The armies of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland proved to be instrumental during the recent coronavirus epidemic, defence ministers of the group concluded, warning that it would be a mistake to reduce military spending with regard to the economic impact of the virus, at a meeting in Prague on Wednesday. At the same time, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó had talks with Arancha Gonzalez Laya, his Spanish counterpart, in Madrid.
“The Hungarian government’s position is clear: the coronavirus epidemic will not impact development of the Hungarian military”, Defence Minister Tibor Benkő told a joint press conference held after the conference.
Participants in the meeting agreed that they would continue a joint project aimed at ammunitions purchases through a NATO agency, Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar, the host of the meeting, said.
Benkő: Important to Intensify Defence Cooperation in the Interest of European Security
“Cooperation within the V4, including providing assistance to one another, was working well during the epidemic,” Metnar said.
The ministers touched upon the Visegrád countries’ planned Battlegroup, to be set up by 2023, and to which each country could contribute 300-600 troups, the Czech minister said.
Participants also agreed to make changes to a strategy concerning the Visegrád Group’s defence development cooperation to meet new challenges.
“An army needs up-to-date capabilities to meet challenges at any time,” Benkő said, but added that defence research and development must be coupled with maintaining traditional capacities.
Benkő welcomed Visegrád plans to broaden their cooperation with countries such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Szijjártó has talks with Spanish counterpart
Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó had talks with Arancha Gonzalez Laya, his Spanish counterpart, in Madrid on Wednesday.
At a joint press conference after the talks, Szijjártó said that another wave of migration could pose serious health and economic risks, and argued that the coronavirus epidemic has hit countries with poor economies, and its spread could lead to increased illegal migration.
Rooted in their geographical location, Hungary and Spain have different positions on migration, however, there are links as well, Szijjártó said, adding, for example, that both countries are committed to fighting humans smuggling rings.
Hungary and Spain see eye to eye concerning the principle of delivering assistance where problems arise, and will launch a shared water management project in Morocco to improve supplies for local residents, he said.
Concerning the pandemic in Europe, Szijjártó said that “Europe must avoid getting in such a vulnerable position as in recent months, therefore some strategic capacities must be developed even if they may seem redundant in ‘peace’ times”.
Spain is Hungary’s 15th greatest trading partner, while 200 Spanish firms employ over 5,000 people in Hungary, Szijjártó said, but added that bilateral ties could offer further opportunities for cooperation.
The Hungarian government will open a consular office in Malaga, Szijjártó announced.
Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI