Speaking in a phone interview to Hungarian news agency MTI on the closing day of the international military exercise conducted in Lower Austria, Minister of Defence István Simicskó stated that we must respect each other and all cultures, but at the same time, we must guarantee the complete security of our citizens and Hungary as well.

According to the minister, during the “lifelike exercise” the soldiers demonstrated their ability to respond to the challenges of our age and to the threats emanating from them.

“While protecting Hungary’s southern border over the last two years, we have unfortunately gained lifelike experiences which we are now going to share with our friends and partners”, the minister stated. He was of the opinion that exercises like the present one strengthen the capabilities of Hungary and the Hungarian Defence Forces too.

“We envisage a world in which people and nations mutually respect each other, and in which we strengthen cooperation”, the minister said, adding that the present exercise was about this vision too.

In answer to a question from MTI, István Simicskó said that during the 2017/18 Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrád Group (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – V4), Hungary is aiming to implement several similar exercises. The minister underlined that it is important to show to the EU, Brussels and Western Europe how effective our cooperation can be.

During the week some 2360 Austrian, Hungarian and Czech troops conducted an international border protection military exercise near Allensteig in Lower Austria. The Austrian Armed Forces were present with 2200 personnel, and 44 soldiers arrived from Hungary. Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia were present in observer status at the Exercise Cooperative Security 17 (COOPSEC 17).

The exercise conducted in the framework of the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) was organized on the initiative of Austrian Minister of Defence Hans Peter Doskozil. Prior to the event, the minister had stated that no nation is able to solve a migration crisis on its own, as it can be defused only by drawing on international cooperation. He was of the opinion that, because as yet the EU has not implemented the civil-military management of its external border, we must prepare for all contingencies through regional cooperation. Mr. Doskozil stated that the events of 2015 cannot happen again.

On the closing day of the exercise, the minister criticized Brussels for debating the expansion of the Schengen Area instead of talking about extending the border controls and effective EU border protection. At the same time, he called the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) an “administrative mechanism” which does not work flexibly enough. 

The scenario of the five-day exercise taking place in a training area in Lower Austria focused on border control along a fictional national border of a state of the European Union, a public affairs officer of the Austrian Armed Forces told MTI. The deployed forces were tasked with securing an area beside River Kamp. During the exercise, 800 extras were simulating a group of refugees, so it was possible to model for the soldiers the tasks of controlling, transporting and accommodating large masses of people as well as border surveillance and the logistic support for the police. In addition, border surveillance systems, sensors, drones and reconnaissance aircraft were also deployed.