A defence minister-level NATO meeting was held in Brussels on 3 and 4 October. The Hungarian delegation travelling to Brussels for the two-day meeting was headed by Defence Minister Dr Tibor Benkő.

This was the first time the alliance had a ministerial-level meeting since the summit held in Brussels in July. The meeting of the defence ministers of the twenty-nine ally countries therefore focused on reviewing the decisions adopted at the summit and providing guidelines for their implementation.

One of the most important topics of the meeting was the issue of the proportionate sharing of Transatlantic burdens. At its summit held in Wales in 2014 NATO set the target of each Member Stating reaching a 2 per cent defence expenditure level to GDP within a decade. At this point in time only eight Member States comply with this percentage, and therefore at US President Donald Trump’s emphatic request the allies are seeking to accelerate this process.

At the meeting Mr Benkő said that since 2015 Hungary has consistently increased its defence budget, and by continuing this positive trend we will reach the desired level by 2024. This is all the more significant in light of the fact that a number of NATO members do not only not meet the target set, but do not even have an authentic plan for the attainment of the 2 per cent spending level. The Defence Minister also stressed that, in addition to defence expenditures, contributions to common security, such as participation in international missions and operations, should be taken into consideration equally. In this context, he indicated that Hungary continuously keeps some 10 per cent of its land forces in foreign peacekeeping missions which is a very high percentage within NATO.

He further drew attention to the fact that in 2016 Hungary launched a comprehensive defence and arms development programme under the name “Zrínyi 2026” which also includes the fulfilment of all our military capability undertakings towards NATO.

At the meeting the attending ministers reviewed and evaluated the status of the reinforcement of NATO’s defence regime which began in 2014. As part of this, they discussed the tasks related to managing the challenges originating from the East and the South. Mr Benkő highlighted in this context that Hungary regards NATO’s ever increasing role in the management of the southern challenges such as mass migration and terrorism as particularly important.

The Defence Minister additionally indicated that Hungary will supply training personnel for the alliance’s mission in Iraq which will start shortly as with this Hungary wishes to contribute to reducing the root causes of the migration crisis.

Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy as well as the Finnish and Swedish defence ministers were also invited to one of the working meetings of the event with whom the allies discussed the topical issues of the development of cooperation between NATO and the EU. The main areas of cooperation are cyber defence, securing the cross-border movements of troops within the alliance’s internal borders, common action against hybrid warfare, and the joint efforts which are necessary in the interest of the stability of North Africa.

Within the framework of the NATO-Georgia Commission, the defence ministers spoke about the security situation of the Black Sea region and the possibilities of extending defence cooperation between NATO and Georgia, while they also consulted with respect to the nuclear component of NATO’s deterrence capability.

In conjunction with the NATO meeting Mr Benkő had bilateral talks with the Canadian, Slovak and Slovenian defence ministers. During the talks the Minister reviewed the topical issues of bilateral military cooperation with his colleagues.