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Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky: It is important to have sincere and open dialogue with our neighbors

Text: honvedelem.hu/MTI | Photo: Gábor Kormány and Szebáld Szakál |  16:28 February 3, 2023

“It is important that neighboring countries engage in close, direct, sincere and open dialogue with each other beyond the international organizations as well” – stated the Minister of Defence after holding a discussion with his Slovenian counterpart in Budapest on Friday, 3 February.

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Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said that he and Slovenian Defence Minister Marjan Sarec agreed that the security of the Western Balkans has outstanding significance, because there can be no European security without its stability. He added that Hungary and Slovenia both condemn the Russian aggression against Ukraine and stand up for the territorial integrity and independence of the country.

In an “era of dangers”, Hungary not only has to face a war raging in its neighborhood but also the migration pressure from the south. For this reason, the agenda of the meeting included questions of regional stability, and the two sides also discussed the issue of migration, the minister told the press.

Speaking about the stability of the Western Balkans, he noted that both Slovenian and Hungarian troops are currently deployed on foreign missions; Hungary is one of the main troop contributing nations of KFOR in Kosovo, and is represented in the EUFOR Operation Althea in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well. In connection with the Russo-Ukrainian War, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said that Hungary is on the side of peace, and wants to avoid drifting into the war; he also urged that NATO should do all it can to avert the danger of escalation. He went on noting that Hungary is providing the largest humanitarian aid in its history for the refugees arriving from Ukraine.

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The Minister of Defence pointed out that both countries are committed and esteemed members of NATO, and do all they can to meet their NATO-related commitments in proportion to – and even above – their capabilities. Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky informed his counterpart about the process of developing the Hungarian armed forces, and also about the fact that this year Hungary is already spending 2% of its GDP on the development of the armed forces.

The minister also said that through a rejuvenation program, Hungary meets the need for a generational change called for by NATO, as a result of which younger officers are going to receive leading command positions. Hungary is proud of being able to participate, in cooperation with Italy, in safeguarding Slovenia’s airspace for years, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said.

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Marjan Sarec told the press that the ways of further strengthening the already excellent military cooperation between the two countries had topped the agenda of the discussion. The main focus continues to be on the field of training – of JTACs and pilots – as well as on military exercises, he added, noting that last year they intensified cooperation in the field of special operations and continue to further strengthen it in military logistics as well.

Marjan Sarec pointed out that his country is trying to maintain the best possible bilateral relations with its neighbors, and it is also true in the case of Hungary, which is the most active partner of Slovenia in the region, in NATO and in the European Union. The minister took the opportunity to say thanks for the Hungarian assistance with containing forest fires in Slovenia last summer.

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Marjan Sarec also pointed out the importance of stability in the region of the Western Balkans, to which Slovenia is committed as well, and also emphasized the key importance of the KFOR mission and Operation Althea. On behalf of his country, the Slovenian minister of defence condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and said that they support Ukraine’s independence, its sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders as well as its right to self-defence, and stated that Slovenia is also providing humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine. He added that the events in Ukraine have made Slovenia think about the issue of security and defence investments. He added that he finds the defence industry strategy presented by the Hungarian minister to be very good. Slovenia, too, is working out a new defence strategy, and is increasing its defence spending, said the minister.