Circus arts must enter a new era


24Today we celebrate the tenth World Circus Day, which is – initiated by the Fedération Mondiale du Cirque – commemorated Europe- and worldwide on the third Saturday of every April. Traditional circus arts represent much more than simple entertainment – they have an important role in facilitating cross-cultural dialogue, as well as economic and social cohesion. Circus does not only provide millions with quality entertainment, as the sector employs over 300.000 thousand individuals only in the European Union, while indirectly providing for the livelihood for nearly 8 million people. I am proud that – as a member of the European Parliament responsible for tourism – I was the initiator of the European quality assurance system that highlights those circus ensembles that live up to the highest professional standards. Our „BigTopLabel” title is awarded to only those circuses that fulfil the conditions set up by competent professional associations and experts of the European Parliament, including: legal requirements, employee and consumer protection rights, artistic standards, and strict animal welfare aspects. Last year, under the „BigTopLabel” programme, we, together with Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, awarded three outstanding circuses for their exemplary work. This year we are planning to continue and further expand the initiative.
In 2018 we celebrated the 250th anniversary of modern circus arts, and now we celebrate the tenth World Circus Day. These milestones mark a new era, which must bring about the revival of this unique sector. As a Hungarian, I am especially proud that one of the most meaningful reform attempts of traditional circus arts was undertaken by the Circus Krone (BigTopLabel award in 2018) and Hungarian artists Bence Vági and Krisztián Kristóf. In the next five years, as member of the European Parliament and as a committed supporter of circus arts, I will continue my fight to expand our quality assurance system, while unifying the rules circuses must abide by in a way that it fulfils both professional and social expectations. Only this way it will be possible to keep supporting initiatives that aim to preserve traditional values and at the same time open new horizons.
I hope that in the next European Commission I will find someone just as supportive and dedicated as our partner in the outgoing College of Commissioners.

Istvan Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Chair of the Tourism Task Force in the European Parliament
20.04.2019; Budapest

2019 – Stop Orbán!


IMG_6857Socialist MEP in charge of MSZP’s election campaign István Ujhelyi calls the European Parliamentary election campaign leads of Democratic opposition parties for strategic coordination by the first week of January, who says the Orbán-regime can be overthrown by coordinated action in the May elections.

At a Thursday’s press conference in Budapest, the Socialist politician spoke of the immense responsibility of the opposition to stop the “dictatorial power building that characterizes the system of Orbán and his oligarchs” next year.
According to István Ujhelyi, the vulnerability of the Orbán-system becomes evident if Fidesz does not acquire most of the Brussels mandates in May. Therefore, opposition forces competing for the electorate must coordinate their strategy in order to get a majority for “MEPs not serving Viktor Orbán.”

Obviously, this does not amount to one big common opposition list, he said, referring to the fact that several parties have already announced their candidates, adding that “nonetheless, we have a duty to negotiate our political strategy.”
He stressed that the unprecedented and exemplary opposition, trade union and electoral cooperation that began before Christmas created a common front against the Orbán-government, adding that this cooperation would continue in January.
He claimed they wanted to show that not a few thousand people, but hundreds of thousands protest against the system, speaking their opinion out loud.

The motto for 2019 is Stop Orbán, he said, and showed a red card known from the soccer field, declaring that this symbol shall now be used against “Viktor Orbán’s evil system.”


Central European University leaves Budapest – Dark Moment for Academic Freedom in Europe

20171004istandwithceubanners.imagecredit-ceudanielvegel-3Following the announcement by Central European University that after 25 years it will leave Budapest for Vienna next year, S&D leader Udo Bullmann said:
“This is one of the darkest moments for academic freedom in Europe since the era of Fascism. The CEU was founded in a bid to build bridges between the East and West after the Iron Curtain tumbled and is considered to be one of the best universities in the region. It is a scandal that now, after 25 years in Budapest, it is been kicked out.
“It is incredible that an autocrat leader of an EU member state can act like this. Orbán emerges victorious from yet another battle with no consequences from the EPP. The Conservatives like to talk about European values, democracy and the rule of law, but when it comes to protecting them, they let Orbán do whatever he wants. It is incredible that an autocratic leader of an EU member state is allowed to play this game while remaining a member of the EPP family.”

Istvan Ujhelyi MEP, head of the Hungarian delegation in the S&D Group added:
“In a spectacular act of betrayal, EPP group leader Manfred Weber – who wants to become European Commission President – essentially sacrificed rule of law and democracy at the altar of short-term political gain. This is worrying for a man who wants to run an institution that is supposed to defend those very principles. The EPP’s so-called “red lines” have been repeatedly crossed without any consequence or repercussion that might urge the Hungarian government to reconsider its plans
“The departure of the CEU marks a dark day for democracy, for academic freedom, and for Hungary. In a country where opposition voices are silenced, newspapers are shut down, and NGOs are persecuted, the university provided an independent platform for debate and free speech. Illiberal leaders like Orbán fear what they cannot control or purchase from stolen EU funds, this is why the CEU was forced to leave Hungary. More than 80% of students will now begin their studies in Vienna, while Budapest loses some of its brightest students and best teachers, along with significant education and research funds.”

The CEU-case: “red lines” and the sad tale of Orbán grabbing leadership within the EPP

ceubudapestIt is not common for a country the size of Maine to dominate international headlines for months with a single issue. Hungary has been in the spotlight for well over a year now because of its pugnacious government’s repeated efforts to oust the Central European University (CEU) -claiming the institution does not fulfil legal requirements. One must not forget, however, that new legal measures were tailor-made against the CEU from the very beginning, while it was the Hungarian government which eventually failed to hold up its end of the bargain. The hardships endured by the institution under the increasingly authoritarian rule of Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán are well-documented and have raised many eyebrows across the world. Yet few would have anticipated that Orbán will be able to follow through with his plan, evicting the university amidst a loud international pro-CEU campaign powered by renowned academics, civil organisations, and at first some of his own political allies.
Worst-case scenario was realized on Monday, when the CEU announced that it would launch all U.S.-accredited degree programs in Vienna from September 2019, leaving Budapest after 25 years of harmonious cooperation. Some 80% of newly enrolled students will now begin their studies in Vienna while teachers and staff will have to move or commute daily to the Austrian capital – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. With the CEU forced out of Hungary, Budapest loses much more than human capital, significant research funds or a quality institution of higher education. In a country where critical voices are muffled, opposition newspapers are shut down, and where the state serves only a selected few, CEU provided an independent platform for open debate and free speech. Now we must learn the hard way that self-proclaimed illiberals are political terrorists without a penchant for crisis negotiation – if you are not with us, you are against us. But the university’s decision to move is understandable as much as it is regrettable. A prestigious institution that operates in a highly competitive international environment simply cannot allow itself to function in continuous uncertainty fuelled by vicious smear-campaigns and propaganda.
Orbán, whose political agenda builds on perpetual and often entirely artificial confrontation, emerges victorious from yet another battle that once seemed too risky to start. He did not vanquish the CEU, though. On the losing end we find the European People’s Party with its entire leadership who fell for Orbán’s elaborate peacock dance and lost their credibility as guardians of European values overnight. In a spectacular act of betrayal, EPP group leader Manfred Weber – the man who eyes the most influential EU position after 2019 – essentially sacrificed rule of law and democracy at the altar of short-term political gain, which is hardly the best strategy if you are preparing to run an institution that is supposed to defend those very principles. The EPP’s so-called “red lines” (i.e. not pursuing NGOs and the CEU) have been repeatedly crossed without any consequence or repercussion that might urge the Hungarian government to reconsider its plans. It is not surprising that political observes began to wonder whether Orbán represents the real face of the EPP, acting as the puppet master who abuses the hypocrisy of his peers in the biggest European party without them even noticing.
Rather uncharacteristically, even the USA acted like a toothless giant, failing to defend an American university under attack in an EU member state that is also a close NATO-ally. The initial charm offensive by David B. Cornstein, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary yielded no results, so the diplomat appeared to give up on the CEU entirely, stating that the case has “nothing to do with academic freedom” and refusing to criticise Orbán. While the State Department issued half-hearted press statements about their “disappointment” over the ejection of the university, the Hungarian government’s propaganda-machinery was in full swing claiming that the CEU’s decision to move is “nothing more than a Soros-style political bluff, which does not merit the attention of the government”. By turning a blind eye, Hungary’s allies failed to demonstrate commitment to universal democratic principles, thus empowering a corrupt populist who runs a country in the heart of Europe like his family business. And just like that, the region’s best university is gone, and the hope that any international actor is capable of stopping a fragile democracy’s backslide into autocracy is gone with it.
István Ujhelyi,
member of the European Parliament, Head of the Hungarian S&D-delegation
Brussels, 04-12-2018

A new era in circus arts: the first BigTopLabel prizes awarded

bigtoplabelkep„This is the Michelin-star of circus arts” – said the initiator of the BigTopLabel-programme in the European Parliament after the first awarding ceremony of the prize acknowledging European circuses. Istvan Ujhelyi, member of the European Parliament, suggested the establishment of an objective quality assurance system that differentiates between the various circus ensembles and institutions. Only those circuses receive this acknowledgement that fulfill the conditions set up by competent professional associations and experts of the European Parliament, including: legal requirements, employee and consumer protection rights, artistic standards, and strict animal welfare aspects.
Under the framework of this programme, detailed reports are prepared for all inspected circuses which are then evaluated by an independent jury of circus professionals who decide which circus is rawarded the BigTopLabel recognition. The quality assurance system is officially part of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage. This year three prominent circuses received the award: Cirque Arlette Gruss of France, Circus Krone of Germany, and the Blackpool Tower Circus from Great Britain. The BigTopLabel recognitions were presented this year in the European Parliament by MEP Istvan Ujhelyi and Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education Cuture, Youth and Sport.
During the ceremony, MEP Ujhelyi said that awarding the first BigTopLabels is a worthy finale for 2018 -the very year that marks the 250th anniversary of modern circus. „We must be able to defend our cultural values and artistic traditions while simultaneously fulfilling all the strict contemporary requirements – for instance concerning animal welfare measures. The BigTopLabel system seeks to point out and highlight the good examples which exhibit outstanding quality both from a cultural and humane sentiment” – noted Mr Ujhelyi. The project will continue next year as well with another three applying circuses that will undergo a comprehensive objective and subjective inspection procedure.  Initiators of the BigTopLabel expect that this quality assurance system will outgrow Europe and shall serve as a recognition for good quality circuses worldwide.
Brussels, 28.11.2018

S&D MEP István Ujhelyi proposes an agenda for the future of mobility in the EU


 Transport is undergoing a profound transformation, both due to the transition to a low-carbon and sustainable economy and to digitalisation. The S&D Group is leading the EU in a long-term vision to make the most of the new opportunities while ensuring that no jobs are lost.
Today, a report on an agenda for the future of mobility in the EU, drafted by S&D MEP István Ujhelyi, was backed by the transport committee in the European Parliament. The aim is to look into the fast changes in the transport sector – including collaborative economy, automation and digitalisation – in order to start drafting the most effective policies.
István Ujhelyi said:
“The automotive industry is one of the main driving forces in the European economy, accounting for almost 7% of the EU’s GDP and providing employment to 12.2 million people. Some jobs will inevitably be lost with this technological development and now is the time to ensure that people potentially affected by this change can be retrained in a timely manner to perform new tasks and to benefit from new opportunities that digitalisation offers.
“It is vital to ensure that this industry has the workers it needs to stay at the forefront of technological advances and to maintain its strong position in the global market.
“We must provide Europeans, both as workers and as consumers of various services, with the necessary skills in this new environment. Concerted action at European level is needed to ensure cohesion between member states: if we fail to adequately adjust to the progress of digitalisation it could have serious consequences for their economic prospects and competitiveness of the EU itself.”

Brussels, 21-06-2018

István Ujhelyi becomes Special Ambassador of the UNWTO


35087351_2102409156439926_3236681856707461120_oMr. István Ujhelyi has been appointed as special ambassador of the UN World Tourism Organisation.  The Hungarian socialist politician, who is also a member of the European Parliament, has got the official proposal from Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general of the UNWTO at the organisation’s Regional Commission meeting held in June in Prague. Accordingly, he will work in order to maintain an effective relationship between the institutions of the European Union and the UNWTO, representing the UN body in the European political arena at the same time. With this appointment, Mr. Ujhelyi is now among such notable public persons like Eliza Jean Reid, first lady of Iceland, Aliko Dangote, African businessman and former Forbes Man of the Year or Lionel Messi, worldwide known football player, who are all UNWTO Special Ambassadors.

After receiving the acknowledgement, Mr Ujhelyi said “Being a Special Ambassador of the UNWTO is a great honour and a serious responsibility. This role crowns my efforts for the tourism sector in European policy-making.” The MEP reminded that tourism is the third most powerful sector of the European economy; it creates more than ten percent of the Union’s GDP while providing nearly 26 million jobs. “In 1950 there were less than 25 million tourists recorded in the world, in 2000 there were 700 million, in 2012 this number reached 1 billion. One does not have to be a fortuneteller to predict that tourism will continue to be an engine for economic growth; therefore, the minimum expectation is managing it in an appropriate manner in the European Union. From now on I work for this to happen, with the motivating support of the UNWTO.” said Ujhelyi who fills this role in a non-remunerated position.

The UNWTO, founded in 1975, is the leading voice in discussing challenges and trends related to the global tourism industry. Resolutions and documents produced by the UNWTO are the foundation for the work of national tourism agencies, enterprises, and scientists researching the topic as well.

Prag, 12.06.2018

S&D MEP István Ujhelyi welcomes the DiscoverEU programme – Free rail-pass Europe card for young Europeans


FB_IMG_1465759613078The idea of giving every young European a free rail-pass on their 18th birthday was launched by two young German activists, Vincent-Immanuel Herr and Martin Speer, and it was quickly supported by several political groups in the European Parliament. This will provide an opportunity to strengthen cultural relations between EU member states and foster a true European identity for every participant.

S&D MEP István Ujhelyi was the first politician to react and mentor the project in the European institutions until its final success: The initiative is now fully operational with more than 30.000 young Europeans able to travel free of charge starting this year.

Istvan Ujhelyi said:

“The programme starts on Tuesday. This is the hard work of the past long years for many of us, of which I am really proud, that I was among the first who helped the initiation of the two German activists Herr and Speer and have become the mentor of this programme.

“This initiative is not only about free travel, but the strengthening of the European community, the better acceptance of each other and learning more about the culture of all EU member states.

“We need these programmes to reunite our European communities, where these kinds of European ideas overarch the political groups, and different ideologies. I ask all the governments to support the promotion of the programme, getting as many 18-year-old Europeans as possible to be involved. The programme should be maintained and expanded over the long-term. We continue working on this.”

Brussels, 10 June 2018

DiscoverEU – Free Europe Card


inter1Have you ever thought of travelling across Europe with a free railway-ticket?

This summer marks the launch of one of the newest, coolest, and most exciting project of the EU: the DiscoverEU programme. This initiative – of which we could only have dreamt of until recently – is not merely about providing every young European with a free rail-ticket upon turning 18. The free Interrail ticket, or the „Free Europe Card” will open Europe’s gates for you to discover other European countries, cultures and people, whether you travel alone or together with your friends.

Two young Greman activists introduced the free interrail idea first: Vincent-Immanuel Herr and Martin Speer wanted the EU to give every young European a free railway-pass on their 18th birthday. This would provide an opportunity to strengthen cultural relations between EU member states and foster a true European identity for every participant. Istvan Ujhelyi, Hungarian Member of the Eurpoean Palriament was the first politician to react and mentor the project in the maze of European institutions until its final success. It was a journey full of seemingly impermeable obstacles but – following an edifying pilot project – the initiative is now fully operational with more than 20.000 young Europeans to travel free of charge only this year.

The project has since gained significant backing from a range of political actors in Brussels. Without the support of Manfred Weber, President of the EPP Group and Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport we could not tell you now to pack your luggage and jump into this adventure of a lifetime! All aboard? Let’s go!

A brief history of the DiscoverEU:

erasmusvonat•    2014: The first articles are published in the German media covering the original idea of Mr Herr and Me Speer.
•    2015: Istvan Ujhelyi, Hungarian Member of the European Parliament invites Mr Herr and Mr Speer to Brussels to talk about the execution of the programme.
•    2015: After numerous meetings and discussions, MEP Istvan Ujhelyi becomes the mentor of the initiative. He submits the free interrail project as a pilot project to the European Commission, which at first discards the idea.
•    2016: Manfred Weber, President of the European People’s Party (EPP) expresses his support for the project during the State of the Union debate in Strasbourg. He calls on European institutions to realize the free interrail programme. The EPP group officially backs the idea.
interrail3www•    2016: MEP Ujhelyi organizes a roundtable debate together with the German activists. Participants include representatives of European Parliamentary groups, the European Commission, and the European tourism industry. Officials of the Commission announce during the meeting that the institution will launch a free interrail pilot project.
•    2017: A narrow-scope E-twinning programme and a pilot project is launched: first, only bigger groups school classes could travel before the programme was expanded to individual travellers as well.
•    2017: The EPP and the S&D, the two biggest groups in the European Parlament reach an agreement about a widened, thoroughly reformed pilot project with 12 million euros as a preliminary budget for 2018.
•    2018: MEP Ujhelyi organizes a conference to evaluate the results of the 2017 pilot project. An adviser from Commissioner Navracsics’ cabinet explained the new framework of the free interrail programme for 2018.
•    2018: Commissioner Navracsics’ cabinet is discussing the finalization of the programme with the offices of MEP Ujhelyi and MEP Weber involving representatives of the railway and tourism sectors as well.
•    2018: Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission announces that the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework grants 700 million euros for the final project – this corresponds to 100 million euros annually.
int1•    2018. május 3.: At an event held in the European Commission, Commissioner Navracsics, MEP Ujhelyi and MEP Weber jointly announce the official start of a full-fledged free interrail programme for 2018 summer. MEP Ujhelyi hands over symbolic interrail-passes to Mr Herr and Speer and invites them to travel to Hungary together with the first Free Europe Card visitors.

How can you apply?
•    Registration forms will be available on the European Commission’s website dedicated to youth programmes:
•    The first registration period starts on the 12th of June 2018 and ends on the 26th of June 2018.
•    More than 20.000 free interrail passes will be given to young Europeans in 20148 only.

The essentials:
•    European Union citizenship.
•    Applicants must be 18 years old by the 1st of July 2018 but not older than that.
•    The planned journey must fall between July and September and cannot be shorter than one day or longer than thirty days.
•    Applicants may apply individually or as a group for free interrail passes (maximum 5 people in a group).

Who will receive the tickets and when?
•    The selection procedure of successful applicants begins on the 27th of June 2018.
•    The jury will be composed of officials of the European Commission.
•    Successful applicants will be notified in e-mail in the beginning of July.

Should you have any further questions regarding the project, do not hesitate to contact me.

Istvan Ujhelyi MEP
phone : +32 228 45649


We need a brotherly alliance between the circus industry and tourism


ujhelyi-cirkusz-1_w800For nine years already, under the initiation of the Fédération Mondiale du Cirque we celebrate the World Circus Day every third Saturday of April. Circus art – as a traditional branch of performing arts – is an integral part of our culture and economies, providing quality entertainment and livelihood for millions of people.
As 2018 year marks the 250th anniversary of modern circus arts, supporters and representatives of the circus industry have the unique opportunity to reassess the future of circus art and harness the new potentials. Circus is deeply intertwined with tourism with the two sectors complementing each other in a mutually beneficial manner. This link – which could be likened to that of two aerialists – shall be reinforced with better strategic planning in the future. We need to expand existing common platforms while special partnerships must be established in order to exploit the rapid worldwide development of the tourism industry – a true brotherly alliance between circus and tourism. Facilitating this endeavour, today I call upon tourism organisations to help protecting the values of the circus industry also in the following 250 years.

Istvan Ujhelyi
Chair of Tourism Task Force, Member of the European Parliament
Circus Ambassador 2018 of the Fédération Mondiale du Cirque