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Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky: Military-to-military relations are excellent between Croatia and Hungary

Text: honvedelem.hu/MTI |  12:30 September 30, 2022

The military-to-military relations are excellent between Croatia and Hungary, said Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky after holding a discussion with his Croatian counterpart on Thursday, 29 September in Budapest.

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Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky pointed out that one of the most important elements of these relations is the Székesfehérvár-based Headquarters Multinational Division Centre (HQ MND-C), which was jointly established by Croatia and Hungary in 2020 and joined by Slovakia as a framework nation last year.

The three leading countries of the region are the guarantees and managers of NATO’s military control here. “We know our region best, and through these three nations, NATO can direct its military interests and defence operations”, said the minister.

The Hungarian minister also spoke about how natural it is that his Croatian counterpart is the first foreign defence minister he has received since his appointment, since the diplomatic relations go back 30 years, the common history and culture go back even further in time, and the current relations also justify it. Hungary has always been committed to Croatia, he added.

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Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said that he and the Croatian defence minister reviewed the circumstances of the war in Ukraine. He recalled that after the outbreak of the war, in order to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank, a battlegroup was also set up in Hungary with 80 Croatian troops serving in it, of whom 60 are present at Exercise Brave Warrior 2022 being conducted in Várpalota, Hungary. The two ministers participate in the Distinguished Visitors’ Day of the military exercise on Thursday.

The two minister also discussed the security situation in the Western Balkans: in the region of Kosovo, KFOR operates under Hungarian command, and both countries see the European Union’s Operation ALTHEA – which also operates with Hungarian participation – as the guarantee of the security of the Western Balkans. The ministers also agreed that illegal migration increasingly threatens the security of Europe.

Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky recalled that in 2017, Hungary launched one of the largest-scale armed forces development programs in its history, which continues despite the global economic crisis. He noted that special emphasis is laid on the development of Hungarian defence industry. The Croatian defence industry is also developed and keeps developing, and the ministers examined the possibility of how the two countries could continue these developments by relying on each other, he said.

He emphasized that the development of the armed forces is the key to peace, because peace requires strength.

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Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić pointed out that Hungary and Croatia, as neighboring countries, EU members and responsible NATO allies, share many common challenges and spheres of interests. Defence cooperation is a very important part of our bilateral relations, he added. He said that during the discussion, they exchanged views about current topics, above all the complexity of the current security situation, the Russian aggression towards Ukraine and the related consequences, their impact on European security and the global security situation. He recalled that in response to the security challenges and the deteriorated security situation in Europe, the NATO member states decided to strengthen the response stance and the possibilities of collective defence. He highlighted the establishment of four new multinational battlegroups, one of which is stationed on the territory of Hungary, and in which several members of the armed forces of the Republic of Croatia also perform duties.

Mario Banožić indicated that he would meet the 60 members of the Croatian contingent, and also meet the twenty soldiers of the armed forces of the Republic of Croatia who participate in the work of HQ MND-C in Székesfehérvár. “Our joint action in these two NATO initiatives demonstrates our common commitment to strengthening collective defence and the Alliance’s tasks”, he stated.

The minister said that they discussed cooperation and our joint efforts in connection with EU initiatives, such as the Strategic Compass, the PESCO project and the European Defence Fund. “We highlighted the further strengthening and necessity of EU–NATO relations, as well as the participation of the European Union in those processes that contribute to maintaining the stability of the region”, he said.

The Croatian defence minister emphasized that the bilateral defence cooperation is successful in several areas. Special emphasis is placed on the joint training and interoperability of the air forces, the land forces and the special operations forces within the framework of the Regional Special Operations Component Command (R-SOCC), he said.