Minister of Defence Tibor Benkó received his Czech counterpart with full military honours on Heroes’ Square in Budapest on Friday 21 June, following which the parties held a joint press conference at the Hotel Hadik after holding negotiations. Mr. Benkő stressed that cooperation between the Czech and Hungarian military is extremely good.

The Hungarian Defence Minister told the press that the parties had discussed three main topics, including the issue of security, cooperation between the two countries and military development. He explained that the two countries have a similar view of the changes in their direct security vicinity: although there exist diverse challenges, the greatest danger to people is losing their sense of security. “For precisely this reason, the Hungarian Government declares that security comes first, and acts accordingly”, he stated. According to NATO, there are two main directions of vulnerability, south and east, but as the Minister explained, attention must also be placed on Central Europe and greater emphasis must be placed on the region’s security.

“This security can be served, for instance, by the command element of the Multinational Central European Division, which is being formed at Hungary’s initiative, and by the creation of the command elements of the regional special operational forces component”, he added. Cooperation between regional countries can primarily be envisaged between the countries of the Visegrád Group (V4), with the inclusion of other states, such as Croatia, that also have an interest in this. “It is my firm belief that V4 military cooperation can become one of the fundamental pillars of the region’s security”, Mr. Benkő emphasised, adding that France and Germany must also be involved in joint work, and a situation that can also be applied following Brexit must be developed together with them.

He also said that his Czech colleague had specifically thanked Hungary for undertaking the organisation of the major border security exercises to be held in October. “The goal of the training exercises is to prepare the participants for the challenges of a migration state of emergency, meaning the protection of the external borders. Fifteen countries have indicated their interest in the exercises to date”, he added. From among bilateral relations, he mentioned cooperation between the two countries’ military secondary schools; the Debrecen-based Kratochvil Károly Military Secondary School and College represents Hungary within the field of education institutions of this nature. The Minister said it is important for cooperation to become even tighter within this field, for instance because of the importance of sharing experiences. The results of the Kratochvil school are encouraging the Ministry of Defence to open even more schools of this type, he added.

With relation to the development of armed forces, he said there is excellent cooperation between the two countries within this field, and they are of the same opinion concerning the areas that need to be affected by modernisation. He mentioned that the Hungarian Defence Force has purchased Czech training aircraft, and the production of small arms will soon begin in the weapons plant in Kiskunfélegyháza based on a Czech license. He stressed that the parties are paying attention to the European Union’s PESCO project in view of the fact that it also includes several common points, for instance within the fields of innovation, research & development and investment projects. “My opinion is that we have performed successful and useful work that is assuring us a well-founded opportunity for the further development of cooperation”, the Minister said in closing, wishing the Czech Republic much success towards the presidential duties of the Visegrád Group.

At the press conference, Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar pointed out that the Czech Republic will be taking over the presidency of the Visegrád Group on 1 July, adding that the Slovakian presidency has been of extremely high quality and has set the standard extremely high. At the meeting, the parties also discussed the points of the Czech presidency’s programme, amongst which the Minister mentioned the issue of regional security, military development, the establishment of joint tactical units, and expanded V4 cooperation.

The Czech Minister said uniform action within NATO and the EU, as well as cooperation within the framework of the V4 battle group, was extremely important. He highlighted the fact that the first meeting of the Czech V4 presidency will be held on 19-21 September, which will be followed by the so-called NATO Days event, in which the defence ministers of the cooperating countries will take part. He also mentioned illegal migration, pointing out that we cannot sit on our laurels even after the closure of the Balkan migration route in view of the fact that migration will increase. He added that the Czech Republic shares the Hungarian Government’s position on this issue, namely that problems must be handled where they arise.