The Defence Ministers of the North Atlantic Alliance held their meeting in Brussels on 14–15 February. The Hungarian delegation from Budapest was headed by Deputy Minister of Defence Tamás Vargha. At the venue, Hungary’s ambassador to NATO Péter Sztáray joined the delegation.

For the allies, a key topic of discussion was “transatlantic burden sharing”, because, at the 2014 Wales Summit, they had agreed to meet in a decade the NATO guideline to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Tamás Vargha told that by the end of last year, every member country had prepared a detailed report on the time-proportional fulfilment of the NATO Defence Investment Pledge made in Wales. At the meeting, we reviewed these reports, the deputy minister added. He emphasized that Hungary is making good progress in implementing the Wales decision, as its defence budget has been increasing for years, and under a government decision, it will have reached 2 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product by 2024.


He pointed out that a development of historic significance has been launched in the life of the Hungarian Defence Forces, as last year we already spent around 20 per cent of our defense expenditures on procurement of military equipment as well as on research and development, and from 2018 on, we are approximating the 30 per cent NATO target. The structure of the defence budget can be considered ideal when 30 per cent of it is spent on development and modernization, 30 per cent on maintenance and operation, and 40 per cent on salary and other salary allowances.

Tamás Vargha also pointed out that, in the framework of the Zrínyi 2026 National Defence and Armed Forces Development Program, we will completely fulfil the goals of armed forces development undertaken as NATO commitments. Besides, we will continue maintaining the on average 1000-strong long-term presence of the Hungarian Defence Forces in international peace support operations.  With this, Hungary meets the Alliance guidelines in all areas inspected, which is something that less than half of the 29 member states can say about themselves, the deputy minister concluded.

The security situation of Europe has significantly deteriorated in the last few years due to mass migration, the growing number of acts of terror and the conflict in Ukraine, among other factors. We must adapt to the new challenges and reinforce NATO’s defence structures. This implies many new tasks and necessitates the modernization of the NATO Command Structure. Therefore, we decided that in order to be able to execute the new tasks smoothly, we must increase the staff levels and establish several new NATO commands, Tamás Vargha explained. With this, we can ensure that we can defend the areas and populations of NATO member countries against any challenges under all circumstances, he pointed out.

The ministers also exchanged ideas with Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. They concluded that the cooperation between NATO and the EU has made rapid progress in the last 18 months, and there is already collaboration in 74 different areas. During the discussions, Tamás Vargha noted that Hungary supports the deepening of the European Common Security and Defence Policy, because stronger European defence capabilities will strengthen NATO’s European pillar as well. At the same time, the programs of the two organizations should be harmonized as much as possible because in the end, what we need is not more bureaucracy but more military capabilities, he added.

The agenda of the conference originally included a meeting of the NATO–Ukraine Commission at the level of defence ministers, but it was left out of the program at Hungary’s request. Since the passing of the Ukrainian Education Act last September – which adversely affects the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia – Hungary has been unable to support any high-level meetings between NATO and Ukraine. This will remain so, as long as the Ukrainian side does not take steps to settle the issue, Tamás Vargha said.


On the margins of the NATO ministerial meeting, Tamás Vargha held a short bilateral discussion with the Romanian defence minister to review current issues in the military cooperation between the two countries, including, for example, joint exercises and cooperation in disaster relief operations.

(Ministry of Defence)