Is anyone still in doubt about why the CDU is not stopping Viktor Orbán’s illiberal frenzy? Let me tell you why they tolerate Fidesz’s anti-European policy: for money. It may sound harsh, but one can hardly think of a better explanation.
A few days ago, the announcement was published in the Hungarian State Gazette: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has appointed the former EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger as co-chairman of the so-called “National Science Policy Council” in Hungary. That’s right, let that sink in: among others Oettinger will make decisions about how to use R&D and innovation resources distributed in Hungary.
Let’s be clear: this particular Council was set up by the Fidesz government after they trampled on academic freedom and European values in an outrageous manner and seized the entire academic research network, placing it in the hands of the state (more precisely, Orbán). The same Günther Oettinger will now lead this body, who as EU commissioner had found nothing dodgy earlier about the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Hungary as part of the Russian loan trap and flew to Budapest in 2016 on the private jet of a German businessman with particularly good Russian connections to meet Orbán.
This is simply astonishing. Everything is happening before our eyes, and they no longer bother to deny it. And the European right-wing, the dominant German Christian-Democratic party group simply looks away, perhaps not even ashamed. While you, our dear German friends, talk about safeguarding academic and university freedom and preach about defending European values and red lines, this is what’s going on in your party group, in the colony of Fidesz.
Is this why Angela Merkel and the German right have defended Fidesz and Viktor Orbán for years? Because, in spite of all his anti-multinational invectives, he keeps serving German economic interests and even plays the Hungarian R&D resources over to Oettinger?
Something deeply dark is unfolding, and you, our dear German friends, are getting more and more absorbed by this darkness. You can still step out its path. That is, if you want to.
MEP István Ujhelyi
Do not rush to judgement, because it’s not at all as easy as it might seem at first. In fact, I wouldn’t even suggest for right-wing opinion Hussars and government communications apprentices to put an equation mark between withholding the funds Hungary should get and treason just upon a gut feeling, as Viktor Orbán himself (as an opposition party leader at the time) demanded the same in 2006 in his speech before the People’s Party.
So easy now and be careful with calling anyone names for it may soon fall back on your own leader. And it is no coincidence that I pose the question now, as the next seven-year EU budget is currently being drafted. The new President of the European Council comprised of Heads of State and Government, Charles Michel of Belgium, has recently come up with a new proposal that is a tad more beneficial for Hungary: e.g. the envelope of cohesion funds may be thicker than previously proposed, but we are still to lose a great deal because of the policy Orbán’s National Cooperation System.
Of course, Viktor Orbán may be partly pleased that the President of the EUCO would make EU payments linked to observing the rule of law in a way, which would require a qualified majority in the Council, not to lift the blocking of funds but to order the suspension of payments in the first place. Heads of State and Government will meet in Brussels this Thursday to discuss this issue, among other things.
I would like to make it clear that I will not vote for a seven-year budget that provides a loophole for renegade governments; which tolerates and allows, for example, the Fidesz oligarch government to steal and use EU funds meant for Hungarian people for its own purposes. For the time being, we have successfully managed to get much more – albeit, in my opinion not enough – development resources, for example, for Hungary, contrary to the original budget proposal.
In this, the progressive majority of the European Parliament, the Social Democrats, the People’s Party, the Greens and the Liberals, acted jointly to make clear to the President of the European Council: with our absolute majority, we will veto the budget unless certain conditions are met, e.g. the significant increase of cohesion funds. The rule of law criterion and the pertaining mechanism are also essential, as the threat to European values and the theft of EU funds is systemic.
I have to represent the interests of Hungarian people, so I have to defend every single Eurocent, which does not serve to improve the lives of the Hungarian people but ends up in the safe of the Fidesz family mafia. Mechanisms must be found for the Union to provide resources directly, bypassing corrupt governments. In spite of Fidesz’s struggle against the rule of law stipulation, there is a very simple solution to the problem: just go back to being decent, adhere to the rule of law, and put an end to systemic state corruption.
Fidesz better join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office immediately, thereby demonstrating its commitment to transparency and the fair use of EU public funds. That’s how simple it is. We shall fight for the increase of the funds owed to Hungary in place of Fidesz, too, however, it is up to Fidesz alone to determine whether they will be blocked in the future. I cannot have and indeed have no other option but to use the tools at my disposal to ensure that the development funds owed to Hungarian people do not disappear on the way in the government’s public money suction-pump.
So there can only be one answer to the question in the title. The possible suspension of the payment of EU funds is not treason, but rather a patriotic act, as it prevents the public money owed to the Hungarian people from falling into the hands of a corrupt state mafia organisation. In a fair and sober world, the concept of treason would apply when support for the good of the country is intentionally stolen. So be careful with the wording! Especially those who have been abusing their position of power and have been elbow deep in the community’s money for years now.
MEP István Ujhelyi
They say, if something quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck, it’s a duck. Well, if a government interest group steals public money the way a mafia-like gang does, and if it blackmails people the way you see it in mafia movies, then this well-defined circle is easy to describe as mafia.
In all honesty, it really resembles being in some sketchy Hollywood movie, because the style of how the Fidesz government negotiates, for example, the debts of hospitals with suppliers chasing their money, is far from normal. It was revealed that the government had made an offer (typical of Sicilian godfathers) to the companies concerned that if they were willing to waive 20 per cent of their claims, they would immediately receive the remaining 80 per cent.
We know that the negotiations are on-going at the Finance Ministry these days: representatives of companies with over HUF100 million in overdue receivables are being called in for bargaining. It is absurd in itself that the state bargains on an existing debt in a sneaky and threatening manner, but it is downright intolerable that they finish off small Hungarian business by non-payment. Not to mention that it raises EU competition law issues how the government only offers these shady deals to companies “only” above HUF 100 million claims. The way Fidesz behaves in this regard perfect depicts the state of healthcare in Hungary and its operation by the state. Even though the Orbán government has had all legal and political instruments for ten years (!), it has simply been unable to resolve this spiral situation. Or rather, to be precise, it didn’t want to.
It is a fact that Hungary spends much less on health, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the GDP, than the EU average. In addition, barely more than two-thirds of health expenditure is funded by the state alone, so the level direct out-of-pocket contributions is double the EU average.
It is a fact that Fidesz has centralized the management and organization of healthcare: therefore it is solely the government to blame for the intenable situation, and not some sort of Sorosist-Martian-left-liberal conspiracy. It is a fact that while the Hungarian healthcare system is chronically underfunded, despite the HUF 70 billion – rightful – debt to suppliers, the government bargains in a mafia style. Let’s be clear, just by way of comparison: this HUF 70 billion is less than what the government has spent on false propaganda campaigns so far, and just over the sum of the public money that has landed on the Felcsút Football Academy’s account in recent years from TAO (corporate tax) support.
If the Hungarian government continues to treat healthcare as a tertiary area and does not consider providing adequate funding as a national priority, it will be forced to do so within the framework of the ‘European Minimum Healthcare Service’ I initiated. I firmly claim that every European, including every Hungarian, has the right to quality healthcare that guarantees patient safety and patient dignity. I therefore call on the government to settle its public debt to hospital suppliers as soon as possible and stop bargaining with the multinational companies and the ruining of hundreds of Hungarian small and medium size businesses. If necessary, for example, the HUF billion in question can safely be deducted from the HUF 90 billion annual public media budget, with the remaining amount well enough to sustain the poor quality and the lie factory of public media. It’s too much even.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
9 February, 2020
It is not the first time I have pointed out that the illiberal state of Orbán shows significant overlaps with fascist systems, however, now it is the Hungarian Prime Minister to confirm the accuracy of this characterization. Before the professional and voluntary agents of outrage take me to bits, let us be clear: fascism is not equal to Nazism. Unfortunately, in the Hungarian public discourse, these two concepts are rather intermingled, although there is a significant difference between the two alongside the overlaps and ideological interconnections. Both systems strive for totalitarianism, but Nazism used racial theory as one of its foundations, and although the Fascists were somewhat open to it as well, this was not the root of their state theory. The Putinist state as well as Orbán’s illiberalism can be referred to as fascistoid systems. From the writings of the Italian author and philosopher Umberto Eco, we know that fascism is the collective name for nationalist authoritarian regimes. Eco also summarized the essence of fascist systems in a clear and concise manner: it builds on the culture of tradition; embeds religion into national politics; stigmatizes disagreement; classifies the opposition as traitorous and claims they serve foreign interests; expropriates the notion of the nation; sweeps off all counter-arguments referring to the will of the majority; rejects parliamentarianism; distorts and magnifies the image of external and internal enemies; constantly emphasizes its masculine character, while reducing the role of women to the family and while being populist and elitist at the same time, led by a single Leader. There is no entry in this description that would not fit the system of national cooperation (NER). Fidesz supporters may, of course, think that this is all right and that this system is perfectly fine for them, but to deny that NER is a genuinely fascistoid system is a patently obvious lie. If only, because Viktor Orbán himself shall confirm this in the next few days. He will be one of the “guest stars” of a conference in Rome entitled “God, Nation, Honour” at which the possibilities of national conservatism will be discussed at length for two days. Neo-fascist politicians such as the extremely anti-EU and declaredly Putin-loving Matteo Salvini or one of the youngest aspirants of the also declaredly anti-EU, French LePen family, Marion Maréchal will also hold talks. Another keynote speaker of the event also shows clear choice of values: president of the Fratelli d’Italia / Brotherhood of Italy party Giorgia Meloni, who openly continues Benito Mussolini’s intellectual heritage, will also speak. A small addition is that the representatives of the latter, openly neo-Fascist, party sit in an EP group that cannot wait to embrace Fidesz with and whose members will no doubt include those of the EP delegation led by Tamás Deutsch after they leave the People’s Party.
After all of this, it is useless to deny that Viktor Orbán openly sympathizes with the neo-fascists of the world and has himself built a fascist political system in Hungary. The only question that remains is where this leads and what damage it causes to the Hungarian nation, which has once, together with the terrible spirit of Nazism and Stalinism, has thrown away this ideology and chased away its unprincipled high priests. It is only to be hoped that the end of the NER will not be the same as those of such systems: a war that comes as a shock.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
2 February, 2020
Opposition MEPs wish to send a copy of the report to all leaders of European institutions. 30 authors have tried on 86 pages to sum up the damage done in the field of culture, education, science, art, cultural heritage and media by the dismantling of the rule of law and the establishment of an authoritarian system in Hungary.
This is what the Hungarian Network of Academics’ (OHA) publication is all about. The authors of ‘Hungary turns its back on Europe’ are all independent researchers, academics, journalists, with expertise and personal experience of the above, said Anna Gács on behalf of OHA at the publication’s presentation in Brussels on Tuesday. The work, also available in English, was intended to be presented to the European public at the press conference, as, according to Gács, the anti-democratic efforts in Hungary are being carried out with the tacit consent of the EU.
The publication is to be sent to all leaders of European institutions, said one of the opposition MEPs attending the press conference, István Ujhelyi of MSZP. Ujhelyi will personally take the volume of studies to the leaders of the European People’s Party (EPP) before the next council meeting, he announced. In his view, they will have to choose between values and interests when deciding whether they will dismiss the Hungarian government or not, considering that by now it is patently obvious that the Orbán government goes against European values.
Katalin Cseh of Momentum also sincerely thanked the contributors. She said they would build their legislative work on such studies that are credible reference points. According to the Cseh, the report perfectly captures the Orbán government’s desire to control students, researchers, teachers and artists by any means, whereas in her view “freedom is a basic experience for the new generation.”
The intellectual resources of the Hungarian people are the greatest asset in the country, but that is exactly what the government is ruining, according to Sándor Róna of DK, who also attended the press conference. He highlighted the position of education among the topics in the volume, pointing out that PISA surveys show that Hungarian students are already the worst in Europe in terms of performance.
The number of students in higher education is steadily declining – particularly of hard-pressed young people who have been denied the opportunity to excel by the government. Róna added that a European education minimum is not too much to demand to ensure that Hungarian youngsters have an equal chance in Europe.
The volume’s authors received no royalties, only translation and printing had costs, Gács said in response to a question. The roughly one million forint budget was raised from private donations and with the help of NGOs.
The withdrawal of the United Kingdom is an extraordinary and regrettable moment in the life of the European community. That said, the sovereign decision of the majority of British voters must, of course, be respected, regardless of the lies that guided it and the way it all led to this result.
The period since the referendum has fully demonstrated the serious damage that leaving the European Union can cause and will continue to cause to all parties concerned. Although the deal reached with much sweat from the fierce political twists preceding it and the parliamentary document ratifying the deal both tried to prevent and mitigate this damage, they failed to provide a full guarantee. Neither for the Union, nor British anti-Brexit voters, nor EU citizens living in the UK, among them hundreds of thousands of our fellow Hungarian compatriots with much to worry about.
As one committed to the unity of the European idea and the community of the Union, I also have a duty to represent and let the voice of those be heard who, contrary to the majority decision but in similarly large numbers, wanted and still want to remain part of the European community.
The right-wing conservative British government is strong in propaganda bur rather weak in credibility thus far. For the time being, all that seems certain is that they aim to pick their favourites among European relations of convenience and European citizens in the future. With my vote against the Brexit-document, I wanted to make a loud and clear signal of this.
Brussels – 29-01-2020
Code of Conduct for No-Frills Airlines Ready! – István Ujhelyi would extend the obligations beyond low-cost companies
At the end of a long consultation process, a code of conduct for low-cost airlines was drawn up and submitted by the initiating Member of the European Parliament, István Ujhelyi to the European Commissioner for Transport by Adina Vălean. The Socialist MEP expects that over time the minimum requirements will be extended to other aviation companies beyond low-cost airlines.
Just over a year ago, Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism István Ujhelyi initiated the drafting of a “Code of Conduct for No-Frills Airlines”, i.e. a document setting out requirements and recommendations pertaining to budget airlines’ passenger management practices.
The MSZP politician then stressed that they did not want to take action against low-cost airlines as they welcomed this “revolutionary business model”, however previous scandals called for a strong consumer protection action plan to protect passengers’ rights.
Not only aviation but also passenger rights organizations and EU experts as well as Hungarian journalists participated in the drafting of the document, which was submitted to the European Commissioner for Transport before the holidays. István Ujhelyi said the reason that the finalization of the proposal took so long was that they tried to involve as many companies concerned as possible, which, however, were rather hostile towards the initiate or” at least varyingly tolerant.”
According to the MEP, Adina Vălean’s openness to the issue is encouraging, so it is possible that they would move forward in the direction of lawmaking over time, moreover, the MSZP’s European politician expects that, over time, the ethical expectations could be extended to the currently shaped, new and sustainable ‘aviation ecosystem’ as a whole.
Suggestions of the “No-frills Code of Conduct” include guidelines as to how and when to notify passengers of possible flight modifications, how to make re-routing possible, or how long after each passenger on board must have access to drinking water if, for any reason, takeoff is delayed.
Similarly, the Code states that customer service cannot be operated as a premium service at a higher price than the local mobile fees, or that the airline cannot retroactively change the price of an already booked ticket and the availability of related paid services. Also, in the case of a justified claim, the passenger shall be reimbursed within 30 days at the latest.
István Ujhelyi added that the document will be sent to all airlines concerned, hoping that more and more companies will join in complying with it and shall voluntarily adhere to the minimum ethical standards stated therein. “It is not only in the interest of passengers, but also of the companies that provide the service to them, as they can prove that in addition to a fair profit, the rights and interests of passengers matter them just the same,” added the MSZP MEP.
Brussels – 28-12-2019
Member of the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee MEP István Ujhelyi has evaluated the joint report published today by the European Commission and the OECD on the state of health in Hungary.
“The recent international certificate on the tragic situation of Hungarian healthcare is deeply concerning, although the facts contained therein are sadly not new. It is alarming that Hungary has one of the highest rates of preventable and, with appropriate care, avoidable deaths in the EU. The fact that the Hungarian government spends less on healthcare than most EU countries is also outrageous. The current state of healthcare, which poses a risk to national security, is not acceptable; it is the duty and responsibility of the government to finally make this area a priority. That is why there is a need for the European Minimum Healthcare Service Framework, which we have already begun to work on with professional organisations and which will provide a compulsory minimum level of care in all EU Member States, regardless of the ruling government’s approach.”
The detailed report can be found here:
“The only statistics you can trust are the ones you have falsified yourself” says a quote attributed to Churchill, which undoubtedly also characterises the attitude of the current Hungarian government. One of the cornerstones of Viktor Orbán’s and Fidesz’s propaganda machine is to voice statistical data, often based on smaller skews, distortions or blatant lies, according to which everything in Hungary is hunky-dory. Even Finance Minister Mihály Varga, one of the few decent faces in the Fidesz board, likes to plunge into a sea of economic figures that look impressive on posters and in conference presentations, but hardly reflect reality. In fact, the flesh-and-blood people do not appear at all behind these figures, while real politics should be about people. Fidesz is proud to use unorthodox tools; however, there is a truly unorthodox initiative that gives them the creeps for now. Maybe exactly because it addresses the real problems and the well-being of real people, which is not exactly the basic thesis of the orange domination.
Two years ago, the Scottish government (which is, by the way, radically nationalistic but at the same time true to social democratic values) took the lead in questioning the reality of the fossilized economic and public policy thesis that declares the GDP as the most important index of a country’s success. The Scottish government has created an intergovernmental group that focuses on the results of “well-being”, i.e. social / economic well-being, rather than those of the GDP. They wish to make sure that not only economic but also social indicators are taken into consideration. Therefore they aim to introduce alternative ways of measuring well-being, as in the end that is what shows what and how we need to improve in the interest of people. The Scottish Initiative has already been joined by the governments of Iceland and New Zealand (quietly noting: all three governments are led by ladies), while MEPs from the Scottish National Party are lobbying for it in EU institutions.
This is not the first move of the Scottish government that would be worth following: last year, for instance, a bill was adopted in the Edinburgh Parliament which, for the first time in Britain, recognized social security as a human right. A welfare authority has been set up to oversee and extend social benefits and, for example, ban time-limited support for people suffering from terminal illness.
The same law also allows for benefits for certain families to be shared between husband and wife, thereby avoiding potential vulnerability of being exposed. The Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir and the Scottish Premier Nicola Sturgeon have jointly urged governments to adopt green and family-friendly priorities in the framework of the Welfare Plan, rather than focusing solely on economic growth; this will be a priority in Iceland’s budget for next year, for example. For the issue of environmental sustainability and social security is a greater priority than the pursuit of GDP or the interests of multinational capital. It would be time for EU Member State governments, including the cabinet led by Viktor Orbán, prone to unorthodoxy, to finally embrace the environmental and social changes for which only radical and new solutions can be given. We Social Democrats have taken the first steps with the creation and adoption of the European Pillar of Social Rights. You remember, of course, that the latter was what Viktor Orbán called the dangerous “Brussels plan” seeking to deprive the government of authorities. Only the fact that the president of Fidesz finally signed the social pillar, whatever nonsense he spoke of it earlier, gives reason for hope. Perhaps with time he will follow the examples of the Scottish, Icelandic and New Zealand prime ministers. Let’s hope this will not happen too late.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
8 December, 2019
A delegation of twenty-five opposition mayors, deputy mayors and municipal leaders was hosted in the past few days by MEP István Ujhelyi in Brussels. They met, among others, with EU development experts and decision-makers, leaders of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), non-governmental and professional organizations that are important contacts for the local authorities primarily to discuss opportunities for direct EU funding.
At a press conference at the end of the two-day program, István Ujhelyi said that the number of municipal leaders and representatives for whom European values and European relations are
important had multiplied after the municipal elections. He said it was to them that he wished to open some doors by organizing professional events and contacts for them in EU institutions. Ujhelyi said the leaders of the “free cities”; had assured him of their cooperation in implementing the “European minimum healthcare service” program that he had launched: in the next period, several municipalities would prepare their own proposal and problem map of the local healthcare system deficiencies, which he as MEP would then build into the program he initiated.
At the press briefing, deputy mayor of Budapes Kata Tüttő said that after the elections, the EU flag had been put out once again on City Hall, demonstrating that they wanted to strengthen not only financial relations but value-based cooperation with Brussels. Kata Tüttő pointed out that people in the capital want clean air, better public transport and that they wanted to move to a circular economy from the waste management currently in place. In Brussels, as she said, they are looking for good practices and useful contacts.
At the press conference also streamed in online media, mayor of Érd László Csőzik emphasized that
it was extremely important for the city he leads to have direct contac with EU institutions. He added that most municipalities were facing a lack of funding, which means that the EU financial
frameworks, which can be directly applied for by the municipalities concerned, can offer significant,
targeted development opportunities.
All politicians agreed that there was an unprecedented opportunity to create and operate an EU
system of direct resources, which would provide the same degree of opportunity for a community of
“free cities”; ready to cooperate.