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Military registry deemed necessary

December 10th, 2011

Pundits from both the left and the right acknowledge that it is reasonable to reinstate the registration of Hungarian men of military age. A left-wing commentator, however, worries that the sensitive personal data collected by the government may be misused.

At some point we may need to mobilize everyone, all the healthy and reliable Hungarians in order to save what can be saved,” Gyula Haraszti writes in Magyar Nemzet.

The Hungarian Parliament on December 5 reintroduced the automatic registration of Hungarians who could be drafted in case of an emergency. According to the new regulation, the authorities will rely on existing medical records to determine who is fit for service, so no medical check-ups will be necessary. Both Fidesz and the Socialists supported the bill, while LMP and the Democratic Coalition opposed it, claiming that the registry may violate personal rights. Radical right-wing Jobbik abstained from the vote.

Haraszti finds it understandable that mandatory military service was abolished and a professional army was set up in 2004. It was, however, irrational and irresponsible of the then Socialist government to abolish the registration of men fit for military service, Haraszti believes. He notes that in case of a flood the country would need to mobilize all the fit men, which is not possible without a proper roster. The introduction of the registry is also necessitated by the new Constitution which states that in the case of emergency healthy Hungarians can be drafted.

Haraszti adds that, in addition to environmental catastrophes, Hungary should also be prepared for the possibility of an armed conflict. “We have in the past twenty years faced situations where war could have spread to Hungarian territory from the neighbouring states. Bombs may fall on Hungarian territory and foreign armies may threaten the Hungarian population.” Haraszti speculates that the likelihood of such a scenario is probably higher in a deepening economic crisis.

Mothers of high school age boys need not worry that their kids will soon be conscripted and will have to scrub the floor for months in the barracks,” Tamás Lajos Szalay comments on the new law in Népszabadság. Szalay notes that the government has no plans to reintroduce military service. He also acknowledges that setting up a roster that could be used in an emergency is necessary.

Szalay, however, appears not fully convinced that the sensitive data could or would not be misused by the authorities. “The Ministry of Defence will … know who has allergies, … who was treated with STDs, who has unhealthy habits and phobias.”

The left-wing commentator wonders if one can trust the government in the light of the government’s previous legislation, which Szalay believes in some cases amounted to the weakening of democratic institutions, including the restriction of the scope of authority of the Constitutional Court and the introduction of the new media law.

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