Szijjarto: Hungary committed to increasing defence budget

Hungary will honour its pledge to increase its defence spending to 2 percent of GDP by no later than 2024, the foreign minister said after a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Hungary is ready to discuss a recent proposal by the United States for NATO member states to meet the 2 percent target before the original deadline, Peter Szijjarto told Hungarian reporters at the end of the two-day summit. However, Hungary will certainly meet NATO’s requirements for military development before 2024, he added. But the recent suggestion by the US that its NATO allies should spend 4 percent of their GDP on defence “is not realistic at the moment for Hungary”, Szijjarto said. “First we must reach the 2 percent target as originally agreed on. Only then is it worth considering the steps that should or can be taken to further increase the defence budget,” he added.

Szijjarto also addressed reports that the US president had threatened to pull America out of NATO. At the meeting, the idea of the US quitting NATO “was not raised even for a moment”, Szijjarto said.

He said there was a “sharp discussion concerning the fairness of the distribution of defence costs” and “by how much the 2024 deadline should be moved forward.” EU Representatives made it clear that Europe has spent 33 billion dollars more on defence since Donald Trump became US president, Szijjarto said.

The debate on defence spending also brought up the issue of solidarity within the alliance, specifically the measure of solidarity when it comes to migration, he said.
Despite the intense debates, NATO’s strength lies in its unity, the minister said, adding that the smallest fracture in the alliance would have a “serious effect” on its member states and international security in general.

As regards NATO’s assessment of the ongoing reforms in Georgia and Ukraine, he said that although most member states had expressed their support for both countries’ Euro-Atlantic aspirations in Thursday’s session, a decision had not yet been made on activating the membership action plan for either one. Hungary made it clear that respecting minority rights is a fundamental criterion for united military cooperation in eastern Europe, Szijjarto said. Violating minority rights could even weaken the integrity of the alliance, he said. Therefore Hungary said it will not support Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration until it fulfils its commitments towards NATO, including the respect and advancement of minority rights, he added.

Hungary’s stance in this matter is in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations to Ukraine regarding its education law, Szijjarto said, arguing that Ukraine’s legislation banning post-primary-level education in minority languages restricts the acquired rights of the country’s minorities. “This isn’t just a demand by Hungary, but also an international legal argument,” Szijjarto said.

Hungary will only support Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration if it postpones the education law’s enactment until 2023, exempts private schools from its scope and consults the Hungarian community on it, he said.

Source and photo: MTI

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