I must say, there are times I would love to stop talking like an educated person, resort to Zsolt Bayer’s freedom of language, and just speak my mind in the semi-obscene style of Christian-conservative media celebrities. This is one of those times, and, in the given case, it would feel perfectly justified.
For example, I would love to tell the young head of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, Deputy Minister Tamás Schanda where the path leads of someone who can be this arrogant, condescending and pitiful despite his role as a person performing a public duty. I would like to tell him that he is too young to be so distorted by power and interpret public service in an illiberal fashion as meaning that the public serves power and not the other way around. Mr. Schanda simply looks down upon the Hungarian electorate – particularly saddening coming from the vice-president of a Christian Democratic party –, at least those who are not supporters of the current power.
Indeed, Deputy Minister Schanda has for many weeks been reluctant to provide meaningful and detailed information on how EU funds are being reallocated for protection against the epidemic and from which available funds we are requesting support for this. I first sent a series of questions to the Ministry of Finance in this regard, from which, after a long wait, they redirected me to the Ministry of Innovation and Technology. From the latter, first Tamás Schanda sent an answer (I had no knowledge at the time that there was a secretary of state with such a name on the list of the 100 knights of Orbán’s National Cooperation System), more precisely, a long-winded accusation-list: it included talk of the past eight years, Brussels, dilettante bureaucracy, everything but actual answers.
After re-sending the questions to the Deputy Minister, I asked him that even if he has no respect for me (as an elected MEP), at least he should respect the constituents I represent and on whose behalf I am asking for information that is otherwise of public interest. Following yet another wait, there was no substantive response this time either: Deputy Minister Schanda only said that the government had won the first battle against the virus, they were now fighting the second battle, and if I couldn’t help them in this effort, at least I shouldn’t hinder them. I think he must have been rewarded with cherry brandy bonbons for this witty response at the secretariat, maybe they even sent a copy of the text to the Carmelite monastery office for the Boss to see: we here at the ITM really told that lefty off.
Shame on you, Mr. Schanda! You may be impertinent with me; I’ve been in the trade long enough and I’m quite durable and shockproof. Indeed! Be ashamed of yourself, because in the chair you use as a throne, this arrogance is not allowed. You are a civil servant who is paid, among others, by the constituents I represent. You were not a condescending with me, but with the people you have to serve. This sort of loss of control is typical of those who have been near power for too long and too much. Be careful, because at such a young age, this arrogance still keeps you high, but it will push you into the deep eventually.
And, as for what the serious questions were with which I “hindered” the heroic combat of the epidemic-killer government? I shall share with you now so that you know: these are the questions government has been unwilling to answer for many weeks, instead they use the time and paper for condescending, obnoxious frothing. Sooner or later we will get answers to all of them:
1. Pursuant to the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative announced by the President of the European Commission on 13 March and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus announced on 2 April, by modifying the relevant regulatory framework and making it fully flexible, the Commission will allow Member States to redeploy Cohesion Fund resources as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds in order to alleviate the crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic. Is the government of Hungary planning or has it already taken steps to reallocate the Cohesion Funds, which are part of the current 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework? The funding of which projects and programs is the government willing and able to reallocate?
2. On 17 April 2020, the European Commission approved a EUR 1 billion support program for Hungary the declared aim of which is to help Hungarian businesses during the coronavirus epidemic. What proportion of the EUR 1 billion rescue package approved under the temporary framework is the redeployment of resources from the European Structural and Investment Funds?
3. Does the government of Hungary plan to reduce the negative impacts of the crisis on the labour market by using the resources available for this purpose in the European Globalization and Adjustment Fund? Why haven’t we used this resource once in recent years?
4. As part of the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, public health crises, through amendments to relevant legislation, shall also be considered as emergencies financed by the European Union Solidarity Fund. Does the government of Hungary intend to use the resources of the European Union Solidarity Fund, which is available as a new source in the crisis situation caused by the coronavirus epidemic? If so, for what and to what extent? If not, why not?
5. Does the government of Hungary intend to use the EUR 2.7 billion available as a new resource through the Emergency Aid Reserve? Does the government of Hungary plan to submit a grant application to the European Commission?
After the Hungarian PM’s landmark speech in Tusványos in 2014, in which he proclaimed his desire to turn Hungary into an illiberal state, I pledged to draw the public’s attention to the transgressions of this regime in an open letter every week. This is the 249th time I ring the bells of alarm, as it still seems necessary. And also, because as a radical European Democrat, it is my duty to do so.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
June 7, 2020