Árpád Boráros is 46 years old and has recently undergone surgery for a spinal disc herniation. His colleague is a woman in her twenties, barely weighing 50 kilograms (110 pounds). They have two things in common: they are both employed in the public employment work scheme and have been called in by the Hungarian army to see if they are capable for military service.
Their cases are not unique. Publicly employed workers have received similar letters in the past few weeks, writes Hungarian online website kisalfold.hu. According to the online daily, the recipients must appear in the conscription office on a given day and undergo tests to see whether they can be employed as soldiers in the Hungarian army. If they qualify and reject the offer, they will fall out of the public employment work scheme for three months. The same is true for not turning up at the army office.
Public employment workers all over the country fear that they will either lose their jobs or have to join the armed forces. Árpád, for example, doesn’t understand how his age and condition could make him qualify. His colleague thinks the same.
“I received the letter, so I will go. But I really don’t think I would qualify,” he said.
The Hungarian Armed Forces released a statement soon after the article was published. They admitted that they were recruiting new members among public employment workers but denied it would be compulsory.
“The Hungarian Army cannot and will not force anyone to sign a contract and join them against their will. The army has only had voluntary members for 11 years,” they said.
The army added that they offer more stable and secure jobs than the public employment program, and while the latter is only temporary, being a soldier can last for a lifetime and offer a higher salary.
The Hungarian Army has been trying to recruit new members across the country. However, anybody who wishes to join must undergo serious physical, mental and health tests.