‘The peace of the Balkans is our peace too; without peace of Bosnia and Herzegovina there is no peace in the Western Balkans and no peace in Hungary’, Hungarian Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky declared at the EUFOR Althea rotation release ceremony on 18 December. As of January 2024, the mission will have a Hungarian commander and the Hungarian Defence Forces will participate in the mission with an increased number of troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The minister said that Hungary has already participated in the EU operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but from January the mission will have a Hungarian commander and the Hungarian contingent will be represented with almost three times the current number of about 400 troops. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 250 personnel will be present: the Hungarian Defence Forces will provide an air search and rescue team, an air evacuation team, an artillery team with dog patrols, medical support (ROLE-1 level), and logistical support and supplies. From Hungary, a further 150 personnel will be on standby to support the operation: a manoeuvre squadron, a military police team, a technical team and a chemical protection team with water purification capability, the minister remarked.
Following a decision by the Political and Security Committee of the European Union in October, Hungary proposed to lead EUFOR Althea for the first time. Major General Dr László Sticz, commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces Military Modernisation and Transformation Command of the Hungarian Defence Forces, will lead the European Union peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina from January 2024.
The minister pointed out that the best general had been chosen for the job in the person of Major General Sticz, an experienced and proven leader.
The minister underlined that the Hungarian commander is taking over in a difficult situation, as the deteriorating security environment has put such pressure on any mission requiring a military presence that has perhaps never been seen before. In addition, the southern border is under severe migratory pressure, terrorist organizations are increasingly active, and the scars and traces of the Yugoslav war and the forces that caused its outbreak are still with us today, he stressed.
‘I am extremely proud that such a sizeable Hungarian contingent will participate in the mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is a great honour for Hungary and a great opportunity to test the Hungarian force development.
Everything that we have been working on together for years and what you will now do in the mission will be both a test and proof that the Hungarian military is now on a path that could perhaps be called historic,’ Minister Szalay-Bobrovniczky concluded.
Major General László Sticz, the appointed EUFOR Commander, also emphasized that peace and stability in the Western Balkans is in Hungary’s fundamental interest, which is why Hungarian soldiers have been present in Bosnia and Herzegovina for almost 30 years. According to the commander, the fact that a Hungarian general (Maj. Gen. Ferenc Kajári) led NATO’s mission in Kosovo (KFOR) for one year from autumn 2021 played a major role in Hungary’s successful bid for mission leadership, and the Hungarian Defence Forces have thus demonstrated that they are capable of not only participating in but also leading such an outstanding operation.
Operation Althea, also known as the European Union Force Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR), is a peacekeeping mission with military deployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina to oversee the military implementation of the 1995 Dayton Agreement. It is the successor to NATO’s SFOR ended on 2 December 2004 and is responsible for maintaining a Safe and Secure Environment (SASE) in BiH. Since the mission started, the responsibility for the execution of many tasks has been handed over to the local authorities according to the principle of ‘local ownership’ and in line with BiH’s path towards EU membership. Nevertheless, EUFOR promotes an environment in which the peace process can continue but retains full responsibility and authority to re-assume control if required. The mission currently has 1100 personnel in the region, with contributions from 22 participating countries.