The Western Balkans region continues to remain the main area of Hungary’s peacekeeping responsibilities, the Defence Minister said on Tuesday in Budapest.

In his address delivered at this year’s conference of defence forces, military and air attachés, Tibor Benkő highlighted that the situation is unstable both in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore, in those countries also at present more than five hundred Hungarian soldiers are serving.

The security situation requires the soldiers on the ground to be precisely and accurately acquainted with the latest situation and the essence of the tasks in hand, he pointed out.

In the context of the security environment, the Minister specifically spoke about the threat of terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, North Africa and the Western Balkans, and events that have recently taken place in the region of the Baltic states and in Hungary’s immediate environment. Regarding the latter, he said in Ukraine there is a war situation also at present. The annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by the Russians was a military operation they had not previously encountered. Also for this reason it is crucial to prepare soldiers both for hybrid warfare and for the fulfilment of cyber operations, he stressed.

The Minister pointed out that in the present fast-changing world, we need well-prepared experts who are at all times aware of what is going on in the wider world, in our more immediate environment, and in Hungary. Military diplomats, together with ambassadors, must be able to respond promptly. The incident that recently took place in the Úzvölgy military cemetery in Romania clearly demonstrates how fragile relations are, despite the fact that the two countries are military allies. We must negotiate, these issues must be resolved peacefully, the Minister stated.

Tibor Benkő also said that he will shortly pay a visit to London where he will sign a cooperation agreement. Also after the attaché conference, he will meet with the British Ambassador because they would like to strengthen cooperation between Britain and Hungary in the fields of military diplomacy and training.

He highlighted that the Hungarian Defence Forces must be strong in such a way that they should be capable of faithfully serving Hungary’s interests, both on their own and together with their allies, equally as regards numbers, equipment, technology and financial resources.

The Minister further underlined that we are witnessing an intensive and rapid phase of development which is manifested in the defence and military forces development programme. The government provides not only moral support for the Zrínyi 2026 programme which identifies Hungary’s development aspirations, but also financial resources.

Mr Benkő recalled that Hungary had undertaken to increase its defence expenditures to 2 per cent to GDP by 2024. However, this in itself is not enough, the Minister observed, adding that the decision also lays down that the defence forces will use 20 per cent of their total budget for developments. They already reached this goal in 2018 as well, he said.

The Minister spoke in detail about technological developments in the defence forces. He additionally mentioned education, the strengthening of social relations and the development of the system of voluntary reservists as the most important tasks. He said it is important that they should be able to reach out to people, to encourage them to join the defence forces, and to keep them there. This requires the ongoing updating of the military career model, he pointed out.

Mr Benkő said it is also part of the renewal process that they are considering the introduction of a new system of education. Warrant officers will continue to constitute the foundations also in the future.

He mentioned that more and more young people are joining the military service of voluntary reservists; the total number of reservists has reached 8,500.