Secretary of Defence of the United Kingdom Ben Wallace visited Hungary to meet with his Hungarian counterpart, Minister of Defence of Hungary Tibor Benkő, and to discuss the security situation in Europe, in particular the tensions around Ukraine.
After the reception of the British Secretary of Defence with military honours, the delegations from the two countries discussed the security situation in Europe, with special focus on the tensions surrounding Ukraine.
During their talks, the defence ministers agreed that the escalation of Ukrainian-Russian tensions would have a serious impact also on the Euro-Atlantic security system. At the negotiations, Defence Minister Benkő said that Hungary was watching with concern the situation in and around Ukraine, which needed to be resolved through diplomatic efforts. He emphasized that Hungary feels responsible for the security of our region, which is why it has embarked on a force development program that will increase NATO's security based on strong national capabilities. The Minister of Defence also said that Hungary, as a NATO member state, is committed to the Alliance's dual approach, of which dialogue based on mutual respect is as an important part as strengthening deterrence.
On the current NATO processes, the Defence Minister emphasized that Hungary supports the decisions taken within the framework of NATO, which are aimed at easing tensions parallel to increasing both training activities and readiness. He stated that in the current security situation, Hungary is ready and capable of responding appropriately on a national basis if necessary. He made it clear that Hungary does not require a long-term stationing of the forces of other NATO member states on Hungarian soil. He also said that the Hungarian Defence Forces would continue its training programs in line with those of the NATO allies.
At the meeting, Mr Benkő emphasized that Hungary consistently supports Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. The Hungarian defence sector has supported and continues to support Ukraine in the areas of special operational mentoring, medical treatment, peacekeeping, and language training. Hungary supported the Ukrainian participation in several military exercises in Hungary. At the same time, the protection of the rights of the Hungarian ethnic minority living beyond its borders is of paramount importance for Hungary, and this position is consistently taken.
The Hungarian Defence Minister also drew attention to the fact that, in spite of the tense situation near NATO’s eastern flank, the challenges to the south, including the dangers of illegal migration, and the importance of the Western Balkans should not be forgotten. The security situation is stable yet still fragile. The Western Balkans also play a key role in the stability and security of Europe as a whole, since the region is the EU's gateway to the south-east direction and one of the main routes of migration.
In the field of developing bilateral relations, the British and Hungarian leaders emphasized the significance of the defence co-operation agreement signed in 2019 and agreed on the further development of the intensity of defence relations in the future. As an element of this, special emphasis will be placed on cooperation within the framework of the Central European Division Headquarters established by Hungary to strengthen security in the region, to which the British party announced its intention to join, and also on tasks related to maintaining stability in the Western Balkans.
During the meeting, Mr Benkő expressed his gratitude for the British cooperation that in 2021 enabled the evacuation of 540 Afghans from Afghanistan who had mostly worked for the security of Hungarian soldiers there. The parties also emphasized that the British experience shared with Hungary in the framework of defence cooperation played a major role in strengthening the Hungarian voluntary reservist system and cadet training, and they appreciated the results achieved in this field.