Hungary will resume duties as part of the Baltic airspace mission from 2022, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó told the Hungarian news agency MTI on Tuesday by telephone from the air base in Siauliai in Lithuania.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade visited the air base due to the fact that Hungary is responsible for the defence of the Baltic airspace from May until the end of August this year. 92 Hungarian soldiers, including 7 pilots and four Jas-39 Gripen aircraft are currently serving in the mission.

The three Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have no air force of their own, and therefore their airspace is protected by the air forces of NATO Member States.

Mr Szijjártó said “Wherever in the world Hungarians take part in international missions, the locals speak about the performance of the officers of the Hungarian Defence Forces in a tone of the greatest appreciation.”

In Lithuania, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius and Deputy Defence Minister Vytautas Umbrasas personally thanked Hungarian soldiers for the completion of their defence mission.

Mr Szijjártó highlighted that also at present some one thousand Hungarian soldiers are serving beyond the country’s borders, in a variety of missions, under NATO, European Union or UN colours. In the coming months, this number will increase by 130 in Kosovo and by 70 in Afghanistan as part of NATO forces, while another 60 Hungarian soldiers will be sent to the UN’s mission in Lebanon.

The Foreign Minister stressed that already this year Hungary as a reliable ally has met the NATO expectation that members should spend 20 percent of their defence budgets on developments, and will reach the target that defence expenditures should amount to 2 per cent of GDP before the 2024 deadline.

Mr Szijjártó also said the 92 soldiers serving at the Lithuanian base have performed their duties to the highest standards in the past four months. The seven pilots have taken part in 43 live alerts in total, and in each one of these they successfully defended the Baltic countries’ airspace and sovereignty, and have thereby contributed to NATO remaining the most successful and strongest alliance in the world. The Hungarian pilots have spent 456 hours airborne in the past four months.

The Minister announced that a decision has been made: in 2022 Hungarian soldiers and Gripen aircraft will return to Lithuania; in that year, for four months from September Hungary will resume its duties as part of the Baltic airspace mission.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade/MTI)