Speaking in the opening session of the two-day NATO Transformation Seminar on Wednesday in Budapest, Minister of Defence István Simicskó said that NATO is “the guarantee of security”, and the member states “must think together in order to come up with efficient answers” to the challenges.

István Simicskó pointed out that Hungary is interested in a “fully operational and efficient NATO”, “which is the fundamental pillar of the security of Europe as well”. The minister stated that “we can see the swift changes in the world, when it comes to security challenges…and we see very intense crises developing throughout the world. For us, establishing and guaranteeing stability is of key importance”.

He explained that the most difficult task is that “we must construct the security of our future today. We must come up with capabilities and answers which enable us to provide a solution for the challenges of the future, and we can only do that together”. In assessing the current security situation, he said that “the security conditions of Europe have deteriorated” significantly in the last few years. Among the problems, he mentioned the increasing number of unstable states, the problems and dangers caused by illegal mass migration, the numerous acts of terrorism in the largest cities of Europe, the fact that terrorism has become more intense throughout the world, and the crisis in Ukraine.

According to the minister of defence, the southern and the eastern challenges must be addressed together. He added that “Every trouble is at the same time an opportunity for joint action”, which can strengthen cooperation and solidarity among the member states.

He also noted that Hungary supports a proposal by the new American president and secretary of defense that NATO must do even more to fight terrorism, and also agrees that the European member states must increase their defence spending. Hungary has compiled a ten-year development plan, the “Zrínyi Plan”, which will help equip the Hungarian Defence Forces with capabilities that enable them to meet the new types of challenges. He added that the government of Hungary has also made a decision to establish a new center for defence studies before the end of this year.  

NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller emphasized that “NATO faces serious challenges”, but “our Alliance remains strong and united as we continue to adapt”. She said that the objective of the present seminar is to “enable NATO members to connect more closely”, so that the Alliance can tackle the challenges in a more efficient way. The security environment is changing indeed, but as she noted, “since its founding in 1949, NATO has adapted time and again to changing security environments” in order to be able to address the challenges and become more effective. So far, adaptation has been the key to success.

The NATO Deputy Secretary General noted that in NATO “we all know that when our neighbors are more stable, we are more secure”. She added that “all of our efforts to adapt to the changing security challenges will require a combination of determination, unity of purpose, innovative thinking and increased defence spending, but…we not only need to spend more, we need to spend better as well”.

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT) General Denis Mercier said that the seminar provides a unique opportunity to discuss how NATO can “adapt to the rapidly changing security environment and continuously improve its military posture”.  He emphasized that today “the Euro-Atlantic area faces an unprecedented range of threats”, which requires “extensive cooperation” of the member states, because “no single nation or organization can on its own simultaneously address all threats and challenges”.

The NATO Transformation Seminar is being attended by Permanent Representatives and Military Representatives to NATO of the 28 member nations, as well as security policy experts.

Deputy Secretary for Defence Policy and Planning Péter Siklósi earlier said that this is the largest scientific conference of the organization involving some 350 participants, so it is a great recognition for Hungary to have been granted the right to organize the event. He told the press that the annual professional conference always focuses on the challenges faced by NATO, such as presently Russia, the Islamic State terrorist organization and terrorism, as well as the challenges of cyberspace.