Why I Pressed a Big Fat NAY to the Brexit-Document

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2016-10-05-1475670108-7560650-brexit1-thumbThe 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!

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80872913_3088967931117372_1526077737981181952_oCode 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

European Minimum Healthcare Service framework much needed

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78599515_3036945442986288_713518256844963840_nMember 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:
https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/state/docs/2019_chp_hu_hungary.pdf

06.12.2019.

Truly unorthodox solution gives Fidesz the creeps

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78915374_3041602152520617_3587778970545815552_o“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

Hungarian municipalities also join Ujhelyi’s European healthcare program

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78107330_3028017787212387_1490819221871919104_oA 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.

Brussels, 03.11.2019.

István Ujhelyi MEP on Election of Leyen-Committee

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3The new European Commission was formed under turbulent and rather peculiar circumstances. For instance, the president of the body , which is considered to be the government of the Union, Ursula von der Leyen was  unacceptably forced upon the European community a few months ago, neglecting, among others, the European Parliament in the nomination process. I rejected this procedure at the time, and as a form of protest, I did not support Leyen.
It was also a matter of principle that I would not vote in favor of a European Commission in which László Trócsányi, who played the important role of “chief legal architect” in creating the illiberal system, was to get any seat whatsoever. However, Trócsányi failed ahead of time in the interim, whereas the second candidate of the Hungarian government Oliver Várhelyi is already a professionally proven, experienced Brussels bureaucrat, who will hopefully prove his commitment and will work solely for the interests of the European Community and not for the Orbán-government.
Apart from my reservations, I also look forward to the new Commission with expectations: besides creating a system of direct resources for local governments, I will also make a proposal on the minimum healthcare provision that I have undertaken to take before the Commissioners as an important priority. It’s time to get started as the tasks ahead of us cannot wait any longer. That is why I now voted in confidence of the Leyen-Committee.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
27 November, 2019.

Solidarity protest action in EP against curbing rights of Hungarian opposition MPs

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str201901str201902Alongside Hungarian opposition MEPs, among others, the Spanish President of the S&D group Iratxe García Pérez also took part in the solidarity protest action on Tuesday, during the break of the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The event was initiated by István Ujhelyi to draw attention to the violation of the rights of Hungarian parliamentarians. As is known, Fidesz aims to amend the law on the legal status of representatives in order to obstruct the government-critical work of opposition MPs. Among other things, Fidesz would withdraw the right of parliamentarians to enter public institutions without prior consultation, but would also restrict their right to free expression in Parliament.
According to the proposal, Speaker László Kövér could arbitrarily deprive Members of even a whole year’s salary (while, if fact, the law explicitly prohibits paid employment elsewhere), or even expel them from the building of Parliament and the Offices of Representatives, thus preventing them from performing their duties or exercising their constitutional rights.
In connection with the solidarity protest action, István Ujhelyi said that it was their job and duty to stand up for the Hungarian opposition MPs, whose rights were being curtailed. “We have seen many Fidesz methods, but they have never ventured this far. Although they refer to similar rules in other parliaments of the Union, the malicious intent and the dictatorial mentality are sole characteristics of the illiberal Orbán-system. We know exactly how unprincipled Fidesz is, and we know that the rules are made stricter to make it impossible for opposition politicians to do their job. This is an intolerable, cowardly and immoral move that needs to be voiced in Europe,” said István Ujhelyi.
The solidarity protest action was attended by the European politicians of the Democratic Coalition, Jobbik MEP Márton Gyöngyösi, and German, Austrian and Swedish delegation leaders and politicians, including former group-president Udo Bullmann.

Strasbourg – 11.26.2019

Ujhelyi: with unwavering solidarity, MSZP can do groundwork for defeating Orbán-government

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43108257_2277083245639182_2144371579121827840_nThe antidote to Fidesz’ manipulations is co-operation and maximizing solidarity, which has led to success in the local government elections. This is the focus of MSZP’s entire representative strategy by which the government shall be defeated, said MSZP MEP István Ujhelyi in the program “Straightforward Talk” on channel ATV Tuesday evening.
Next Wednesday, the European Parliament will vote on the European Commission, including the accepted Fidesz candidate, but the EU keeps watching over the difficult situation of the Hungarian opposition and its representatives, so even the smallest step of any concerned party bears great significance, said István Ujhelyi.
“We vote on the entire Commission at the single push of a button. In order to tackle the European Union’s seven-year budget, and within it specific issues that are essential  from the Hungarian point of view and for the common European future, such as high political, Syrian, Turkish or other matters, the Commission simply must function,” the socialist politician explained.
In light of this, “if Olivér Várhelyi had wished join our committee, the Transport Committee, I would have voted for him, since he can do the job,” Ujhelyi said. He added that one should be aware that, in the case of a Fidesz-delegated or any other EU commissioner for that matter, there is a possibility of dismissal in case of bias. As he said, with Tibor Navracsics, for example, there was no need for such measures, because after a year he had acted in a European spirit. With Speaker László Kövér’s disapproval of such behaviour, Navracsics could hardly expect to get a ministerial post from Fidesz upon his return to Hungary.
“The current Commissioner-designate had to respond in writing to what he would do with a country whose government took over the media, making it impossible for the opposition to function properly, and which was burdened with serious state corruption. He replied that he would warn such a country that it could not become a member of the European Union. This is a very strong message to the government, even without allusions,” Ujhelyi emphasized.
The opposition MEP also spoke of a solidarity campaign he initiated among Members of the European Parliament with Hungarian opposition MPs whose rights have recently been curtailed. “They are very interested; they read and see what’s going on in Hungary. We are elected representatives, and everything that has just been proposed and is likely to be adopted has created such uproar among fellow right- and left-wing MEPs alike, that they are indicating to me by the dozens that they also want to stand up for the rights of fellow Hungarian MPs!”
As he said, in addition to the EP, Ujhelyi also tries to help the work of the Hungarian Parliament. “Since my election, I was for the first time at a meeting of a Hungarian parliamentary committee yesterday to help pass a proposal for a resolution on the situation in Northern Syria, so that Fidesz representatives could vote for it in Hungary, as they did in the European Union. We managed to corner the chairman of the committee on this issue as well,” Ujhelyi said, but in the end the proposal was not taken on the Parliamentary agenda. Also, as compared to debate in Europe, the meeting was conducted in such an arrogant tone and with such personal remarks, which was certainly detrimental to Hungarian politics. Pertaining to this issue too, he made it clear that “it was the responsibility of the opposition to ensure a change of power and government in 2022.”
He pointed out that, even in the most difficult situations, the work of a representative had to be continued consistently. “If the opposition had not been active at the sessions in the municipalities, could they have won this municipal election? I hardly think so. The opposition has to be present, it has to show that there are serious professional suggestions, and it has to be pointed out at every moment that it is not a normal democracy the way the Hungarian National Assembly currently operates. ”
Finally, Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi spoke of the role of MSZP, which he said was stable despite betrayals and members leaving. “We need to awaken Hungarian society so everyone can see that this cannot go on! (…) MSZP will formulate its strategy in the coming months; our base is the soul, the motive and the doer of the groundwork that can be built on.”

Budapest – 20.11.2019

“European Minimum Healthcare” provision must guarantee Hungarian patient safety too!

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eüminimimeng1In my capacity as MEP, I made an important and individual commitment to put the framework for the European minimum healthcare provision on the desk of EU decision-makers during this parliamentary term. During the consultation I initiated, it became clear that improving healthcare and strengthening patient safety was one of the main expectations of people from me, and that is why I became a member of the European Parliament’s Committee responsible for this field (ENVI) and set the goal of creating a European minimum program.
I am proud to report that I already have many supporters and professional allies in this extraordinary task. Not only domestic but also international health NGOs and professional organisations have indicated to me that they were ready to share their best practices and suggestions while working together, but I have also found partners in the health ministers of several EU Member States who have also seemed open to the proposal.
I strongly believe that the imbalance in healthcare systems in the EU is untenable. It is intolerable that the health and quality of life of European citizens depends in particular on the given Member State of the Union they live in. It is unacceptable that, due to the outflow of health workers, a severe shortage of professionals is threatening the provision of healthcare in the Eastern regions. It is also inconceivable that the EU leaves the management of healthcare to Member States and shrugs its shoulder when it comes to the plight of certain Member States. We will create this minimum provision framework and, if healthcare is apparently only a secondary area for the Hungarian government, we will also be the ones to guarantee Hungarian patient safety! We will make it happen!
Of course, the illiberal government is only good for false propaganda on the matter, claiming that Hungarian healthcare “has been renewed to a degree never seen before.” Well, regarding this matter, it is sufficient to recall only some of the information released these past days: according to official data, more people died last year from hospital infections than from car accidents. According to an OECD report, we can safely say: hundreds of thousands do not have access to adequate healthcare in Hungary. We also know from international reports that thousands of Hungarian doctors and tens of thousands of nurses are leaving the country or the career path. And if that wasn’t enough: in recent days, it was found that there is a specialist clinic where only appointments have to be made in order to book appointments. It’s simply absurd in the centre of Europe.
We will change this by establishing a minimum healthcare provision in the EU. We have started the work and the foundations of the framework are already being formed together with the professional organisations. It will be a long march, but the first steps have already been taken.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
17 November, 2019.

Blackmailing Viktor Orbán You Must Not Fear Will Be Good

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orberdThe transliteration in the title refers to the famous letter of the Archbishop of Esztergom John of Merania and the conspiracy phrased therein with Dodonian ambiguity, but it also perfectly illustrates our foreign relations today. In other words, the government, and more specifically Viktor Orbán, has a rather peculiar foreign policy and approach towards certain geopolitical figures. While recently he had fiercely denounced anyone “blackmailing” his government on the refugee issue in the European Parliament (as a matter of fact, nothing of the sort happened), Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rather lowdown (yet very real) blackmail did not prompt him to raise his voice, better yet, he downright supported it.

President Erdogan, who is visiting Hungary in a few days, and has been here many times, has specifically threatened the European Union with the fact that if the European Community does not take over some of the burden of the Islamic country (that is, we will not pay them more for hosting the refugee masses) and if the EU keeps on criticizing them for example for the military aggression in Syria, they will not hesitate to open the gates of refugee camps and send thousands of asylum seekers to the West. This kind of threat goes far beyond political bluffs. And in the European community, only one country’s prime minister and government that stood up for President Erdogan: Viktor Orbán and Fidesz. It is difficult to explain why the head of government has such deep affection for leaders of states that have occupied us for shorter or longer periods of our history; but obviously there is an explanation. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Head of State Erdogan visit our country as often and in a fashion as if colonists of sorts were coming to view their European investment. Make no mistake, the problem that our government maintains an active relationship with important geopolitical players, but it is certainly peculiar, that confused obedience, and in the background, the economic and personal interdependencies that surround these ties.
Because, as Orbán and his pals made a serious mistake letting in (not only letting in, downright inviting with a bow) the Russian with its peculiar exemptions raising national security issues,  the Turkish-Hungarian friendship is similarly intertwined with so many personal, basically family-run businesses. These will obviously benefit a certain circle of relatives and friends, while they put Hungary in chains that could cause serious damage as soon as in the short term.
One can see exactly what tangled relationships and private castle interweaving bond together businessmen near Erdogan and the highest circles of Fidesz. Orbán may keep  saying that he “does not deal with business,” but somehow his strange and personal businesses overshadow every Eurasian move he makes. Moreover, the image of the self-confident freedom fighter he projects is just as fake as the above-quoted sentence from the letter from Archbishop John of Merania.

Orbán can prove the opposite if, in a few days’ time, when President Erdogan visits us again, he publicly refuses the Turkish Head of State’s blackmail the European Union and distances himself from the military aggression in Syria. But I have an odd feeling that all  we shall see again will be the confused attempts at keeping his necktie in order, the shy smile and the peacock dance that by today tends more to resemble the awkward toddling of a duck.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
3 November, 2019