“Hungary and Austria are good neighbors and maintain very close cooperation in almost all areas, including the field of the military and defence”, said the Minister of Defence after holding a discussion with his Austrian counterpart in Budapest on Monday, 30 January.
Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky pointed out that during the discussion, he and Austrian Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner agreed that the stability of countries in the Western Balkans is important. As he said, recent history shows that the people living there and the whole European defence community must pay special attention to this region.
The minister noted that Hungary is also present in the region militarily, as it plays a significant role in NATO’s largest land mission KFOR in Kosovo, and it also has troops serving with the EUFOR Operation Althea in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where a Hungarian general is to take over command of the mission in a year. He added that the war in Ukraine had also been on the agenda of discussion. Hungary’s position is clear: we do not want to send weapons into the conflict because we want to avoid its escalation. In this regard, too, Hungary and Austria are in agreement because as a neutral country, Austria does not send weapons to the war, pointed out the minister. He went on saying that at the same time, both countries are providing humanitarian aid for refugees fleeing the war.
Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said that he had informed his Austrian counterpart about the ongoing “rejuvenation” of the Hungarian Defence Forces, which is aimed at enhancing combat readiness and facilitating cooperation with our NATO allies. Young military officers with already substantial experience who had served with NATO missions and speak foreign languages are being given important positions, while our country offers the older ones a dignified and fair way out of the military”, the minister said, and went on informing his Austrian counterpart about the development of the Hungarian armed forces as well.
Austrian Minister of Defence Klaudia Tanner emphasized that the cooperation between the two countries is excellent, and the troops of their armed forces are co-deployed in seven foreign missions. As she said, the Monday discussion basically focused on the European security situation and the developments in Ukraine. She emphasized that the greatest danger is the escalation of the war to Europe, but this is not only about conventional warfare, but also about non-conventional threats, for example the increasing migration, which has been accelerated by the war.
She pointed out that she and Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky agreed that European states must continue their close cooperation so that they can find a solution together to the problem of migration. Considering the European developments, Hungary is treading new paths, especially in terms of the military and border protection, pointed out the Austrian Minister of Defence.
According to Klaudia Tanner, one solution to migration is the strengthening of the Western Balkans, and she called its integration into the European Union indispensable. The stability of the Western Balkans and a thereby strengthened European Union are key to our taking joint action against the threats of migration – she stated, and thanked Hungary for its commitment to maintaining security in the region.
Speaking about the European security situation and the EU–NATO cooperation, Klaudia Tanner said that she and her Hungarian counterpart agreed that the EU should be “more decisive” in voicing its views, and that NATO’s approaching enlargement requires close coordination, even if 97% of EU citizens are NATO members. If we lack unity in European security policy, that will open the door to other threats, and then we will inevitably see new conflicts arising. Therefore, it is important for Austria and Hungary to pursue a credible and robust security and defence policy, pointed out Klaudia Tanner.