the South Korean deputy defence minister.