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Tibor Benkő: Hungary is proud of its soldiers

Text: Fanny Faragó | Photo: László Kertész |  14:11 December 14, 2021

On Monday, 13 December in Pristina, Kosovo, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő and Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD, Commander, Hungarian Defence Forces personally thanked the 26th rotation of the HDF KFOR Contingent (KFOR-26 HUNCON) for its work. Major General Ferenc Kajári, the commander of NATO’s largest and longest-running mission received the members of the delegation at the military base Camp Film City. After recognizing the work done by the personnel filling individual staff positions, the delegation greeted the members of the rotation in Camp Novo Selo.

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For the first time in the history of the Kosovo peacekeeping mission, for one year a Hungarian commander is at the helm of NATO’s mission, which has been running for 22 years now, and to which 28 countries have contributed some 4000 troops. The command of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) is a unique opportunity in the history of the Hungarian Defence Forces, which presents a challenge not only to the commander but also to the personnel in staff positions, who are expected to perform their tasks to high professional standards. Creating a safe environment and ensuring freedom of movement are among KFOR’s core tasks.

The new commander of KFOR, Major General Ferenc Kajári held a discussion with Defence Minister Tibor Benkő and Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD about the current security issues of the region. Major General Ferenc Kajári emphasized that the 26th rotation of KFOR continues to follow the path paved by its predecessors.

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After the discussion, Tibor Benkő held a staff meeting where he thanked the Hungarian soldiers of the KFOR mission for their service. “We owe a debt of gratitude for the self-sacrificing work that you undertake to achieve the objectives of our country, our nation, our homeland. You undertake to serve another nation’s security in another country”, said the minister of defence. He emphasized that the soldiers contribute to the people’s peace and security. “Your service really gives faith, hope, and thereby joy so that the people feel that we have a common goal of preserving and guaranteeing peace and security. Guaranteeing peace, security and stability in the Western Balkans is of the highest importance to Hungary. This is the mission that you have undertaken, and for which we are thankful. Be proud of your opportunity to participate in such a mission, and at the same time feel that you have the duty to perform all your tasks to the best of your ability”, said the minister of defence of Hungary in addressing the personnel serving in individual staff positions.

In his speech, Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD called attention to the importance of stability in the Western Balkans. “None of the missions are easy. We have been doing armed military peacekeeping service here in the Balkans for decades. This mission is NATO’s largest operation, which is led by a Hungarian commander” – the commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces pointed out, adding that “the Alliance, the local population and perhaps the whole world are now paying more attention to the Hungarian troops, the Hungarian Defence Forces, and therefore, through you, to Hungary as well”. Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD said that the recent period shows that our troops have not just met the requirements, but have so far been excellently performing their duties in this mission, too. “I ask you to continue serving here at least to the same high standards as you do back at home”, said the lieutenant general.

In his speech, Dr. József Bencze, Hungary’s ambassador accredited to Kosovo said that the leaders of the ministry and the Hungarian Defence Forces are paying attention to the members of the contingent. “What you are doing is very important. You are representing Hungary, you are ambassadors of the Hungarian Defence Forces, since our homeland will be judged by everything you do here”, emphasized the ambassador.

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Following a visit to the military base Camp Film City, the members of the delegation – among them, Dr. László Papp, the mayor of Debrecen, Brigadier General Balázs Szloszjár, the commander of the HDF 5th István Bocskai Infantry Brigade, Chief Warrant Officer István Kriston, NCO advisor at the Minister of Defence’s Secretariat, Ministry of Defence, CSM Zoltán Kaszab, the command sergeant major of the Hungarian Defence Forces and Chief Warrant Officer Ferenc Tamás Zsiros, the command sergeant major of KFOR – greeted the members of the 26th rotation of KFOR in Camp Novo Selo as well.

“Indeed, Hungary can be proud of its soldiers because what they did in the last centuries – and I can say, during the more than 1000-year-long period of the Hungarians – what they delivered gives us reason for pride. For pride, but at the same time for obligation, too. For we always say that we follow the example of our predecessors, our ancestors, because we have chosen this vocation”, said the minister of defence.

Tibor Benkő emphasized that conducting a peace support mission has always been a task rife with challenges, which sometimes involves risks and ordeals. “In this period, with Christmas approaching, being far away from their loved ones is also an ordeal for the soldiers”, noted the minister of defence.

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In addressing the soldiers of the contingent, Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD said that the Hungarian soldiers, the presence of KFOR, NATO and the 28 countries is needed to ensure that peace and security are maintained not far from our national borders. “Insofar as we keep going further on the same road, and the Hungarian troops’ recognition remains at least on this level, then, thanks to your work, the National Defence and Armed Forces Development Program will be more and more successful. Thus, we will feel better, not only in our uniforms, but also while off duty at home”, highlighted the commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces.

At the ceremonial staff meeting, Mayor of Debrecen Dr. László Papp awarded a unit colors streamer to the Hungarian contingent. “I express my recognition for the work that you are doing in the interest of the security of Europe and the region. On behalf of the town of Debrecen, too, I can sincerely say that we are proud of you. At a more distant place in Europe, more than a thousand kilometers from here, we can go to sleep calmly, since you, Hungarian soldiers are doing your best while serving the security of the region and, through it, indirectly the security of our homeland, Hungary”, said the mayor in expressing his gratitude.

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The visit ended with a gift-giving to recognize the humble work of those soldiers who, far away from their families, ensure a peaceful and secure Christmas in Kosovo as well.