The Hungarian Armed Forces will see its 2021 budget increased by a massive 30 percent to HUF 778 billion (€2.2 billion), in order to cope with its increased workload caused by the coronavirus pandemic and to continue provoding a high-level defense to the country’s borders under migration pressure, Defense Minister Tibor Benkő said on the M1 national television channel.
In the interview, Benkő said next year’s central budget will be primarily geared towards family support and rebooting the Hungarian economy, but national security will also be in focus.
This is the second year running that the defense budget has been increased significantly: in 2019 it was increased by 21 percent to HUF 616 billion, mainly in order to support the Zrínyi 2026 sweeping modernization program of the armed forces, replacing its ageing Soviet-era tanks, helicopters, artillery pieces, radar equipment and armored personnel carriers.
The modernization program includes the purchase of 44 Leopard 2A7+ tanks and 22 PzH 2000 self-propelled artillery pieces from Germany, 20 Airbus H145M light military helicopters, US-Norwegian air defense systems, and a complete replacement of the armed forces’ small arms with weapons manufactured locally under Czech license.
Not least, this will put Hungary on track to meet NATO’s requirement to spend at least two percent of its GDP on defense. In 2020 this ratio was just over 1.2 percent and next year it will reach 1.66 percent, meaning that the country is taking seriously its pledge to reach the two percent by 2023. Currently only seven NATO countries meet that criterion: the United States, the UK, Poland, Greece and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Benkő said that in addition to its regular tasks, the Hungarian Armed Forces is also involved in pandemic defense, providing disinfection and controlling the humanitarian transit corridors for third country citizens in cooperation with the police. He added that the Armed Forces are also taking part in the country’s economic recovery, providing temporary employment to 3,000 people.
Title image: Recruitment poster of the Hungarian Armed Forces. (honvedelem.hu)