Hungarian soldiers played the main role at two transfer of authority ceremonies in Bosnia-Herzegovina on the same day. On 11 May in Camp Butmir, Sarajevo, two Hungarians, a brigadier general and a colonel relinquished the chief of staff positions of both EUFOR and the local NATO Headquarters to another Hungarian brigadier general and colonel respectively. Also in attendance at the ceremonies were Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD, Commander, Hungarian Defence Forces and Dr. Gáspár Maróth, National Armament Director.
The delegation headed by the commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces – which was joined by Ambassador Krisztián Pósa in Sarajevo – arrived in EUFOR’s area of operation, located in the Balkans Joint Operations Area (JOA) in the morning hours. Major General Anton Wessely, Commander, EUFOR Operation Althea (COMEUFOR) and Brigadier General Pamela L. McGaha, Commander, NATO Headquarters Sarajevo (NHQSa) welcomed Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD, National Armament Director Dr. Gáspár Maróth and László Papp, the mayor Debrecen Town with County Rights.
Brigadier General Szilárd Gerőfi has been EUFOR Chief of Staff since last May. He handed over the position to Brigadier General Zoltán Somogyi. During the ceremony, Brigadier General Gerőfi stated that he had the pleasure to work with a professional team over the last one year, for which he said thanks to his Hungarian and foreign colleagues.
In his speech, incoming Chief of Staff EUFOR Brigadier General Zoltán Somogyi said that although the challenges keep growing these days, the European Union’s, NATO’s and the UN’s commitment becomes more and more solid. He added that in his position, his most important duty will be to support COMEUFOR, besides representing Hungary and the Hungarian Defence Forces. He underlined that our troop contributions to Operation Althea, NATO’s mission in Sarajevo and KFOR in Kosovo make it clear that Hungary is interested in and committed to the stability and development of the Balkans.
At the ceremony, Major General Anton Wessely said thanks to Brigadier General Szilárd Gerőfi for his conscientious service over the last one year. While welcoming Zoltán Somogyi, he commended the brigadier general for his military career so far, also adding that EUFOR will greatly benefit from his experience.
During the event, Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD thanked Brigadier General Gerőfi for his conscientious work by awarding him the “For peacekeeping” Service Medal.
Another significant event took place in the afternoon of the first day of the two-day top brass visit, when the chief of staff transfer of authority was held at the NATO Headquarters Sarajevo. Traditionally, this position is filled by a Hungarian colonel. Like Brigadier General Szilárd Gerőfi, Colonel Ferenc Kiss completed his one-year tour of duty abroad by handing over his responsibilities to Colonel Róbert Szász. The commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces recognized Colonel Kiss’ service by awarding him the “For peacekeeping” Service Medal, too.
During the day, the members of the Hungarian delegation attended a number of lectures, which gave them a precise and up-to-date picture of the present and the expected future of both Bosnia-Herzegovina and the EUFOR.
Addressing a staff meeting of Hungarian troops safeguarding the peace of the country, Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD thanked the peacekeepers serving there for having successfully accomplished all their designated tasks so far. “I ask you to continue your tour of duty with the same attitude and professionalism characteristic of Hungarian troops as you’ve done so far. My thanks go to Brigadier General Gerőfi and Colonel Kiss, since their service here has made the Hungarian flag even brighter in Europe, the EU and NATO. I can say that once again, it was good to be a Hungarian, to be a Hungarian soldier here, in Sarajevo today”– said he. The lieutenant general also spoke about the changes ahead of the Hungarian Defence Forces, which are aimed, among others, at streamlining administration and increasing the number of combat troops. He stated that one thing is for certain, namely that everyone is needed.
In his speech, National Armament Director Dr. Gáspár Maróth emphasized that the Hungarian interest is to “keep peace in this region, the lion’s share of which falls to the Hungarian contingent serving here. One reason is that the development we have implemented in cooperation with the Hungarian Defence Forces Command during the recent period will raise Hungarian troops to a special position across the Balkans. They will receive special attention and become the subject of special judgment in the region.” For this reason, the national armament director requested the troops to represent Hungary in an appropriate manner, as our way of maintaining contact with various peoples and minorities is important for the future of the Balkans.
László Papp, the mayor of Debrecen pointed out that the Hungarian troops’ service has enormous significance. “It is imperative to responsibly and constantly work for peace. It is not at all obvious that we can live in peace and security and that we don’t have to spend our lives in the shadow of violence, weapons and conflicts here or back at home. Over the past few months, we have seen the horrors of war becoming a reality. I’m standing in front of you with sincere esteem, since you are doing your service in one of Europe’s most conflict-ridden regions, which is perhaps one of the most complex regions in the world, considering the political, military and religious factors as well”, said he, adding that “I’m saying thanks to you for your service so far on behalf of a town where soldiers enjoy distinguished respect, and where there is exemplary relationship between us, civilians and the local military units. We, the Debrecen townspeople are really proud of Debrecen’s doing its part in national defence and also in the execution of foreign missions.”
To close the official program of the top brass visit, the members of the delegation laid wreaths at the memorial to Hungarian troops serving in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In an interview given at the end of the day’s program, Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD told us that besides the chief of staff positions at HQ EUFOR BiH and the NHQSa, the Commander of KFOR is also a Hungarian general, which “shows well the importance Hungary attaches to the stability of the Western Balkans. Furthermore, the fact that these positions are filled by a Hungarian brigadier general and colonel precisely shows our place in the military structures of NATO and the EU. We can be proud of them!”
Dr. Gáspár Maróth added that a key message of their visit is that all soldiers are important to the government of Hungary. “Especially important are the Hungarian troops who are serving here, on this mission, because their service is the guarantee of peace. Due to the Ukraine situation, it has become a key issue that Hungarian commanders are in charge here, and that Hungarian defence policy plays a major role in safeguarding the peace of the Balkans”, said the national armament director.