“NATO has not lost its raison d’être, but on the contrary, it still plays a vita role in maintaining the security of the trans-Atlantic region today”, Minister of Defence Tibor Benkő stressed at the Hungary 20 Years in NATO conference in Budapest on Wednesday.

“Today, we must provide responses to very different challenges, risks and threats, while also not forgetting about the need for traditional military warfare. In addition to dry land, the seas and space, cyberspace has also become a field of operation”, Mr. Benkő highlighted.

“Europe is surrounded by unstable regions from the east and south. The Arab Spring, the crisis in Ukraine, the increase in European acts of terrorism, and mass illegal migration represent new challenges and threats. In Hungary’s immediate vicinity, the security situation in the Western Balkans remains fragile. In our unstable world, the chances of the development of conflicts has increased”, he explained. “The role of military force has gained in importance”, noted the Minister, according to whom NATO, which will soon be celebrating its 70th anniversary, is adapting successfully to the changing world of our security environment.

In his speech, the Hungarian Defence Minister said in evaluation of the past 20 years, that from a military and political perspective it was a good decision to join NATO.

“Article 5 of the Washington Treaty on collective defence is the cornerstone of Hungary’s military security”, he highlighted.

“However, we must also not forget about Article 3, according to which the Alliance’s strength is provided by the military capabilities of its member states. Accordingly, the Zrinyi 2026 Defence and Military Development Programme is reinforcing NATO”, he noted.

The Minister also spoke about the fact that the Hungarian Defence Force is taking part in NATO land operations and missions, and in international peacekeeping. Hungarian military personnel have performed and will continue to perform their duties in, amongst others, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. With relation to this, the Minister also said that Hungary’s plans to have 1000 soldiers involved in international mission has been increased to 1200.

“Hungary is placing special emphasis on fulfilling the Wales commitments”, Mr. Benkő highlighted. Last year, Hungary already spent 1.41 percent of its GDP on defence, and this will increase to 2 percent by 2024. As a result, comprehensive military technology modernisation will be implemented within the fields of land forces, the air force, special operations forces, logistics and cyberspace, said the Minister said, according to whom the Hungarian Defence Force could as  a result become one of the region’s determining military forces with relation to both its equipment and military capability. “We are contributing to the capabilities of the Alliance and to guaranteeing the security of its member countries to a never before seen extent”, the Minister declared.

“Hungary has enjoyed the security guarantee that results from its MTO membership, and its related advantages, for two decades”, he stated. “However, Hungary is not just a beneficiary of trans-Atlantic security, but also a significant contributor”, he added.

“Hungary will continue to contribute its share to NATO activities in future. Hungary is a dependable ally”, he underlined.

At the event, which was held in the Parliament Building, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning Patrick Turner passed on the congratulations of Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“Twenty years ago, Hungary became a member of an alliance that was in renewal”, he said.

From among the challenges of recent years, the Assistant Secretary General highlighted the Russian threat, and recalled that five years ago Russia had annexed the Ukrainian peninsula.

He also mentioned the presence of the Islamic State terrorist organisation in Iraq and Syria, with relation to which he pointed out that Hungary is also contributing to NATO’s mission in Iraq. In addition, in the interests of reinforcing Western Balkan security, Hungary is contributing to the NATO mission in Kosovo with the third largest contingent involved, he added.

Mr. Turner also spoke about the fact that the Alliance’s leadership is committed to the further enlargement of NATO. Montenegro and North Macedonia will soon also become members.

In his speech, the NATO Assistant Secretary General also spoke about the commitments made at the Wales summit, within the framework of which member states will be increasing their defence spending, and with relation to which he praised Hungary’s measures to increase its defence expenditure.

Fidesz Chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Zsolt Németh, the Committee’s Hungarian Socialist Party Co-Chair and member of Hungary’s NATO Parliamentary General Assembly delegation Attila Mesterházy, Chairman of the Hungarian Atlantic Council Szilveszter E. Vizi, and former foreign ministers János Martonyi and László Kovács, also gave speeches at the conference.

At the end of the event, a photo exhibition on Hungary’s accession to NATO and chronicling the main milestones of its twenty-year membership will be opened.

Hungary became a full member of NATO on 12 March 1999, together with the Czeh Republic and Poland..