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Hungary's accession to NATO twenty years ago was a political and strategic decision but also an acknowledgement of the country's role in dismantling the Iron Curtain, the Hungarian president said in Prague.

Hungary “earned” its accession to the transatlantic alliance, János Áder said in his address at a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s, Poland’s and Hungary’s NATO accession on March 12, 1999.

In the years since, Hungary has proven that it is “not merely a beneficiary but a resource and a contributor to NATO”, Áder said. “We have learnt that preserving security cannot be done passively,” the president said. This is one of the reasons why Hungary invests into renewing its armed forces and increasing its efficiency, he added. The Hungarian nation lost its battles for freedom and independence in the past in absence of allies, Áder said. “This was an experience that led to an overwhelming 85% support to Hungary’s membership in NATO in a referendum held in 1997,” he said. Hungarians understood that they had been given a chance which to miss would have been a serious mistake, Áder said.

Presidents Andrzej Duda of Poland, Miloš Zeman of the Czech Republic and Andrej Kiska of Slovakia also addressed the event in the Prague Castle.