The defence ministers’ meeting to close the one-year Polish presidency was held at Headquarters NATO Multinational Division North-East (HQ MND NE) on 21 June. The main topics on the agenda of the ministers’ discussion were the current EU and NATO issues, as well as the possibilities for further strengthening and developing the V4 defence cooperation.
On 1 July 2020, Poland took over the presidency, and this year it has handed it over to Hungary for the next one year. The defence ministers’ meeting provided the ministers of the Visegrád counties with opportunity to discuss the results achieved during the Polish presidency and highlight the areas and forms of further cooperation.
Hungarian Defence Minister Tibor Benkő emphasized that Poland had taken on a major challenge by taking over the presidency in the midst of the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but our Polish friends and the other Visegrád countries have equally demonstrated their ability to continuously cooperate despite the strict containment and lockdown measures. “The implementation of the already existing flagship projects continues to be well under way. The V4 EU Battlegroup will be placed on standby again in 2023, the Joint Logistic Support Group Headquarters will reach full operational capability, and our joint military exercises are going on according to plan”, the minister added.
The meeting also provided Hungary taking over the presidency with an opportunity to introduce the goals of the defence cooperation. Tibor Benkő said that after a successful management of the epidemic, the Hungarian presidency gives priority to the successful reopening of Central Europe and thereby the EU. In addition, Minister Benkő noted that the goal is not only to carry on with the already functioning projects of the V4 defence cooperation, but also to launch new platforms of cooperation, among others in the areas of social and cultural relations strengthening V4 identity, as well as the use of territorial defence forces, the running of army chaplain services and war grave care.
The ministers emphasized the key role of new multinational commands established on NATO’s eastern flank with regard to the security of the Visegrád region. It is known that in cooperation with Croatia, Hungary established the Headquarters Multinational Division – Centre (HQ MND-C), which has since been joined by Slovakia, too.
As part of their visit, the ministers were shown around Headquarters Multinational Division North East (HQ MND-NE) in Elblag, where Tibor Benkő met the Hungarian soldiers serving there.
The defence ministers discussed the decisions made at NATO’s Summit last week, with special regard to the NATO 2030 agenda aimed at renewing the Alliance. Speaking about it, Minister Benkő said that the participants had agreed that NATO must adapt to changing challenges, and NATO’s new Strategic Concept, to be endorsed next year, will set the directions for this adaptation. He added that our main priority in EU is cooperation in the interest of the stability and security of the continent, including the common shaping of the dialogue on Europe’s future, as well as the tackling of migration and other security challenges.
There is a process already under way which will result in the Strategic Compass, a document defining the medium-term goals of the Common Security and Defence Policy. The ministers exchanged opinions about the recent developments in working out the Compass, and shared their positions about further tasks. Tibor Benkő emphasized that the 30-year history of the V4 had shown that the Visegrád Group – both as a region and as regional cooperation – is a substantial added value for the four countries and Europe. By further strengthening regional identity, we can have Central Europe’s voice better heard in the European Union. The Hungarian presidency will also be working towards this goal, among others in the field of defence cooperation.