Hungary has a vested interest in supporting the EU’s enhanced acting capacity, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő stressed on Tuesday, 12 November after the Brussels meeting of the European Union’s defence ministers. The agenda of the meeting included the implementation of the European security and defence package, the status of missions and operations, and the current issues of EU-NATO cooperation.

The ministerial-level Steering Board of the European Defence Agency (EDA) also met under the auspices of the meeting of defence ministers. As part of the Steering Board meeting, members of the board adopted the body’s three-year planning framework document, and agreed that the EDA’s budget for 2020 would be the same as the sum allocated for this year; however, this does not cover the comprehensive fulfilment of all responsibilities.

The Minister said Hungary supports the efforts which seek to reinforce the EU’s acting capacity in the fields of security and defence. Hungary believes that to this end it is necessary to intensify the defence cooperation of Member States, and to consistently further the defence initiatives launched in the wake of the EU Global Strategy (EUGS).

Mr Benkő pointed out that at present the emphasis is on creating and strengthening cohesion as well as on result-oriented implementation. According to the Hungarian position, the initiatives which serve to strengthen defence cooperation are heading in the right direction. Hungary recognises the results achieved so far, but in the future we will have to focus on more effective implementation. At this point in time, there is no need for creating new mechanisms and structures.

The Minister highlighted that Hungary welcomes the adoption of a strategic document which outlines the long-term goals of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and the direction for development. He added that the dynamic implementation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation is important for Hungary, and we also welcome the projects now adopted by ministers in the third round, including the Hungarian-led EUROSIM project.

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini expressed concern regarding the deterioration of the security situation which we can only manage by increasing the number of military personnel participating in peacekeeping missions. In order to stop the further deterioration of the situation – which has in some places become critical – she asked EU Member States to assume responsibility for guaranteeing peace and security.

Regarding EU missions and operations, the Defence Minister also said the Hungarian Defence Forces contribute to three of the EU’s six ongoing military operations, while we also send experts to the EUMM Georgia monitoring mission.

Hungary’s involvement focuses on guaranteeing the stability of the Western Balkans region which is of strategic importance for our country. Accordingly, in the case of the EUFOR Althea mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are the third largest contributor nation.

Mr Benkő highlighted that in 2019, in the interest of stabilising the Sahel region, enhancing Europe’s security and managing the root causes of illegal migration, Hungary is upgrading its military involvement in the Mali mission.

At the working lunch held in conclusion of the meeting, in the presence of NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana, the attending Defence Ministers reviewed the results achieved in the most important areas of EU-NATO cooperation. The Hungarian Defence Minister pointed out that Hungary consistently supports the strengthening of cooperation between the EU and NATO.

Hungary believes it is especially important to tighten relations in the fields of operational cooperation in the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea with a view to the management of illegal migration, the promotion of the capacity building efforts of the Western Balkans states, the fight against terrorism, military mobility and the fight against hybrid threats.

According to the Hungarian position, the EU’s defence initiatives also strengthen NATO’s European pillar as an EU that is more effective in military terms and is capable of independent action also makes NATO stronger without calling into question the security umbrella represented by NATO.

As part of the meeting of the European Union’s defence ministers, Mr Benkő signed project agreements with his Austrian, Slovenian and Croatian counterparts within the framework of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). The purpose of the cooperation is to develop a remotely controlled, unmanned chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear surveillance system which is implemented on the platform of European cooperation.

In the long term, the successful implementation of the project will contribute to the development of the capabilities and interoperability of the Hungarian Defence Forces as well as to the reduction of European defence capability deficits.