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General-In-Chief: Hungary’s Army Ready To Protect Country’s Borders

By Tamás Székely // 2015.09.22.

The Hungarian Armed Forces are ready to fulfill their duties pertaining to illegal migration, chief of staff Tibor Benkő said after the Parliament passed a new law to involve the army in protecting the country’s borders. The army is prepared to carry out new tasks defined in the amended defence law such as police tasks or adopting new strategies related to hybrid warfare, Benkő said.

Chief of staff Benkő noted that soldiers and police had conducted joint patrols in the past, as prescribed by past defence laws. Troops took part in riot control exercises in the past, too, and performed such tasks in missions abroad. He said the amendments to the defence law do not affect the conditions under which the soldiers have the right to use their weapons. On the topic of calling up some 500 volunteer military reservists to help deal with the migrant crisis, Benkő said the move was “in no way unusual”, noting that more than 1,400 volunteers were called up to assist with flood protection efforts during the flooding of the Danube in 2013.

He said there are usually more than 100 volunteers on active duty, or even up to 500 during military exercises, meaning that the defence force is not planning mass call-ups. Hungary has no plans to restore mandatory military service, Benkő said. The chief of staff noted that volunteers will primarily be used to substitute soldiers who have been deployed to the border, adding that they will be tasked with duties appropriate for their level of training. Hungary’s defence force has over 5,500 reservists. Defence Minister István Simicskó said last week that a total of 4,300 soldiers have served along Hungary’s southern border since the migrant crisis broke out.

Under a law passed on Monday, powers similar to those of the police force have been granted to soldiers on duty in areas where the government has declared a state of migration crisis. Hungarian soldiers will have the authority to detain people, search clothing, baggage or cars, perform traffic checks or apply coercion if necessary. Soldiers will also be in a position to close an area down, and ban people from entry or prevent them from leaving. Soldiers at the border zone can apply coercion if an attack cannot be otherwise prevented, but it must not be aimed against human life. Similarly to the police, using rubber bullets, sound and flash grenades, tear gas grenades or net guns will not count as use of arms.

The ruling parties (Fidesz-KNDP), which proposed the legislation, said that the migration crisis necessitates a closer cooperation between agencies protecting the borders, as well as the involvement of the military. The proponents (LMP, Együtt, DK), however, said that though the military’s new tasks are closely linked to police activities, they cannot lead to the military’s taking over police functions. Under the new law, managing a state of crisis is up to the police, with assistance from the military.

via and MTI photo: