The security of the central European region is a guarantee of Europe’s future, Defence Minister István Simicskó told a press conference after a meeting of central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) defence ministers in Budapest on Wednesday.
CEDC incorporates Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary. Poland is an observer.
It was agreed to further improve defence capabilities with a view to protecting European values and the Schengen borders more effectively, he added.
Simicskó said the ministers were in agreement that the security situation in the Western Balkans was a reason for concern and the migration crisis was likely to drag on.
He offered Hungary as a venue next year for an international exercise for border protection and migration crisis management. A similar exercise was held in Croatia last year.
The meeting also touched on so-called permanent structured cooperation (Pesco) aimed at strengthening European Union defence. Simicskó said Pesco would allow for a more effective protection of the EU’s external borders and a bigger military presence in crisis zones.
Austrian Defence Minister Mario Kunasek said authorities still regularly apprehend illegal migrants in Austria and warned that “the crisis is not over yet”. Until the EU ensures the protection of its external borders, member states are responsible for protecting their own borders and boosting domestic security, he said.
Tomasz Szatkowski, Poland’s deputy defence minister, said
the EU should help those countries most burdened by the migrant crisis.
He added, at the same time, that the crisis should be addressed at its roots and the EU should focus on the crisis zones.
Czech Defence Minister Karla Slechtova highlighted the importance of CEDC, saying: “This is how our voices can be heard.” She said parties at the talks had discussed ways the seven countries can work together in international missions and on fighting illegal migration and terrorism.
Slovak Defence Minister Péter Gajdos praised Hungary’s CEDC presidency and specifically its efforts to advance Pesco.
Slovenian Defence Minister Andreja Katic said central Europe’s security situation was stable, adding that CEDC must continue its work in order to preserve this stability. She mentioned mass migration and hybrid warfare as challenges which could only be addressed effectively through cooperation.
Simicskó and Slechtova announced that Hungary will start manufacturing smalls arms for the infantry. Hungary will initially only assemble the small arms, based on a Czech licence, but full production will start in January 2019, creating some 200 jobs.