State of terrorist threat – Amendment proposal in a joint session of parliament’s defence and national security committees
Budapest, June 3 (MTI) – Amending the constitution to create the conditions to handle a terrorist threat is crucial for fighting terrorism and upholding security, the defence minister said on Friday.
The Hungarian government earlier this year proposed amending the constitution to include a “state of terrorist threat” among instances that mandate the domestic deployment of the armed forces.
Battle procedures, tactical planning and terrorism have evolved and new challenges must be met with new solutions, István Simicskó told reporters after discussing the amendment proposal in a joint session of parliament’s defence and national security committees.
“Everyone must fight terrorism with whatever means they can. This is why the amendment is necessary,” he said.
Simicskó noted that the defence ministry had consulted with parliamentary parties on the bill on several occasions over the past months. The parties submitted their own proposals and most of those were later incorporated in the bill, too, he added.
Asked about potential civil rights restrictions the law may bring with it, the minister said, “There can be no freedom without security”. The government had to find a balance between security and civil liberties and it has made major amendments to the original bill. In its current form, the bill contains the lowest possible number of civil rights restrictions, Simicskó said.
The minister expressed hope that lawmakers would approve both this amendment and the interior ministry’s proposal on counter-terrorism measures.
Members of the two committees, representing the parliamentary parties, were divided on the bill. The leftist opposition argued that the amendment is unnecessary while the radical nationalist Jobbik chose to withhold judgment on it for the time being.
Ruling Fidesz group leader Lajos Kósa, the head of the defence committee, argued that the amendment was necessary because it was the only way the army could be mobilised or deployed if the country were threatened by a terrorist plot. He said it would be “extremely irresponsible” of parliament if it failed to pass the law because there are many actions the army can take that the police cannot under a terrorist threat. Kósa said he was hopeful that the opposition would support the bill, as the government has compromised on every point in it.
Zsolt Molnár, the Socialist head of the national security committee, said the government’s representatives had failed to present convincing arguments at Friday morning’s meeting as to why the constitution needed an amendment that “would only serve the distribution of government propaganda”. The Socialist Party will, however, support the interior ministry’s counter-terrorism proposals, he said.
Green opposition LMP co-leader Bernadett Szél noted that her party’s condition for supporting the bill was for the government to present a sound argument for introducing the special measures. Szel said the government had failed to accomplish this, adding that LMP still considers the bill unnecessary.
Jobbik MP Ádám Mirkóczki said his party was undecided about the bill. He said Jobbik considered it important to be able to deploy the army if the country faces a terrorist threat. The party will wait to see what changes the government makes to the bill, though on balance he favoured recommending the amendment in its current form to fellow party members.
Constitutional amendments require the support of two-thirds of lawmakers.