NATO will hold a three-day spring session of its Parliamentary Assembly in Budapest starting on Saturday. Legislators and experts, meeting in Hungarian Parliament, will focus on the topics of Russia and terrorism. The first two days will start off with committee meetings. Hungary’s Defence Minister Csaba Hende will address the defence and security committee’s session.The three-day meeting will end with a plenary session on Monday, to be addressed by Deputy Speaker of Hungarian Parliament János Latorcai, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén and NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow. “Russia’s challenge to Euro-Atlantic security, the rise of the Islamic State group and threats posed by terrorism and hybrid warfare top the agenda of the session,” the Assembly said.
Meanwhile Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, has attended a two-day foreign ministerial session of the NATO states in Antalya, Turkey. NATO must implement major changes to meet new security challenges coming from both the east and the west, Szijjártó told news agency MTI. According to Szijjártó, NATO’s Readiness Action Plan approved at its Wales summit would be pivotal in handling the new security environment with escalating challenges. The action plan concerns setting up units that can be swiftly deployed in times of crisis and establishing forward command posts in the eastern member states, including Hungary, he said. Péter Szijjártó said Hungary had made several decisions in connection with the Wales agreement in order to contribute to NATO’s handling of the new security situation.
In the autumn, Hungary will participate with 4 Gripen fighters in protecting Baltic airspace. Additionally, 499 Hungarian soldiers are participating in NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and Hungary wants to maintain its involvement in these missions in the future. In addition to making preparations for the forward command posts, Hungary is participating in setting up NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. Hungary plans to contribute a company to this force which can be mobilised within two days, Szijjártó said. He also highlighted the significance of a 140-member Hungarian rifleman unit sent to Lithuania last autumn and a military exercise by the Visegrad Four countries to be held in Poland this summer. Additionally, the Pápa air base, which NATO considers an important logistics facility, will be further developed, he said.
Péter Szijjártó said the planned high readiness task force could also be used against Islamic State if the terrorist organisation threatens any NATO member state. However, no decision has been made and no proposal has been submitted so far concerning any involvement by the alliance in the international coalition fighting in Syria and Iraq against IS. Szijjártó said broadening the treaty to handle the challenges facing NATO would be important. The stability of the Western Balkans has special significance from the point of Hungary, he said, noting that he had proposed at Thursday’s meeting inviting Montenegro to become a member this year. Hungary also supports the NATO membership aspirations of Georgia and Macedonia, he added. Concerning the Mediterranean refugee crisis, a topic high on the agenda, Szijjártó asked his counterparts to keep in mind the migratory pressure Hungary is exposed to from the Western Balkans.