FIDESZ MEP ATTEMPTS TO MAKE SECRET AUDIO RECORDING OF TEACHER-STUDENT DELEGATION’S MEETING IN BRUSSELS!

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sspyWell, this really is the lowest of the low! Since the Pegasus scandal, we are well-aware that Fidesz likes to monitor and eavesdrop on public figures and civilians critical of it, but this attempt has really gone beyond all limits. In the past two days, an important delegation has arrived in Brussels at the invitation of Klára Dobrev, organized by the S&D group, including teachers’ union leaders and several teachers and students who have been active in standing up and protesting for their rights in recent times. The group also met key representatives of the European Parliament, in addition to relevant decision-makers from the European Commission, and I and my colleagues in Brussels played our part in organizing the programme, too. Yesterday, we organized a meeting for them in the European Parliament, which was advertised in the Parliamentary public sphere, where they shared their experiences and feelings with MEPs and EP experts about the problems of public education in Hungary, the untenable situation of teachers and the intimidating and intolerable actions of Fidesz in response to their actions. In fear of the continuation of domestic retaliation, the students explicitly asked that, although the content of their discussion was open to the press, what they said should not be recorded, photographed or otherwise filmed in the room; This has been made clear several times. (How infinitely sad, by the way, that young people felt the need to do this in order to protect themselves from the excesses of power, but as it soon became apparent: not without reason). During the meeting, it was discovered by chance that one of Andrea Bocskor’s colleagues, hiding in the audience – evidently following the instructions of her superior – was secretly recording what was said despite the students’ request and taking detailed notes of who shared what by the group members during the Brussels discussion. After the Fidesz staff member was caught, the organizers asked her to delete the illegally made audio recording on the spot, which she then complied with.
The Fidesz member of staff did not introduce herself at the event and did not say a word to anyone about her intention to make an audio recording of the event. Not only was this immoral and unprecedented, but the unauthorized, secret audio recording was, in this case, also illegal. It is obvious that the intention of the Fidesz staff member’s superiors was to use the audio recordings later, even by manipulating them, against teachers and students critical of the Fidesz government, and possibly to punish them with further retaliation and media harassment. At the very least, Fidesz MEP Andrea Bocskor and head of the Fidesz delegation Tamás Deutsch should publicly apologize for what happened; apologize to Hungarian students and teachers and reassuringly clarify just how regular and common practice it is for Fidesz MEPs and staff to produce secret audio recordings of events critical of the government, despite the express request of the people concerned.

MEP István Ujhelyi 
(S&D Group Hungarian delegation)
Brussels – 30/11/2022

Orbán Not Only Losing Fight, But Face!

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EP-085506A_TRAN_TourismOne, especially if one happens to be a politician, is happy and proud to be proved right, or at least when it turns out to be true what he has already predicted well ahead of others. Yet for me, this time around, it is no joy at all to have been proved right and to have warned in vain weeks ago that there would be trouble. Two weeks ago to the day, in my open letter, I wrote that I was aware that, contrary to all the government’s propaganda of success, the European Commission is dissatisfied with the Hungarian commitments and the watered down deliverables, and that this could result in a substantial loss of money. Unfortunately, it has.
On the basis of current information, the European Commission will present in three days’ time its assessment of the measures implemented by the Hungarian Government under the so-called conditionality mechanism, and everything points in the direction of dissatisfaction in Brussels with certain reform commitments and their implementation. For this reason, the European Commission is expected to stick to its original and very strict proposal, i.e. to freeze a total of around EUR 7.5 million, or more than HUF 3 000 billion, from three operational programmes. It is likely that the Council will not go against the Commission’s proposal, i.e. it will leave this sanction against the Fidesz government in place, especially considering that only a qualified majority in the Council is needed to confirm it, and this majority is clearly present against the Orbán government. Just one telling fact: Germany, traditionally a compromise-seeking and compromise-building country, has made it clear in institutional and Member State circles that it shares the Commission’s dissatisfaction.
The only good news is that the European Commission is expected to approve the Hungarian plan for spending recovery funds at its meeting this Wednesday; after some 560 days. The fact that this negotiation is finally coming to a substantive conclusion is largely credited to Tibor Navracsics. At the same time, despite the exaggerated government propaganda, the adoption of the Hungarian recovery programme is far from a complete success. It only means that there is an agreement before 31 December, so we will not automatically lose more than two thirds of the money under the rules, but it does not mean that we will receive the money that exists on paper. Fidesz is reluctant to talk about this, but the government will only be able to draw down these funds on a quarterly basis, after meeting strictly defined milestones, so, for example, as soon as in the first quarter, it will have to implement 27 different massive reforms, most of which will affect the functioning of the Hungarian justice system. If it does not, there will be no transfer.
So Orbán has not only lost a fight, he may soon lose face. Big time. The Fidesz president, used to roadside political blackmail, apparently thinks that his revolver policy, which has often worked, will continue to work, but it is increasingly clear that the weapon is now turning against him. Brussels has learned to handle his flip-flopping. The Council of Finance Ministers will meet in the first week of December to formally approve the agreement on the Recovery Fund. However, the ministerial summit’s agenda will also include EU proposals that the Hungarian government has so far blocked – as a tool in the fight or just for bluff blackmail – such as the global minimum tax and the €18 billion loan package for Ukraine.
The negotiating table of the financiers will be a rather peculiar poker table: it is almost certain that the Hungarian side will be presented with a fait accompli; you can choose to continue to play gangsters, but if you say no, we can say no, too. Of course, in the case of the global minimum tax, there is an alternative implementation option without the support of the Hungarian government, so there will be room for manoeuvre in the poker game, but it can be pretty confidently stated regarding the outcome that if Orbán wants the Recovery Funds, he will not only have to lose the battle, but also lose face.
Especially that we are also about to sign the Partnership Agreement on seven-year budgetary resources, which 24 Member States have already signed. Orbán has always played a good game of chess, but now, although his knights performed well, the options for moves have narrowed. The interests of Hungarian families and the European Community have won, and the Prime Minister of Fidesz has lost. And he is not used to that.
After the Hungarian prime minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos, in which he proclaimed the illiberal state, I vowed that as an MEP I would write an open letter every week to warn the public of the crimes of the system that had been established. I am ringing the bells of alarm for the 383rd time and will do so for as long as it is necessary. Because we must give revival and our shared homeland a chance.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
27/11/2022

Is Protecting Values from Thieves Treason?

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hazaarulasIt is difficult today to be patriotic, European and democratic at the same time, because these concepts are now clashing through no fault of our own, Gábor Bojár, a renowned entrepreneur and public thinker, explained to me in an interview I had with him the other day. Unfortunately, he is very right. As a proud Hungarian, a committed and proud European, a fierce social democrat and a father of six, I have recently been struggling with a serious dilemma that has not yet been fully resolved. When is it right for an elected representative to take a stand on the freezing and accessibility of EU funds? It is a more difficult question than it seems.
Of course, those who are under the spell of the Fidesz narrative, or perhaps live off the gravy train they keep running, never have any serious dilemmas, because they are fed what they are supposed to think: well-cooked ideological custard, does not even need to be chewed, does not taste bitter, goes down quickly, here comes the aeroplane, nasty Brussels is the cause of all evil, yummy, isn’t it delicious, let’s wipe your little mouth. Obviously, it is much more comfortable to navigate the world without having to examine all the circumstances and possibilities, weighing up the consequences and impacts, because the Hungarian interest is always what Fidesz says, period. And anyone who does not represent it is not a decent Hungarian, and “that’s it”. What an insanely schizoid situation, that the very political community which otherwise proclaims the unity of the nation and the sanctity of a cohesive Hungarian nation as its credo, should call anyone a traitor with unabashed ease from the common nation. If this lunacy did not tear apart human relationships and families, it might even be simply laughable.
The dilemma surrounding the freezing of EU funds also revolves around this: when do you represent the interests of the country better? When you argue in favour of withholding funds until the rule of law is guaranteed and state-controlled corruption is eliminated, or when you say: I understand that these plastic aristocrats will steal everything, but at least a little would fall off the table for others if there were at least a little left over. I think we can agree that the starting point is clear: anyone who steals the country’s wealth, anyone who reaches into the public purse elbow deep, is not acting in the interests of their country. They take away from the nation and harming the shared homeland. EU funds are being withheld because the current government has stolen a significant proportion of the money due to the country, has reached into the public purse elbow deep and is trying to legitimize and maintain this by destroying the rule of law. It is therefore beyond dispute that EU funds are not being received because of the criminal actions of the current government; if the Fidesz government had remained honest and European, none of this would be happening.
So if this is the case – and it is – then the question that needs to be answered is one that was asked earlier: what is in the best interests of the country? A true patriot cannot argue that anything should be taken away from Hungary (there was already an example of this when Orbán, then in opposition, called for the withdrawal of funds due to us as a punishment against the then left-wing government at the 2006 EPP parliamentary group meeting), but neither can a true patriot allow EU funds due to the Hungarian people to be used for the benefit of the nation to go into the pockets of Fidesz public money barons. As a patriot, I want Hungary to get the money it is owed as soon as possible; as a European, I want these funds to be used properly; and as a democrat, I want the rule of law guarantees that make this possible to be restored. It is a difficult matrix.
Of course, the simplest solution is precisely in the hands of Fidesz: if it joined the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, if it stopped its unnecessary and damaging lies about reality, if it stopped its counterproductive warfare with the European Union and stopped corruption at state level, everything would fall into place. If the Fidesz government corrected all the wrongs they have done over the last twelve years – that’s right, not someone else, but themselves – then everything would be solved. All the responsibility and all the opportunities are in their hands.
As a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament and a proud patriot, it is my job to resolve this dilemma and the difficult matrix by choosing the best possible solution – the one that best serves the interests of our shared homeland. I would argue that the European Commission has already forced the Hungarian government to make a number of, in fact historic, corrections, which is an important success. It is our success. At the same time, I share the view of a substantial majority in the European Parliament, and one that is clearly evident from the feedback from Hungarian voters, that no blank cheque should be given to Orbán and his mates. Nice words must be accompanied by real action and results. Next week, the “Hungarian case”; and the evaluation of the government’s commitments will be on the agenda again at the EP plenary session.
I will support the Parliament’s resolution because it includes, among other things, the “protection of final beneficiaries”; as a priority point, which I initiated in the previous EP cycle to make part of the rule of law procedure. This guarantees that, if sanctions are ultimately applied against Hungary, the final beneficiaries (NGOs, local authorities, small businesses, etc.), for whom these funds are essentially intended, will not be deprived of the funds.
The current draft of the resolution also calls on the Commission to find ways of distributing EU funds through local authorities and NGOs if the government does not cooperate in implementing rule of law measures. This is therefore an important guarantee and protection against the government in the interests of the Hungarian people. This is certainly not in the interest of Fidesz. But neither is Fidesz’s interest equal to the interest of Hungary and our common nation. To confuse the two is both foolish and infinitely mean-spirited. The former can still be excused, but conscious vileness will never be a thing of the past.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
19/11/2022

Government Waters Down Commitments to Brussels – this could be a serious problem!

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PZ__0180In less than a week, the first milestone in the deal on EU funds for Hungary will expire: the deadline of 19 November for the adoption in principle of all the measures the Hungarian government has committed to the European Commission under the rule of law mechanism, with no less than HUF 3000 billion of EU funds at stake.
The panel will then be able to take an assessment decision on the proceedings against the Fidesz government for its criminal activities and on the next steps for the Recovery Plan at its meeting on 22 November at the earliest. The negotiations led by Tibor Navracsics – in a very different style indeed from previous negotiations – were undoubtedly successful, with new professional commitments made by the government, such as the teacher career model and salary improvements, or the additional resources invested in the green shift, all of which helped to ensure that the national plan, previously rejected on both formal and substantive grounds, could finally be adopted in the coming days. However, according to my reliable sources in Brussels, the government is once again trying to be sneaky and has in some places significantly modified and watered down the amendments to the laws that were recently adopted or will be adopted by the Fidesz majority in the National Assembly in order to stop the proceedings against Hungary that were initiated in April and to avoid freezing the 3 000 billion forints that would be particularly needed in the current economic situation. Orbán and his mates are obviously hoping that, having negotiated with Brussels in complete secrecy, no one will notice the not-so-subtle tweaks. But they are wrong about that, too. According to the information I have received from the European Commission’s leaders, the members and decision- makers of the body are well aware that measures to curb corruption and create transparency, for example, have not always been presented and adopted with the same precise content as the original commitments. This is yet another gamble that could mean serious losses for all Hungarian people. As the parties are effectively close to an agreement on the substance, we now hope that the European Commission will approve the amended national plan on 22 November and that the Council of Finance Ministers in early December (or a subsequent extraordinary meeting) can adopt the document, thus avoiding Hungary losing nearly 80% of the approximately HUF 2300 billion in non-reimbursable aid from the Recovery Fund. If the contract is not signed by the end of the year, we could say goodbye to a significant part of this money as it is.
However, do not be fooled even if the agreement is finally reached on paper: we can avoid losing resources, but the money will only reach us if the Hungarian government's commitments are actually met. And this will be closely scrutinised by the European Commission – and, following the German example, by national governments. And if it falls through or is not implemented as agreed in the preliminary negotiations, then the money valves will remain closed, just as in the case of the Poles. The Orbán government has had no qualms about lying about frozen funds: perhaps Judit Varga went to the deepest depths, lying in a public briefing that EU funds were being withheld in Brussels because Fidesz had prevented kindergarten children from having sex-change operations. Everyone knows full well that the freezing of funds was done solely to protect the rule of law, including, to a very large extent, the money that was being dissipated by state corruption; this is clearly borne out by the 17 commitments made by the government, which relate almost exclusively to this.
However, now that it has become clear that the government is trying to wriggle out of the expectations that Brussels and we have successfully set, by the usual gamble, it is even more important that the public be given a much greater insight into the details of the negotiations on resources than at present. Hungarian people have the right to know exactly what expectations the European Commission has communicated, what amendments to the law it has requested, and in relation to this, exactly what commitments the government has made and how the laws submitted are in line with these. Justice Minister Judit Varga – especially after having been caught lying heavily with regards to the negotiations in Brussels – has a duty to clarify this issue in a reassuring way in public as soon as possible. If the European Commission objects to the failure to implement the commitments, EU funds could be further delayed, despite any agreement, which would further increase the already record high inflation, increase economic uncertainty, thereby raising prices and making it even more difficult for families to make ends meet.
The government cannot continue to keep secrets and certainly cannot point the finger at Brussels or other political actors about the success or failure of the negotiations if it continues to keep the details of the negotiations immorally – and ultimately illegally – secret. I expect Fidesz to honour the commitments it has made to the European Commission, not to change them surreptitiously, not to try to trick the European negotiating partners and to inform the Hungarian people fairly about all the details. This would be the minimum for a truly national government.
After the Hungarian Prime Minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos proclaiming the illiberal state, I vowed that as an MEP I would write an open letter every week to warn the public of the crimes of the system that has been established. I am ringing the bells of alarm for the three 381 st time and will do so for as long as it is necessary. Because we must give revival and a shared homeland a chance.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
13/11/2022

ORBÁN GIVES UP FIGHT IN BRUSSELS, BUT STILL DOES NOT GET BLANK CHEQUE, SAYS UJHELYI

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IMG_FC51E21D1426-1The agreements with the European Commission will be reached soon, and this will be the clear victory of European values and interests, and along these lines the clear victory of Hungarian society and the clear defeat of the Orbán regime – this is how István Ujhelyi assessed the current state of the negotiations on EU funds at an online press conference on Thursday. According to the Social Democrat MEP, events will accelerate in the coming days and Brussels and the Hungarian government are expected to sign the necessary agreements. At the same time, Ujhelyi also warned that the Orbán government will not receive a blank cheque, meaning that the funds can only be drawn if the commitments made to Brussels can be proven to have been fulfilled.
For twelve years the Orbán regime has been arrogant and belligerent, and now we find that they are on their knees begging for what is due to us, so that we can get the money that can be drawn from the European system of cooperation and aid; the Hungarian MEP said. He added that twelve years of failed governance have resulted in a weak forint, rocketing inflation, spiraling prices and rising utility bills, while the empty coffers have made the government realize that it must reach a deal with the European Community on the rule of law and corruption criticisms. According to Ujhelyi, although the government’s success propaganda will celebrate the agreements with the EU as a victory, in reality it will be “our victory”, as the European Commission has achieved results and amendments on all the rule of law issues on which the current opposition has been sounding the alarm bell for a long time.
The founder of the Community of Chance also said at the online press conference that EU finance ministers will meet on 6 December and it is expected to be decided at this meeting whether Hungary will be able to access the so-called Recovery Fund, which has a budget of around 6,000 billion forints. Ujhelyi pointed out that 2,300 billion forints of this amount is non-refundable aid, of which 70 percent will be automatically lost if a detailed contract is not concluded by the end of this year. The MEP added that the so-called rule of law mechanism is running in parallel, with thousands of billions of forints of additional funds frozen from the multi-annual financial framework. Ujhelyi said an agreement was also near on this, but it is important to know that the European Commission will continuously monitor the fulfillment of the commitments made by the government and if they are not respected, the money we are owed will still not arrive.
“After twelve years, the EU institutions and the opposition MEPs have achieved unprecedented results, as we have taken action to ensure that Hungary receives the funds it is entitled to, but that they are not used for the benefit of Orbán and his mates, but that of Hungarian society”; Ujhelyi said, as an example, citing the teacher career model and the increase in teachers salaries, which was not yet included in the original government programme, but thanks to pressure from the EU, among others, the rewritten document already contains commitments in this regard.

Brussels/Budapest – 10/11/2022

UJHELYI FILES DATA PROTECTION CASE AGAINST NATIONAL HOSPITAL DIRECTORATE GENERAL

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István Ujhelyi has launched a data protection procedure against the National Hospital Directorate General (OKFŐ) after the institution refused to justify why it had chosen the given supplier company in connection with a three billion forint covidtest procurement, the MEP said at an online press conference on Wednesday.
The Social Democrat MEP recalled that during the Covid epidemic he had already pointed out on several occasions the rather peculiar and sometimes corruption suspicious ways in which government procurement was handled. According to Ujhelyi, the OKFŐ deal in question is one of these cases, too, the details of which should be clarified as soon as possible. At the press briefing, he said that the fact-finding press recently reported in detail that the National Hospital Directorate General had commissioned a consultancy company to procure antigen rapid tests, which had been founded shortly before the tender was announced, and its owner was formerly the leader of the Fidesz faction in Ferencváros, and even the personal secretary of a former vice-president of the governing party. Ujhelyi also recalled that, according to press reports, shortly after the three-billion contract for the covid tests was completed, the owner quickly sold the company, as the MEP put it, “Kaya Ibrahim-ed” to an 18-year-old boy living in the poorest slums of Borsod, referring to a famous case where a front man was used.
The politician said that he had submitted a public interest data request to the OKFŐ at the beginning of the summer to find out on what professional, or possibly economic, grounds the company had been chosen to purchase the rapid antigen tests, exactly how many and what type of tests had been purchased for this money, and whether the company had fulfilled the terms of the contract. Ujhelyi said that the OKFŐ had initially said after 30 days that the institution’s “performance of its emergency-related tasks would be jeopardised” if they responded within the legal deadline, and that they were therefore taking advantage of the special decree issued by the government and requesting a further 45 days’ extension. This deadline has also recently expired, and the National Hospital Directorate General has now told the MEP that the questions he asked “do not fall into the legal category of a request for data of public interest” and therefore will not be answered. The founder of the Community of Chance stressed at the press conference that he had today appealed to the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, as he had done earlier with success in relation to similar practices by the (former) Ministry of Human Capacities, and that he would take further legal action depending on the outcome of this data protection procedure.
“We cannot let it go that during an epidemic, certain circles of Fidesz are visibly and stinking from afar using public funds for their own benefit, while tens of thousands of people have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands have been put under care,” István Ujhelyi said, adding that it was amazing that we live in a “supposed democracy” where a state institution involved in such a transaction tries to hide its details by any means. “I don’t know when Orbán’s regime will end, but nothing can remain without consequences. We must give ourselves a chance to live in a normal, democratic country with consequences,” said István Ujhelyi.

Budapest/Brussels – 02/11/2022