Let 20th August be celebration of caring this year!

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rizsavi-augusztus-20“Today, we can no longer say that anything is a pessimistic forecast”; said Minister for Economic Development Márton Nagy at a recent professional event, where he spoke with surprising and perhaps careless frankness about the crisis period ahead and its dire consequences: deepening recession, rising inflation and increasingly difficult means of subsistence; or, surprisingly for a Fidesz government member, the long-term unsustainability of official prices.
The minister said nothing new, perhaps only in his frankness, compared to what independent economists have been saying for some time, and who have been calling for an urgent change in the government’s misguided economic policy, which has failed to make any real changes in order to obtain EU funds. Let us therefore accept, after the warning signals of competent economists, that the Fidesz government is now aware of the serious crisis that Hungarian society will have to endure in the next short or longer period. Social crises can best be dealt with by social measures, of course, and now is the time for the authorities to put people first, and not just economic interests: Hungarian families and the livelihoods of Hungarian people must be protected by every possible means. MSZP has already put its own ‘Security of Livelihood Package’; on the table of Parliament, and the instruments it contains, such as the provision of food support through the Chance Coupon, can certainly contribute to increasing the security of Hungarian families; all it takes is for the governing majority to implement them, at least in part.
At a time when the euro-forint exchange rate is skyrocketing, when the cost of living is rising many times over due to high inflation, and when the government is trying to raise all the resources it can to deal with the crisis (through extra taxes and austerity measures), it is clear that all luxury spending must be reviewed. Antal Rogán, who is also responsible for tourism alongside propaganda and the secret services, recently spoke of plans to organize “Europe’s biggest fireworks display’; at the end of August, as part of a multi-day celebration. There is no reliable and accurate information at the moment on how much public money is planned to be spent on this, but what is certain is that last year we spent nearly HUF 12 billion on the 20 August celebrations, which means that the cost of this year’s celebrations is likely to be higher. In the current economic and social situation, the government should certainly reconsider this. Make no mistake: I am not calling for the August celebrations to be postponed or for the fireworks to be cancelled, but I do argue that in times of social crisis, the costs of these events should be kept within reasonable limits. Obviously, a fraction of this multi-billion dollar sum can create a festive atmosphere worthy of our state traditions, especially if we exclude the NER (Orbán’s so-called National Cooperation System) percentage gains on state programmes in advance. I am sure that it would also be an appropriate and fair gesture on the part of the government if it were to spend a larger part of the money earmarked for its original ideas not on “Europe’s biggest fireworks display”, but on helping families who are unable to make ends meet because of the crisis, for example, by funding Chance Coupons, and if it were to make do with, say, Europe’s fourth or fifth biggest fireworks display. It is harder to look up at the sky and enjoy any light show when you are hungry and with your back arched from the burden of daily living. So let this year’s celebrations be dignified and patriotic, but let this year’s commemoration of the founding of the state also be a celebration of care, rather than of excess. I trust that the in the so-called purist Carmelite Monastery (Orbán’s office) they will at least consider this possibility.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
3 July, 2022

MSZP: more money and European quality standards in healthcare needed instead of department closures

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szelToday, on the day of the celebration of Hungarian healthcare, the traumatology department of the hospital in Orosháza will be closed for an indefinite period of time, announced Dr. Zoltán Szelényi, who has been in charge of the department for the past ten years, at an online press conference held together with MEP István Ujhelyi on the occasion of Semmelweis Day.
The surgeon-general pointed out that Hungary spends very little on healthcare, even by regional standards, because although the state’s expenditure as a proportion of the GDP has indeed increased in the last two years, this was actually due to the cleverly accounted purchase of epidemiological equipment, rather than massive developments. Dr Szelényi said the government should clearly increase public spending on the health sector, bringing it closer to the European average.
As a first step, they are calling for the government to spend seven per cent of GDP on health, which, although already a substantial increase, would still be below neighbouring countries, where some governments are going above nine per cent or more. The chief physician added that they also called for the rapid development and introduction of quality assurance requirements linked to the European Health Union in Hungary; and thirdly, they called the current government to account for transparency and credibility, noting that, in the case of epidemiological data, public institutions were not sharing data of public interest with the public at all or only to a limited extent.
Szelényi said that health workers are waiting for reform-like changes, but that the government is going backwards with its restructuring of the sector, such as the abolition of the health insurance fund or the independent epidemiological authority.
István Ujhelyi, a Socialist MEP who is also a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health, said at the press conference that this year’s Semmelweis Day could not be a real holiday for health workers either. According to the MSZP MEP, the health sector is the most serious crisis sector in Hungarian governance, which is why earlier statements by Interior Minister Sándor Pintér responsible for the sector, such as the one claiming “he cannot promise anything, but at least he can keep his that” are not acceptable. Ujhelyi announced that he has initiated a personal meeting with Pintér, which will take place in the coming days, to discuss European issues affecting the Hungarian health sector.
“Let there be at least one area of the Hungarian government’s work where we would not be looking for enemies, but at what we can bring back from Brussels to ensure that all Hungarians have access to state-funded and quality health services.
In addition to our criticisms, we always have concrete, alternative and improving proposals, in the implementation of which we can even offer the government European cooperation, Ujhelyi said, adding that yesterday, at his initiative, a new health roundtable was established in the European Parliament in the framework of a special event, with the participation of professional interest groups of European doctors, hospitals and pharmacists, among others. Their aim is to develop a coordinated and united position in the future towards the European institutions, for example, on the implementation of the European Health Union, as mentioned earlier, which would set minimum standards for care systems in all Member States.

Budapest/Brussels – 01/07/2020

István Ujhelyi voted MEP of the year for second time

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mepawFor the second time in five years, MSZP MEP István Ujhelyi is a winner of the MEP Awards – the award was handed over to him in a spectacular ceremony in Brussels on Wednesday evening. The prestigious award is announced and presented every year by The Parliament Magazine, a bi-weekly Brussels-based magazine on EU politics, and the last event was cancelled only due to the covid pandemic.
Politicians compete in several categories, and can be nominated by individuals, MEPs, advocacy groups and NGOs. From the thousands of nominations received, an independent, professional jury makes a shortlist of four MEPs in each category, based mainly on who and how many people or organizations nominated them and the real reasons and work that supports their nomination. István Ujhelyi has been short-listed to be a finalist for the third time this year; in 2017, he also won the prestigious award when he was voted best in the “transport” category. This year, the MSZP MEP was voted the most effective and successful European politician in the “Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism” category, mainly in recognition of his pioneering work to implement and develop the free InterRail ticket scheme and his work as Vice-Chair of the TRAN Committee responsible for the tourism sector, which was the hardest hit by the covid pandemic.
Following the announcement, István Ujhelyi said that it was a great honour for him to have receieved the MEP Award for the second time, especially as he had received numerous nominations not only in the tourism category but also in the health category, including from the Standing Committee of European Doctors. “Just to be one of the final four for the third time meant a lot to me; I must admit that I did not expect to be awarded this prestigious prize again, as a double is quite rare. I am proud to have been nominated by many civil and professional organizations and European citizens, which is the most important confirmation of the effectiveness of my work in Brussels. This is a clear recognition in Brussels that I have succeeded in presenting a number of pioneering programmes representing the interests of Hungarian people, such as the European Health Union, the free InterRail ticket programme, or initiatives that strengthen cooperation between professional tourism organizations and finally bring the sector at large to the attention of Europe”; István Ujhelyi said.

Brussels – 29/06/2022

Orbán signs in Brussels what he protests at home

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Viktor ORBANDo not pay attention to what I say, but what I do”, is a statement attributed to Viktor Orbán, which has undoubtedly taken on a new meaning this week. We are well-aware that Fidesz’s prime minister, as a political flip-flopper, usually says one thing in Brussels and another to his own electorate on public television, but now, in addition to the slippery double-talk, the head of government has been found to be telling a concrete lie. As I have already reported on my social media pages, next week Fidesz-KDNP wants to adopt an anti-European, utterly absurd parliamentary resolution in connection with a series of conferences on the future of the European Union. It is quite obvious that they want to push this through Parliament in order to use it for blackmail during negotiations in Brussels. In fact, the resolution describes the series of international conferences as ineffective and politically motivated, and the Hungarian position includes the dissolution of the European Parliament and the removal of the desire for ‘ever closer unity’ from the EU Treaties. The whole thing is sheer absurdity, and it is no coincidence that even Tibor Navracsics said in a radio interview that he was still considering whether to vote for this resolution as a Member of Parliament.
In contrast, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took a completely different position at this week’s European Council (EUCO) meeting, and even signed the document closing the summit himself, i.e. he agreed with its contents. But the document states, among other things, that the EUCO “takes note of the proposals contained in the report on the outcome of the conference submitted to the three co-presidents” and that citizens will be informed of the follow-up. This latter information has certainly not been given and will clearly not be given: the government is, in fact, lying about the findings of the conference, as the parliamentary resolution demonstrates. As a matter of fact, the report on the outcome of the process, which the Hungarian Prime Minister has apparently quietly accepted and taken note of, summarized the views of European citizens, including Hungarian citizens, and made quite different conclusions from those included in the resolution by the governing parties that they call ‘the Hungarian position.’ In the final report, the European citizens did not call for the dissolution of the European Parliament, but for the strengthening of its powers, for example, by granting it the right of legislative initiative. According to the EUCO’s final document, Orbán took note of this and accepted it as the position of the majority of European citizens. Also included in the conference report is the opening of the revision of the Treaties and the review of Member States’ competences, but in the opposite way to what Fidesz-KDNP at home would like to see in a resolution. The result of the process is precisely that it is in favour of closer cooperation, of granting more European powers, for example, in the area of health, and not of abolishing the desire for closer unity. According to the final document of EUCO, Viktor Orbán has also taken note of this and accepted it as the majority position of European citizens. So the Hungarian governing parties are deliberately trying to put false statements in a parliamentary resolution, and at the European Council meeting, Viktor Orbán did not defend the “Hungarian position” at all, if you like; he did not indicate his opposition to the findings of the final report adopted and noted in connection with the Future of Europe conference, and did not indicate that the Hungarian government, as in so many other matters, has a completely opposite position to that of the majority of Europe. If the Prime Minister had protested then and there, if he had indicated his opposition, it would have been perfectly legitimate, although I would have disagreed with him. However, the fact that the conclusions adopted in the EUCO’s final document are in effect being concealed from the Hungarian public, and that they are trying to force a completely misleading parliamentary resolution with contradictory content through the Hungarian Parliament, is a lie in itself. I very much hope that, like Tibor Navracsics, there will be more people in the Fidesz-KDNP benches who will wonder whether it is acceptable to vote for this lying and damagingly anti-European resolution, and there will even be those who will not only wonder, but will eventually refuse to vote for it in good conscience.

MEP István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
26 June, 2022

EU funds to support redundant Tungsram workers available, but Orbán-government does not claim them

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 “Hungary is not going forward, it is going bankrupt”; said MEP István Ujhelyi in his online press conference on Wednesday. According to the MSZP politician, the government is helpless and insensitive as it watches the situation caused by the crises threaten the livelihood security of families and as the record-high euro exchange rate and inflation push the lowest income earners into a subsistence crisis. Ujhelyi pointed out that the government is also standing idly by as some 1,800 people are set to be made redundant from Tungsram’s Hungarian factories by the end of the year, with news of another 200 people being laid off in Újpest alone. At the press conference, the Social Democrat MEP said that in such cases, the “European Globalisation Adjustment Fund” could be used to provide substantial support for retraining, wage supplements or even to help the redundant workers start their own businesses, but that the government of the Member State concerned would have to apply for this and contribute around 15 per cent of the costs.
Ujhelyi said that the two-day plenary session of the European Parliament, which starts on Wednesday, will decide on two similar requests: the French government has asked for €20 million to help workers made redundant in the AirFrance group redundancies and the Greek government has asked for €2 million from the Globalisation Fund to provide temporary support for more than 200 workers made redundant in an electrical industry plant. The MSZP MEP stressed that in the last twelve years, the Hungarian government has never once called on EU aid from this fund, which amounts to hundreds of millions of euros. “The government is alibi-ing and fooling around with Tungsram and the trade unions, but it is not providing any real help: it is incomprehensible that they are not even asking for this particular EU money”; István Ujhelyi said. The left-wing MEP added that he had consulted with the relevant experts of the European Commission, who confirmed that only the Hungarian government can submit an application for support, which is expected in Brussels, as the Tungsram case fits perfectly into the framework of the fund. Ujhelyi also said that he and MP Imre Komjáthi had previously written to the Ministry of Technology and Industry concerned about the use of the EU fund, but had not yet received any reply. “It seems that the government is more interested in getting orders for the oligarchs around NER (Orbán’s so-called National Cooperation System) and exempting them from extra burdens than in ensuring the health and security of the Hungarian people”; the MSZP politician said.

Brussels/Budapest – 22/06/2022

Fidesz two-thirds about to adopt mendacious and anti-European resolution

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parlThere seems to be no emergency brake on the pro-government bandwagon of lies, or at least there is no one left of the one time pro-European, respectable young democrats to pull it while the illiberal train is running wild. László Kövér and Máté Kocsis of Fidesz, and Zsolt Semjén and István Simicskó of KDNP are the signatories of a newly tabled parliamentary resolution, which formulates the Hungarian position as a result of a series of conferences on the transformation of the European Union. It does this by presenting its own anti-European, purely party-political theses, formulated along the lines of Fidesz power interests that further strain the European community and hinder its functioning, as the unified and well-developed position of the Hungarian nation. This is a blatant lie.
As is known, the European Commission set out as a priority in 2019 that it would gather the views of European citizens in a broad and lengthy public debate on the functioning of the EU and the directions of its planned reform. More than five million people have accessed the dedicated online platforms, nearly 17,000 individual ideas and proposals have been discussed and almost 7,000 events have been held across Europe as part of a comprehensive series of conferences, some of which took place in the plenary Chamber of the European Parliament. So it is a significant amount of work that has been done, with millions of people taking part and expressing their views, and the European Commission has been processing these ever since with a legislative initiative expected in the autumn. According to the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary resolution, “instead of being an open and democratic dialogue, by excluding the approval of a large part of the public, the conference series has become a servant of the political and ideological ambitions of forces interested in the erosion of the sovereignty of Member States and the increase of the power of the EU bureaucracy”. The Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary resolution also states that at the same time the Hungarian Parliament welcomes the fact that Hungarian citizens participated in the conference series with an activity far above the European average and that Parliament “stands by the opinion of the Hungarian people that the European Union must change because it is unprepared for the challenges of today”. The document also states that the “Hungarian position”; is that the EU treaties should be revised and the objective of “ever closer unity”; should be deleted from it. However, it should be included in it that European integration is based on Christian roots and culture, and that the European Commission should be politically and ideologically neutral. The governing majority also wants to state as part of the Hungarian position that the powers that can be exercised through the EU institutions should be reviewed and, for example, that it should be guaranteed at treaty level that each nation can decide for itself “with whom it wants to live”.
Fidesz-KDNP would include in the EU treaty a ban on further joint EU debt absorption (interestingly, they are now pushing for the call on the Recovery Funds that we would receive as a result of the first joint debt absorption), but they would also curb the rights of the European Parliament, and take the delegation of MEPs out of the hands of Hungarian citizens, so that in future they would not be able to directly elect their representatives, but national parliaments would send them to Brussels. Another radical change, according to the “Hungarian position”;, would be to allow national governments and national parliaments to initiate EU legislative procedures; a power that the European Parliament is also demanding for itself, but which Fidesz, of course, does not support. The proposed resolution that Fidesz-KDNP has now tabled and is seeking to adopt is extremely damaging and dishonest in several respects. On the one hand, the comprehensive series of conferences initiated by the European Commission was successful and meaningful and many Hungarian citizens and NGOs participated in it; but even representatives of the Hungarian Government, State Secretaries, mayors and Fidesz MEPs were present at major events, which means that it is a lie that they had no meaningful influence on the proceedings. Moreover, while the governing parties would enshrine the “Hungarian position”; in a parliamentary resolution, there is, in fact, no sign or evidence that Hungarian citizens agree with it, or even want it.
On the contrary, according to the summary published by the European Commission, which also includes a large number of opinions expressed by Hungarian citizens and NGOs, the majority of European citizens would give the electorate a greater say in the election of the President of the European Commission, for example, or even the European Parliament that they elect. There are indeed a number of points where possible changes to the EU Treaties and powers have been raised, but not in the way that Fidesz is now trying to squeeze into a parliamentary document, but quite the opposite: the majority of European citizens, including Hungarians, want more European influence and influence in, for example, equal access to quality education or in the creation of minimum quality standards for health care systems. There was also a general consensus as a result of the conference series that there is a need to move to qualified majority voting for all EU decisions, as the current system gives too much scope for blackmail to certain Member States, which thus block common European issues; but the same is true for sanctions for breaches of the rule of law, where European citizens, including Hungarians, are also calling for new rules. Fidesz-KDNP is therefore plotting another despicable stunt, only to strengthen the Prime Minister’s blackmailing positions at the forthcoming European Council summit. It is a political crime to adopt a parliamentary resolution containing such lies and clauses that deliberately weaken our European community. It is sad that there is apparently not a single European Hungarian left in Fidesz to protest against this. So let me hereby do it for them.

István Ujhelyi MEP
Brussels/Budapest – 22/06/2022

Social debate needed on four-day workweek!

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281712968_555162532635578_1884145042787631619_nThere is no doubt that the periods of pandemics and social changes of recent years have significantly rewritten our daily lives, especially our working routines and habits. The covid-period has proved the validity of the so-called “home-office”; practise and the effectiveness of more flexible working in certain sectors.
I am particularly pleased that in recent weeks more and more people have been paying attention to the possibility of introducing a four-day working week in Hungary, too, as I have been working on this issue more closely as a European policy-maker since the covid period, and the increasingly intense public interest has finally made it time to implement my old plan: to launch a social debate on the possibility of introducing a four-day working week in Hungary. A four-day working week system, which would provide more free time, a better work-life balance and more effective creative time, would not, of course, be an immediate and positive change for all employees, as in some sectors the programme is unfeasible and its general introduction could have
as of yet unknown effects. It is therefore to be applauded that many countries have already started to test the four-day working week, and in Hungary too there are already small and large companies that are testing the method and gathering experience. In Belgium, a shorter working week has been possible since February (although the number of hours per day is admittedly higher), in England a comprehensive test programme was launched in June, in Scotland there was a government commitment to investigate and support the introduction of a four-day working week, and in Iceland, a trial was carried out before the covid epidemic: what it is like for a worker to work 35 hours a week instead of 40, without losing a penny in pay, or in this case not a single Icelandic krona. The project was a success and the results showed that the workers were less stressed, their health improved, they had more personal time, which had a positive effect on their productivity and that the fewer hours they worked did not affect their productivity at all. A significant number of Icelanders who were able to do so because of their job have already switched to this system.
It cannot, of course, be said without substantive investigation and in-depth social dialogue that the introduction of a four-day working week would have a clearly positive effect in Hungary, but as a social democratic politician, I am of the firm personal opinion that if it is possible to increase workers; recreational time and to better balance work and private life without reducing wages, then we have a duty to address this possibility.
In recent weeks, I have been consulting with several international organizations, researchers and movements on the experiences of the four-day working week and the organization of pilot projects in Hungary. Most recently, we discussed the possibilities with two leaders of the 4DayWeekGlobal movement in the European Parliament, Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart, who were open to building more actively in Hungary. So the time has come to start a meaningful and real social debate on this issue as soon as possible, which I, as a European politician of the left, am committed to organizing and supporting: in the coming weeks I will hold the first programme of this at the joint headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament in Budapest, where, alongside former EU Commissioner László Andor, we will discuss the pros and cons of a four-day working week with sociological and mental health experts, trade union leaders and employer representatives. If Hungary is really going forward, we need to find ways to improve the living conditions and everyday lives of Hungarian people.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
19 June, 2022.

Emergency Funds: also to end up squandered?

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Ujhelyi-MSZPIt is increasingly difficult and costly to “protect families”, moreover the government wants to strengthen the defence forces, so it has recently set up a so-called “Overheads Protection Fund” and a “Defence Fund” to finance these tasks. The Prime Minister has announced a tax on so-called market extra profits and expects billions in contributions from banks, insurance companies, large retail chains, energy and trading companies, telecoms and airlines. As a social democrat, I naturally support the principle that the wealthy should take greater responsibility and do more to finance social measures and combat the crisis.
That would all be fine, but responsible and credible decision-making certainly does not stop here. Indeed, it raises serious questions (although we all know the answers already without giving it too much thought) as to why the government is only unilaterally involving targeted sectorial players in this major withdrawal of resources and why sectorial interests that have made considerable fortunes in the past are being spectacularly left out, without being asked to take their share of the joint responsibility. Just think of the casinos, for example, which, unlike retailers, have not even had to hook up their online cash registers to the tax authorities’ system, but despite the crisis still generate profits of more than ten billion a year for their owners, such as the Minister of Defence, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, and István Garancsi, who also has close ties with the government. And, if that were not enough, they have also received more than two hundred million in state wage subsidies in the past, precisely because of the crisis. In other words, when there is a crisis, the taxpayer bails them out, and when they would have to pay something back, the government forgets to involve them. But the same is true of almost all the oligarchic interests that thrive on the favours and help of the Fidesz government: in crises they mostly just cash in and show no solidarity whatsoever. It is equally important to look at what the government does with the money it collects, and how it does it. It is not enough to raise crisis funds in a fair way by taxing all those who are able to pay; it is also necessary to spend these funds fairly, transparently and in accordance with the real objectives. We, in fact, have very bad experiences in this regard. It is important to recall that two years ago, the Fidesz government set up a so-called Economy Protection Fund in response to the coronavirus epidemic, from which more than four thousand billion forints (!) were disbursed, yet only a quarter of this amount was spent on direct economic protection aid. In other words, more than three thousand billion forints (!) from this fund were spent on things that actually had very little to do with combatting covid, the eradication of the epidemic crisis, helping the poor and workers facing difficulties. It is hard to forget that billions of this budget for economy protection were spent on sports facilities, other billions on a church renovation programme, the reconstruction of the Buda Castle district (which happens to give home to the Prime Minister’s office) and stadium building, or that over a hundred billion forints of it went to “public foundations” full of government officials, and tens of billions to intellectual workshops not so secretly linked to Fidesz that openly serve government policy.
The best thing, however, is that from the Economy Protection Fund recapitalized in connection with the coronavirus, the hunting expo, which was of great importance to Fidesz-KDNP, received several billions of forints and contrary to all the previous propaganda, we know that it brought in only a fraction of the state forints spent on it. This is not crisis management, this is squandering money. Among the government’s crisis management measures, the creation of protection funds can actually be supported, since there is a real need for centralized solidarity revenues and their focused, targeted use. However, Fidesz is still no different in this respect than it was before: it does not dig into its own pockets, only into others’, and the money distributed as aid is mostly not for others: it effectively goes into its own pockets. The lowest point of this governmental practice was reached when certain governmental interests profited billions from the purchase of equipment combatting the deadly covid epidemic. If Fidesz wants to create real physical and financial security in this situation, it must also act with minimal decency and maximum transparency with regard to the newly created funds. And in the event that they want to achieve effective results in crisis management and not just symptomatic treatments, they will consider and incorporate into government decisions the concrete and well-developed proposals of MSZP’s ‘Security of Livelihood Package,’ as that gives a real chance for a crisis-proof everyday life.
After the Hungarian Prime Minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos, which proclaimed the illiberal state, I vowed that as a European MEP I would send 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 354th time and will continue to do so for as long as it is necessary. Because we must give a chance for revival and for a shared homeland.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
5 June, 2022.

Ujhelyi: the deal in Brussels is the opportunity to Hungary for “eternal reduction of overheads”

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pexels-led-supermarket-577514“The compromise negotiated in Brussels is a good one; moreover, it creates the opportunity for the ‘permanent reduction of overheads’ in Hungary, which we will demand from the government.” This is how István Ujhelyi assessed the decision on the Russian oil embargo in his video message published in the early hours this morning. The MSZP MEP recalled that he had previously advocated, and even initiated himself, that Hungary should not accept the original sanctions package, as it was contrary to Hungarian interests. However, Ujhelyi also called for an agreement as soon as possible, which, according to the Socialist politician, was only reached in the end because, unlike the Hungarian Prime Minister, the leaders of the other Member States were prepared to make real compromises.
“The task is a big one, because Hungary has now also been given a huge opportunity, the chance for a ‘permanent reduction of overheads’ and to break the current energy dependency is here. This should have been done even if there had been no war, but the current situation and the European Union are now forcing the Hungarian government to do it,” Ujhelyi said. The Social Democrat politician stressed that it is both an “opportunity and a responsibility” to create energy independence as part of the largest programme in the history of the European Union, mobilizing some €200 billion, by making a substantial switch to renewable and sustainable sources, and reduce energy consumption in buildings by 50-60 per cent through a comprehensive modernization programme for all households and public institutions, without any co-payments. “We will demand this from the government, which has the responsibility to implement the ‘permanent reduction of overheads’ programme we have advocated, and we will hold them accountable,” István Ujhelyi said on his social media page.

Budapest/Brussels – 31/05/2022

Is new era of health policy governance really beginning?

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 All Hungarians are entitled to equal access to health! In the fifth Orbán government, several ministries declaredly deal with finances, but none of them have people and human policy as a key concern – a clear indication of what Fidesz’s real priorities are.
While we, the left-wing, social democrats, put people first, the illiberal power puts money first. Despite the fact that, as a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health, I myself, during the election campaign, firmly demanded that there be an independent Ministry of Health in the next cabinet, I do not think it entirely absurd that the Ministry of the Interior should now be responsible for the political management of the sector.  It is not so much the structure, but the intention, accountability and effectiveness that really matter. It is for this reason that I have today sent a long letter to Peter Takács, the new Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Interior, who is responsible for the political management of health. I indicated that, although as an opposition politician I am strongly critical of and dissatisfied with the current government’s policies, I am sufficiently and obligingly open to his appointment for the time being. Indeed, I am confident that the new Secretary of State will soon prove that he is truly committed to being a dedicated representative and leader of the health sector, which is a priority for government attention, and will move beyond the patronizing routines and shameful practices of the previous administration. Unfortunately, his predecessors have demonstrated the opposite in recent years: they have swept policy proposals of high priority for the country’s health care system off the table without meaningful dialogue or debate, illegally concealed and withheld data of public interest, deliberately misled public opinion on EU epidemic management, and knowingly or unknowingly assisted in the implementation of shady government health care procurements that clearly smell of corruption. It is in all our interests that the health sector is run effectively by its leadership that bears the interests of both the workers in the sector and people in general in mind and which can represent health effectively in government. We will soon see what Secretary of State Takács and Minister Pintér can achieve in this regard.
In my letter to the new government official in charge, I have summarized in five points the issues and questions to which the previous ministry leadership has blatantly refused to provide substantive answers or has simply illegally concealed the requested data. In my letter, I asked Secretary of State Péter Takács to provide adequate information on these pressing issues as soon as possible, in order to restore at a minimum the severely damaged credibility and integrity of the health administration. I reminded him that the government has refused on several occasions in the past to disclose strategic health programmes, such as the National Cancer Control Programme. This is a disgrace and a serious disadvantage, for example, when I am fighting for increased EU funding for Hungarian cancer targets in Brussels. But so too does the health government owe us details of the circumstances surrounding EU vaccine procurement, which are being illegally withheld; for this, even the NAIH (National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information) investigation censured the now-defunct Ministry of Human Capacities. Thirdly, I pointed out to the new Secretary of State that to date, vaccination data for covid patients are not fully public, and are routinely withheld by government institutions, despite being of considerable value to both the public and the profession. In the same letter, I asked the Secretary of State whether he agreed that the National Vaccine Factory being built would only produce Chinese and Russian vaccines for the time being, and whether he intended to make the preliminary agreements on this matter public. Finally, I drew the attention of the new government decision-maker to the fact that during the epidemic period there were numerous public procurements of equipment that raised serious allegations of corruption and which are still awaiting a substantive review. In my letter, I cited as an example the 3.1 billion forint state procurement for rapid tests, which was won by the newly founded company of a former Fidesz politician and which was sold shortly afterwards to a young man in his twenties living in a village in Borsod County. I drew the attention of Péter Takács to the fact that clarification of these matters and questions (even if they may not necessarily be his responsibility within the new government structure) is essential for decent governance. If you want to start with a clean slate, you need a clear situation. I trust that the new Secretary of State will prove that the era of deliberate obstruction of public information in the health administration is over.
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 regime that has been created. I am ringing the bells of alarm for the 353rd time and will do so for as long as it seems necessary. Because we must give revival and a shared homeland a chance.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
29 May, 2022.