Hungary is “one of the safest countries” in the world and “we must be careful not to lose what we have achieved”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told Hungarian public media on the sidelines of a NATO summit currently underway in Brussels.
Hungary supports US President Donald Trump’s proposal that NATO members should increase their defence spending, because “security is most important and the greatest danger is losing it”, Orbán said, and called Trump’s request “in a sense justified”.
Orbán warned, however, that “not all EU members are in agreement”.
Some countries’ defence spending is below 2 percent of their GDP, “while the American is talking about 4 percent”, he said.
Concerning the event, Orbán said that participants in the “leaders’ club” meeting showed “signs of reconciliation” compared to a similar meeting last year, attended by Trump for the first time, which had a “rough atmosphere”. Conflicts have become less significant and there is more consensus, he argued, suggesting that both the US and Europe are more likely to make concessions.
Concerning challenges for NATO, Orbán said that “threats from the east and the south are very different in nature; the one from the east is called Russia while the southern one is terrorism”. He insisted that
a stable Turkey was crucial in protecting the continent against terrorism and migrants in the south.
Hungary welcomes that Turkey has “succeeded in completing a constitutional reform which could make that country more stable than ever before”, the prime minister added.
Regarding Georgia and Ukraine’s participation in the summit, Orbán welcomed the former country’s efforts to get closer to NATO. Hungary “profoundly agrees” with Georgia strengthening ties with NATO as it agreed with starting talks on Macedonia’s accession, he said.
Ukraine, however, is involved in a debate, Orbán said, referring to that country’s education law, which Hungary said harms the acquired rights of Hungarian minorities in Transcarpathia.
“This is not a debate between Hungary and Ukraine. From NATO’s point of view, this is a question of credibility and integrity. If Ukraine has signed an agreement pledging to refrain from curbing minority rights, it should respect it,” he said.
“NATO’s integrity and the protection of Hungarian minorities go hand in hand. For this reason, I will have to speak up today and do so forcefully,” Orbán said.
Orbán said Hungary supports setting up the joint European armed forces as soon as possible. Commanding a joint army is a serious challenge but
“Hungary has some knowledge to share in this field as its military had been part of the joint army of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.”
Orbán called it a vested interest of a truly independent Europe to have armed forces of its own. This is one of the reasons why EU states, “the Germans among them”, should spend as much as possible on setting up those forces, he said.
Asked if setting up an independent European army may cause conflicts with the bloc’s American allies, Orbán said “this is a question of goodwill and intelligence”. If the North Americans do not consider this as a move against them, a two-pillar defence system can become viable, he added.
Asked about the FIFA World Cup final, to be played by France and Croatia on Sunday, the prime minister said
the Croatian team’s superb performance is in part “the success of this region”.
Orbán said he would wholeheartedly root for the Croats because “they are our neighbours and friends. Further, they represent a shared soccer culture, even if contemporary Hungarian soccer fails to reach, let alone come close to the level represented by the Croatian team”.