Soldiers to “stay on the side of order”, says minister (union denies agreement with ministry)

Budapest, June 17 (MTI) – The Hungarian armed forces will “stay on the side of order” and avoid any “political actions”, Minister of Defence Csaba Hende told public television on Thursday evening, commenting a demonstration of other armed-services employees and firemen in Budapest.  

Both the Defence-Staff Trade Union (HOSZ) and the Ministry of Defence condemned the demonstration of police officers, firemen and prison guards, the minister said.


“Voting against the government has nothing to do with interest representation; it is an unambiguously political action,” said Hende.


The deputy leader of the HOSZ union denied there was an agreement between the union and ministry on substantive matters.


In a statement to MTI on Friday, Melinda Meszaros said that whereas the union did not intend to participate in political demonstrations otherwise there had been no kind of an agreement between the union and ministry on any other matter of substance. She added that the defence-forces’ union had stayed away from Thursday’s protest because they had already taken part in another national demonstration.


Meszaros said the union would pursue negotiations with the Ministry of Defence over the government’s plans for a career model. Changes to the rules of retirement, however, fall in the Interior Ministry’s scope.


On Thursday armed-services employees, numbering over 20,000 according to a union leader, staged a demonstration against restrictions to the early retirement system near parliament and held a torch-lit protest at Sandor Palace, the office compound of the Hungarian president.


Protesters set up election booths to “give people a chance to symbolically withdraw their votes of support from the ruling Fidesz-Christian Democratic party alliance,” organisers said.


Hende said an investigation should be mounted to examine whether protesters had violated the ban on political actions pertaining to law-enforcement workers.