In view of natural disasters near Hungary in the past weeks, the Hungarian Armed Forces have decided to bump up personnel numbers serving in disaster management, Army Commander Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi said on Monday.
Last month, two Hungarian helicopters assisted in combatting a wide-spread wildfire in Slovenia, and other countries, including Hungary, can be facing similar challenges in the near future, he said.
In case of a natural disaster in Hungary, 250 servicemembers will be able to perform simpler tasks, while working groups were assigned to operate machines and perform more complex duties, Ruszin-Szendi said. The army is also performing logistical and health-care tasks, he said.
From August, Hungarian Gripen aircraft will once again guard the Baltic airspace for the third time.
According to the statement, Minister of Defence Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky stressed at a ceremony held at the Siauliai airbase in Lithuania that the active participation in the Baltic airspace policing mission is both a huge responsibility and an honour, which clearly demonstrates the high level of preparedness of the Hungarian Defence Forces.
“As a leading nation, we are now receiving the symbolic keys to a task that plays a key role in the lives and security of the citizens of the Baltic States and in the history of NATO. Moreover, due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, the Baltic airspace has become one of the most sensitive airspaces in Europe, where our soldiers are now representing Hungary and the Hungarian nation under the Hungarian flag, in the uniform of the Hungarian Defence Forces, under NATO subordination”,
the statement quoted the Minister as saying.
Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said that “we politicians also feel the weight of the task and the even greater responsibility of the mission: therefore I thank the citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with great respect for their trust in us, Hungarians, to guard their airspace at such a sensitive moment”.
He also stressed that the Hungarian government is committed to developing its armed forces in times of war in Europe, so that, in addition to defending itself, it can contribute to the collective defence enshrined in the Alliance’s Statute as a member of NATO. The force development programme will enable Hungary to reach the level of defence spending previously planned for 2024 and expected by NATO by next year, and, he stressed, to sustain it in the years to come.
“The war has reassessed a lot of things, which is why the force development programme must be accelerated,” said Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky.
The joint permanent mission of NATO member states, which has been in operation since 2004, has the dual aim of increasing the sense of security of the citizens of the countries in the region – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and of improving the cooperation capabilities of allied and partner forces.
Four Gripen fighter aircraft of the Hungarian Defence Forces, together with a contingent of about 50 Hungarian soldiers, will serve as the lead nation from 1 August to 30 November, together with the air forces of Germany and Italy at the base in Lithuania, the Hungarian Defence Forces said in a statement.
At the same time, tensions are rising in Kosovo, where the NATO forces are under the command of a Hungarian general, Ruszin-Szendi said. “They are doing everything in our power to de-escalate the situation and ensure peace and security for locals,” he said.