From Hungary’s point of view, it is of the utmost importance that, even after its departure from the European Union, the United Kingdom will remain committed to Europe’s security, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő stated, after he received British Ambassador to Budapest Iain Lindsay in his office on 16 January, Thursday.

Mr Benkő said one of Hungary’s chief tasks for the future is to urge close security and defence cooperation between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The United Kingdom has significant defence potential; as a nuclear power, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and also as a NATO ally, it is a major factor from the viewpoint of the continent’s security, the Defence Minister pointed out.

While NATO is one of the most important pledges of our security, future relations between the EU and Britain will also have to take into consideration EU aspirations which seek to intensify the defence cooperation of Member States and to pursue a more ambitious EU defence policy. Supporting these aspirations is a priority for Hungary, Mr Benkő said.

The head of the Defence Ministry also highlighted that Hungary has a vested interest in the development of close defence cooperation between the United Kingdom and the EU. Naturally, meanwhile we must also respect the framework of relations already formed with third-party states that significantly contribute to the EU’s common foreign and security policy and its common security and defence policy, the Minister recalled.

With regard to the cessation of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, the Defence Minister expressed hope for the establishment of close relations based on the principle of mutual benefits. This is currently under way between the two countries, and negotiations are making good progress. During the meeting, each party expressed words of appreciation in connection with the other’s contribution to the EU’s crisis management missions. It is a common interest that the continuity of cooperation in missions should remain intact, and that we may lay down the necessary legal framework before the end of this year, Mr Benkő highlighted.

Finally, the Defence Minister expressed hope that the two countries would also find cooperation opportunities in the field of the defence industry. The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition held on 10-13 September 2019 where the Ministry of Defence was also represented is a promising sign in this regard.

The two parties further consulted with respect to the employment of military personnel after their active service, the sharing of experiences and knowledge related to post-service care, and the continuation and intensification of expert-level cooperation. With a view to sharing the experiences of the veteran programme operating in the United Kingdom, in the near future two experts will come to Hungary to help with the adaptation of the UK practice to Hungarian conditions.

Talking about education cooperation, the Minister said patriotic defence education is a key objective, as part of which they are seeking to reach young people in the largest possible numbers. It is to this end that he suggested that Hungary should acquaint itself in more detail with the British cadet system. At their meeting, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő and British Ambassador Iain Lindsay also spoke about the latest security situation in the Middle East.