Having been received by Defence Minister Tibor Benkő on an official visit in Budapest, Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini spoke with appreciation about the Hungarian soldiers’ commitment to their tasks as well as about the assistance and support with which Hungary is receiving the Ukrainian refugees. During their meeting, the two ministers also signed a letter of intent on the further deepening of defence cooperation.
On 7 March in Budapest, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő received Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini on an official visit. The topics at the top of the agenda of their meeting were the Russia–Ukraine war, the stability of the Western Balkans and the bilateral defence relations.
During the discussion, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő said that Hungary condemns in the harshest terms the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and stands up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Russian attack threatens the security of Europe as a whole, and the West must give a unified response to it. To demonstrate unity, Hungary supports the decisions made by NATO and the European Union. The minister emphasized that being a neighboring country of Ukraine, Hungary has several responsibilities. “The government of Hungary emphasizes the importance of circumspect, prudent, far-sighted and calm action, and is convinced that the two parties should return to the road of negotiated agreement in the shortest time possible”, he said, adding that our country assumes a pivotal role in receiving and helping the war refugees. At present, the most urgent task is to receive, supply and accommodate the masses of refugees. “Hungary is expecting a mass wave of refugees, so in a given case, we might request assistance from our allies as well”, added the minister. Tibor Benkő pointed out that providing quick help for Ukraine is also of critical importance. Hungary is providing medical and humanitarian aid for the country, as well as basic items in short supply, such as fuel”, underlined the minister.
At the meeting, the minister of defence informed his Italian counterpart that as a matter of course, the Hungarian Defence Forces are also assigned the important task of securing the national borders of the country. They must prevent subunits of the forces fighting each other during the ongoing war in our neighborhood from drifting across to the area of Hungary. To this end, the Hungarian Defence Forces have reinforced their presence in the eastern part of the country. At a press conference following the meeting, Tibor Benkő told the press that our country considers Italy a strategic partner, and the intensive military-to-military relations between the two countries cover the joint exercises conducted by the air, air defence and the land forces, as well as cooperation in military medicine and military technology. Discussions on commitments arising from NATO membership continue to take priority in shaping the bilateral cooperation.
During the press conference, both ministers emphasized that the Ukraine–Russia war should not make us forget the Western Balkans region, which is struggling with numerous political problems that may easily develop into security threats. Lorenzo Guerini said that Italy is also paying special attention to the stability and development of the Western Balkans region, which offers an excellent area of cooperation for our countries. He praised the Hungarian troops’ work in KFOR, highlighting the activity of the Hungarian commander of the KFOR mission.
After the discussion, the two sides signed a letter of intent on expanding the scope of defence cooperation between the two countries. Speaking about the document, Tibor Benkő said that besides the joint anti-war efforts, the two nations intend to continue joint military training and preparation in the future, as well as innovation, education and cooperation in foreign missions, among others in KFOR. “We are in the same Alliance, we have common tasks and goals in preserving regional peace, so it is natural that we feel common responsibility for the security of the Western Balkans, too”, he said.
First of all, Lorenzo Guerini thanked Hungary and the Hungarian Defence Forces for their outstanding work in helping and supporting the Ukrainian refugees. As he said, even in these difficult days for Europe as a whole, they succeeded in holding a constructive and forward-looking discussion during the meeting, and the letter of intent is a proof of the excellent cooperation between the two countries and their defence spheres.
Talking about the war, he stated that Italy’s position on Russia’s attack against Ukraine is clear, too: they strongly condemn the aggression and are calling for dialogue with all their might; at the same time, they give their full support to the implementation of the unified decisions made by NATO and the European Union.