GOVERNMENT HAS ONLY NOW APPLIED TO EU FOR MONEY TO INCREASE TEACHERS’ SALARIES

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353A0226The struggle of interests has triumphed, the government has finally bowed to the demands of teachers – this is how István Ujhelyi assessed the fact that the Fidesz government’s new operational programme submitted to Brussels recently now includes a significant increase in the average salary of teachers.
At his online press conference on Wednesday, the MSZP MEP stressed, however, that the original government package submitted earlier for spending EU funds did not contain a single word about the settlement of teachers’ salaries, meaning that the government propaganda that teachers’ salaries cannot be raised because of Brussels or the “intrigue” of Hungarian left-wing MEPs is a blatant lie.
According to Ujhelyi, the government lied to the teachers and society at large, since the commitment to pay teachers was only included in the government’s EU plan after teachers started demonstrating and the European Union identified the sector’s pay settlement as a requirement and a priority. He added that, on top of all this, the drawdown of the EU funds intended for this purpose, i.e. the implementation of the pay rise, depends solely on the Orbán government and its failure to uphold the guarantees of the rule of law.
The MSZP MEP recalled that back in the day, the Social Democrats had already warned that the original plan submitted by the government would not be acceptable to the EU either in form or in content, due to the lack of consultation and the proposals ignoring the real situation in the country. Ujhelyi said that an important achievement was that the government – thanks to the effective work of Minister Tibor Navracsics – had realised over time that “if you ask the EU for money, you also have to consider the professional proposals.”
According to the Socialist MEP, the government document sent to Brussels describes with surprising honesty and self-criticism the crisis in education and that one of the important solutions to this crisis is to increase teachers’ salaries; the commitments now made are also finally largely in line with the country-specific recommendations issued by the European Commission. István Ujhelyi said in a video broadcast on his social media page that the government plans to spend around one billion euros, or roughly 400 billion forints, from the new package it has recently presented called the Human Resources Development Programme Plus. This will be spent (supplemented later, of course, with state resources) on financing the teachers’ career model as part of a budget framework programme of nearly 13 thousand billion forints until 2027, committing to raise the average salary of teachers to at least 80 per cent of the average salary of graduates.
At the press briefing, MEP István Ujhelyi also pointed out that “this is winning only the first half of the match”, as it will be futile to reach an agreement on professional issues on the basis of the rewritten and newly submitted programme plan if they only remain on paper, because the funds will still be unavailable due to objections on the rule of law. According to Ujhelyi, although Tibor Navracsics can successfully negotiate the technical objections, the issue of freezing the funds depends on a significant change in Viktor Orbán and his policies, such as the elimination of state corruption and ensuring the independence of the judiciary and the media, which in turn depends solely on the political decision of the government, or more precisely the Prime Minister. “If even a single forint is lost, it is the sole responsibility of Orbán and his government,” István Ujhelyi confirmed.

Brussels/Budapest – 3/8/2022

Time for Fidesz to Nominate New Head of Government to Lead Hungary!

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fotó: Beliczay László (MTI/MTVA)

fotó: Beliczay László (MTI/MTVA)

Viktor Orbán has become a liability. The past period has clearly and unambiguously shown that the current head of government is incapable of bringing peace and reaching an agreement with the European Union. For more than fifteen months now, there has been no agreement on the more than HUF 6,000 billion in recovery funds due to Hungary, and the entering into force of the rule of law procedures has put the additional HUF 13,000 billion in funding due to us from the EU budget for the coming years in real danger. It is already certain that the EU will freeze all funds because of the Fidesz government’s rampage anti-European fight over the past decade, but the question is how much and for how long. The government is well aware of this, as Brussels informed it in detail during the negotiations, however, Fidesz is hiding this information from the Hungarian public. Even a single euro cent lost is a serious loss for Hungary, especially if it is actually caused by a single person and that person’s dead-end policy.
Every single EU subsidy Hungary is entitled to could be saved and drawn down immediately if the government could finally reach an agreement with the European Union and gave the necessary guarantees, made the commitments, stopped corruption at state level and restored the rule of law according to European standards. The vision of the current Fidesz leader over the past decade has been built on the abundance of money, the scaremongering with created enemies and there mock defeats. However, the covid pandemic, the climate crisis, the global economic crisis that is intensifying along these lines, and then Russian aggression, which is amplifying the negative impacts, are crumbling the Fidesz superstructure like a house of cards; but alas, the security of Hungarian families’ livelihoods is crumbling with it, too. Twelve years of two-thirds mandate have resulted in a greased and misguidedly arrogant Fidesz elite and a country with a weakened immune system, which is almost defenceless in the face of global crises. If Viktor Orbán were able to make a real turnaround, a real compromise and peace around him, the whole country’s burdens would be eased. But as it is, he continues to hold the country hostage, including his own political community, in the grip of the intoxication and financial spiral of autocratic power. It is time for Fidesz to realise that it simply will not work with Orbán. And this is no longer a game.
Many rightly question the fairness of the last election – even the OSCE report – but it is pointless to doubt the result: Fidesz has the majority in Parliament and gives us the Prime Minister. Therefore, it is the duty and responsibility of the Fidesz community to secure the majority behind the government and the Prime Minister. It is clear and perceptible that within Fidesz, too, there is a growing awareness that with Orbán, a clash is inevitable; we are not stopping at the wall, but are increasingly sure that we will smash into it. Not only the government, but also we Hungarians, all of us. Orbán is most definitely a great cardsharp, who most of the time gets his way, but now his luck cannot be trusted; if we do not want the whole country to see the serious and irreversible damage of further gambling, it is time to change the striker. It does happen. They also take off the captain when he’s tired, or when a different formation is needed, when a different game needs to be played. Orbán himself said that he doesn’t have that long left in politics. More precisely, he said: “I have already been paid. Every day I spend on the high shelf is just a bonus.” This statement was made more than ten years ago, so he’s had a fair bit of the bonus. Surely there must be someone in Fidesz – we know, we can see, that there are people who have been preparing for this for a long time – who feels up to the task, who might be able to make peace with Europe, who would strive for real national unity at home, at least on certain issues, and who might be able to lead our country out of the crisis. Viktor Orbán is simply not capable of this, and he is now clearly a liability. It is Fidesz’s responsibility to decide how much longer it will allow the fate of the country to be put at risk just so that he can stay on the ‘high shelf’. The governing parties like to say that the country comes first. I agree. And not just on a poster.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
31 July, 2022

UJHELYI: EVERY SINGLE FORINT LOST FROM EU SUBSIDIES IS ON HEAD OF FIDESZ!

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ujhelyi_szept_30_-9823“Any EU funds we lose in the next period, even if it is only one euro cent, will be the sole responsibility of the Hungarian Prime Minister and the Fidesz government”; said Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi in an online press conference on Wednesday. According to the MSZP MEP, the current government is more interested in building and maintaining the “vassalage system of the NER
(Orbán’s so-called National Cooperation System) oligarchs”; than in creating a secure living for
Hungarian families.
Ujhelyi said that the European Commission is likely to withhold all funds as a consequence of the failed negotiations, and in the worst-case scenario, all EU funding could be frozen, including some HUF 6,000 billion in the Recovery Fund, and nearly HUF 13,000 billion in the next multi-annual budget. According to the Socialist politician, it would be “Hungary”s deep dive”; if most of the funds were frozen, because this would not only mean that development projects could be cancelled, but the forint would plummet further, international confidence would weaken further, inflation would continue to rise, jobs would disappear, and the government would take out more expensive loans fearing a “hunger riot”; At the press conference, the Social Democrat MEP also said that Viktor Orbán had deliberately and consciously used inciting and scandalous phrases in Tusványos, because he wanted to further fuel the politically motivated dispute between Brussels and the Hungarian government, which he would later be able to invoke in a spirit of insult when resources would be withheld.
“We will be told that the EU is the reason why there is no wage increase, and the EU is the reason why the remainder of the cuts in the public utility bill must be withdrawn, but the blame for this will not lie with the EU, but with the Hungarian government, which has put the country in this situation”; Ujhelyi said. The MSZP MEP stressed that the rule of law procedure has nothing to do with the so- called child protection law, the European energy policy controversy or the disagreements over migration; it is only about guaranteeing the interests of European taxpayers and the protection of EU funds. According to Ujhelyi, only a very serious and surprising change can lead to a full agreement with Brussels, but the Socialist MEP said that a radical change in the operational logic of the NER is unlikely to be expected from the government. At the press conference, the MSZP MEP demanded that both the European institutions and the Hungarian government make public as soon as possible their official correspondence during the rule of law procedure, thus making clear what EU criticisms and expectations there are regarding the eligibility of the funds, and what answers and commitments the Hungarian government has given to these, which Brussels has reportedly not found satisfactory so far.
“We have the right to know what accusations the Fidesz government has received, how it has
defended itself against them and what chance Hungary has of receiving all the funds we are entitled
to”; István Ujhelyi concluded at the online press conference.

Brussels/Budapest – 28/7/2022

Government Makes Big Money from VAT on Utility Bills!

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353A0226After twelve years of continuous, unlimited power, the government could finally afford to be honest, or at least not to mislead the Hungarian public with deliberate lies. While Fidesz is always talking about Hungarian people, Hungarian families and their protection and representation, it is usually betraying, deceiving and conning them behind their backs. This is what they are doing now in the case of the reduction of the cuts in overheads, when they are trumpeting in advertisements paid for (with public money) that they will defend the cuts even in the current difficult situation – but this is factually untrue. It is not only a lie because the majority of the population will soon feel on their own pockets that they have simply been duped by the lying propaganda slogans before the elections, but it is also a lie because the government could do much more for Hungarian consumers did it not try to profiteer off of them even in this situation. Because that is what they are doing. Big time.
It is perfectly clear and obvious that the Fidesz government is in serious financial difficulties because of the freezing of EU funds, which it is still not prepared to unblock simply and easily by repairing the rule of law and, for example, by joining the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. If it did that, life would be much easier for all Hungarians, but it would require a fundamental denial and change of their system based on state-coordinated corruption. In this cash crunch, they seem to be trying to get their hands on every single forint: not taking, of course, from the oligarchs and stooges, who are again being left out of any extra public contributions.
Hardly anyone has noticed, but they are also trying to sneakily profit from the reduction of the utility bills in order to get as much revenue as possible: even though the European Union has given the Member States the opportunity to introduce a reduced tax rate for energy, the Hungarian government is the only one unwilling to take advantage of this. Yes, you get it right: Brussels, with whom we are still at war and which the government believes is the true cause of all evil, has allowed the VAT on energy to be reduced to a minimum, but Fidesz is gently turning a blind eye to this, so that we currently have the biggest tax burden on the public purse. In fact, brace yourselves: the doubling in electricity and the seven-fold increase gas prices is actually good for the government, as the record VAT on record prices means much more revenue than before.
Just to clarify an important chronological point: the European Council of the Heads of State and Government of the European Union, with Viktor Orbán present, had already discussed support for government action against spiralling energy prices as an important agenda item at the Brussels summit last October – almost six months before the bloody invasion of Ukraine – which led to the introduction of a new, reduced VAT rate determination freedom in April.
In other words, it must be stressed again: it is a deliberate and clear lie on the part of the government to portray Russian aggression as the sole cause of the current inflation and energy price explosion. There is a natural amplifying effect of the conflict and its geopolitical consequences, but the economic situation in Hungary, the galloping inflation, the weak and fluctuating forint exchange rate are all fundamentally and inherently the result of the misguided and insensitive economic policies of the Hungarian government and as such, the sole responsibility of Fidesz. As for VAT on utility bills and the possibilities offered by the EU’s discount rate, only the Fidesz government is keeping energy VAT artificially at record levels. In Croatia, it has been halved, in Romania, Spain and Poland it has been reduced to 5 per cent, in Belgium it has been cut from 21 to 6 per cent, in the Netherlands to 9 per cent, and even Luxembourg, the richest small European state, has a lower tax rate on overheads, just 14 percent, even though its minimum wage is the equivalent of HUF 800,000.
If Fidesz needs tax revenue so badly, why do they not clamp down on their oligarchic companies, which are still paying out billions in profits despite the crisis? Why are they always profiteering from the most vulnerable in society? If there is a shred of decency left in the government leaders, they will abolish VAT on gas and electricity with immediate effect, or at least reduce it to 5%. The EU gives them the opportunity to do so, they cannot blame ‘Brussels.’ It is a system of government by decree, with a two-thirds majority in parliament, so they can do whatever they want. If they want it, that is.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
24 July, 2022

Ujhelyi: Hungarian Government Should Model Social Programmes on Those of Other Member States

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_LEZ5409“In the past twelve years, Fidesz has not performed an economic miracle in Hungary, but rather built a sandcastle that will collapse at the first sign of any global crisis and will not be able to protect us. This is clearly the responsibility of the government”, MEP István Ujhelyi said in his online press conference on Wednesday, adding that Viktor Orbán had all the opportunities in the past decade, but failed to build a stable Hungarian economic and social policy that rests on solid foundations.
The Social Democrat politician stressed that there is no way out of the crisis without EU funds, but that the money is still uncertain to come, as the proposals made by the government will not be sufficient to reach an agreement. “An autocratic regime can only be merry as long as it can finance itself. When it runs out of funds and starts to extort money from the people, it will become clear that the emperor is naked. These are the times we are living in,” Ujhelyi said.
According to MSZP’s European politician, while the whole of Europe is trying to find the right solutions to the deepening crisis from the left and social measures are being taken to protect the security of families, the Hungarian government is doing no more than introducing “austerity, withdrawals, cuts and tax increases.” Ujhelyi called Fidesz’s blaming of “war inflation” for the spiralling prices a “wretched lie,” pointing out that rampant inflation had already caused serious problems before the Russian aggression began, with the so-called price cap on fuel and a range of basic foodstuffs introduced long before the war broke out.
The Social Democrat politician said that the economic crisis and the resulting social crisis began much earlier, yet Fidesz did not take security measures in the recent period, but started distributing thousands of billions of forints in market credit before the elections.
At the press conference, Ujhelyi pointed out that there are many examples in Europe of how national governments, instead of austerity measures, are strengthening their range of social measures to protect families and small businesses from the effects of the deepening crisis. In Spain, for example, a social package worth six thousand billion forints has been announced by increasing basic income, limiting the increase in rent prices and halving the VAT on electricity. He also cited Austria as an example, where minimum pensioners and the unemployed receive a one-off grant worth more than 100,000 forints, but the family allowance for children has also been significantly increased and businesses receive a rebate linked to the price of electricity.
Ujhelyi also mentioned that the Scottish Government’s response to the crisis includes an increase in the subsistence minimum, a temporary suspension of VAT on household energy bills and an increase in support for energy efficiency investments in households. He also cited the example of Romania, where a major social package, including an immediate increase in the minimum wage, a €50 food voucher and, for example, the partial takeover by the state of the salaries of those on forced leave, was also recently announced with the support of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ).
According to Ujhelyi, the Hungarian government should also examine and adopt the successful social programmes of other member states. He added that MSZP has already submitted its “security of living package” to Parliament, in which it proposes, among other things, to include the oligarchs in the payment of higher public taxes and the extra profit tax, to expand the range of products with official prices, to introduce a 20,000 HUF monthly food voucher, the so-called Chance coupon, and to ensure ” permanent cuts in overheads” for the population through investments in energy efficiency financed by EU funds.
The Socialist MEP added at the press conference that these proposals have been rejected by the Fidesz government for the time being because, according to Ujhelyi, they are more interested in “attacking Europe, putting small businesses in a difficult situation and appointing lord-lieutenants” than strengthening social measures.

Budapest/Brussels – 20/7/2022

FOUR-DAY WORKING WEEK: NEW PILOT PROGRAMMES TO START IN HUNGARY IN AUTUMN

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_LEZ1281“The labour market will and must change, there is no doubt about that, but whether it will change in the right direction and whether we understand the call of modern times is a much more open question,” said Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi at a professional panel discussion he initiated in the Europe Point in Budapest.
At the conference, entitled “Four-day working week – do we need this?“, the MSZP MEP stressed that for many it may seem untimely to talk about changes in the labour market and working hours at a time when utility costs are rising, the opportunities for self-employed small taxpayers are declining and protests are taking place in the country, but all these factors together have a significant impact on the world of work, for which we must be prepared in good time.
Ujhelyi pointed out that there are already successful examples of the introduction of a four-day working week in many countries, but it is by no means certain that this will eventually become the norm, as some examples show that it is more useful to keep a five-day working week, but with six-hour working days instead of eight. “I can accept the argument that says we should reduce working hours by 20 per cent, but at the same time wages and productivity should remain at 100 per cent,” said the MSZP MEP in his opening speech at the conference.
Charlotte Lockhart, co-founder of the 4DayWeekGlobal movement, welcomed the participants in a video message. In it, she encouraged decision-makers in Hungary to think about productivity, which would be demonstrably increased by a four-day working week, and the benefits for people and society at large. “We know that reducing work time is good for nations. It’s good for our people and it’s good for our planet. But it is also good for business. So don’t be afraid, it’s easier than you think, and, when you’re ready, we are right beside you to help you run pilots and to help you get it across the line,” said Charlotte Lockhart in the video. In his capacity as organiser of the conference, István Ujhelyi added that they have agreed with the founders of the global movement to jointly launch training and pilot projects in Hungary in the autumn linked to the introduction of the four-day working week.
_LEZ1229In his speech, László Andor, former EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, said: “This is an initiative that seems to be an excellent proposal, but no one should think that it will solve all the problems.” The European expert said that experience so far shows that the move to a four-day working week indeed helps, but that it is also important to monitor and manage the side effects.
László Andor said that according to the results of the programmes seen so far, the switch to a four-day working week improves quality of life at work, thus having a positive impact on productivity (for example, less absenteeism and sickness leave takes place), there are substantial benefits in terms of sustainability and gender division of labour, but the former EU Commissioner also pointed out that the more years of healthy working life a person can spend in the workplace, the more the proportion of years spent in retirement and working life will improve, which is particularly important from a demographic perspective. Andor also cited the historical example of “Fordism”, pointing out that Henry Ford was the first to introduce the five-day working week instead of the six-day week, and that this not only increased productivity but also the esteem of his workers, who were “less worn out” along the assembly lines. Andor pointed out, however, that one of the biggest obstacles to the introduction of a four-day working week is the legal system in the countries concerned, and he said this was a particularly serious problem in Hungary, where, he said, legislators had moved in the opposite direction with the so-called “slave law”. The former EU commissioner said that if the four-day working week was to be introduced, the first thing needed to be done was to improve the management culture and increase social dialogue.
_LEZ1236“In Hungary, many people are already applying the four-day working week, we just call it doing twelve hours,” said Zoltán László, vice-president of the VASAS Trade Union Confederation, speaking at the panel discussion. He said that Hungarian workers are heavily under pressure, there is a lot of overtime, and this also affects their health. As regards the four-day working week and the reduction in working hours, he stressed that the first thing to do was to explain to the workers concerned that this did not mean less pay. László also listed as a risk that if the working time is reduced, the majority of Hungarian workers will spend it not on rest but on extra work, on “moonlighting”, which could call into question the whole purpose of the project. According to Zoltán László, work organisation in Hungary is not flexible enough at the moment, so if the introduction of a four-day working week is not well prepared, it could face resistance not only from employers but also from employees. “The workplace of the future will have two people: a man and a dog. The dog will guard the machines, the man will feed the dog,” added the union leader, illustrating the changes in the labour market.
_LEZ1181“The human body was not designed to work ten hours a day in a physical or mental field”, said Dr. Gábor Hollósy-Vadász, psychologist and adjunct professor of occupational psychology and human resource management at Budapest Metropolitan University. He stressed that white collar workers can only work with high concentration and efficiency for a maximum of four to five hours a day, and if they do not recuperate properly, they will not be able to perform even that much the next day. The assistant professor said that a six-hour working day would be ideal both psychologically and physically, and that he therefore advises not to introduce a four-day working week, but to keep the five-day working week, but with the reduction of the working hours to five or six a day. Hollósy-Vadász added that for manual workers it makes more sense to shorten the working week from eight hours a day to four days, but added that it is also important to be aware of and prepare for the fact that the workers concerned spend their freetime in a useful and valuable way. The biggest risk of the four-day working week initiative is the growing workaholic tendency and the increasing expectations of companies, with many people working more than five days a week, checking emails and communicating constantly on work matters.
Economic journalist Péter Szakonyi also pointed out at the conference that the negative impact of people not necessarily knowing what to do with the time spent away from work already showed during the covid pandemic, that is, they are not able to make good use of their increased free time, which can lead to new mental illnesses and frustrations, and the Hungarian health system is not prepared to deal with these. Szakonyi also pointed out that there are currently labour shortages almost everywhere, tensions in supply chains, and the economic crisis will significantly transform the labour market, which could also have an impact on the acceptance and success of the four-day working week initiative. According to the journalist, the first effective test for the introduction of a four-day system could be in public administration, in parallel with the development of e-government.
In response to a question at the event, MEP István Ujhelyi, who launched the initiative, added: in Hungary, a number of smaller, mainly IT companies have successfully introduced this working system, but multinationals, in Hungary, for example, Telekom, have also launched a pilot programme on this, which is currently being evaluated, while Szombathely among local authorities is currently also preparing a similar programme. István Ujhelyi reiterated that in the autumn he intends to “make loud noise” on the issue not only in the European Union but also in Hungary, and therefore, in addition to European decision-makers, he intends to launch initiatives and programmes on the subject among Hungarian municipalities and businesses, counting on the partnership of the earlier mentioned international movement 4DayWeekGlobal.

Budapest – 18/7/2022

Fidesz Factually Lying about “War Inflation”

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warinflClearly and unambiguously, as the economic crisis deepens, the NER (Orbán’s so-called national Cooperation System) is starting to crack under the weight and untenability of its own lies, and while it may be able to keep on deceiving some of the population with the image of their made-up enemies for a while, reality will soon come knocking on everyone’s door. And it will hurt. In fact, the best thing Fidesz could do to protect families and the country would be to be honest for once. “War inflation” is the new all-purpose catch phrase used to explain the increasingly harsh austerity and cash-grabs to voters, blaming Putin’s aggressor war and the ‘misguided Brussels sanctions’; for skyrocketing food prices and for leaving the official price cap as the only way to keep fuel costs down, in other words, war and Brussels are the sole cause of everything bad. However, this is a blatant, vicious and simplistic lie, the only purpose of which is to make the government absolve itself of all responsibility. In reality, the current situation is largely the result of Fidesz’s over-spending, socially insensitive, climate crisis-denying, oligarch- and big-capital-friendly economic policies.
Due to the extremely noisy and impulsive period of the last few years, only few people remember that Viktor Orbán announced the introduction of the official price of fuel in November last year, after the price of petrol had risen above the so-called ‘psychological threshold’ of 500 forints due to the ever-rising inflation. Equally important is the date of the official price cap introduced for a particular range of basic foodstuffs: on 12 January this year, the Prime Minister announced in a Facebook video that the price of, for example, granulated sugar and chicken back would be fixed at the price of October last year. By comparison, the Russian invasion started well after these announcements, on 24 February this year; in other words, the war, although it has obviously had a significant impact on changes in the world economy since then, only entered the picture much later in connection with the grossly inflated Hungarian economy. To claim this as the sole cause is therefore an obvious hoax. Not to mention the fact that the continued plunge of the forint and the deepening of the economic crisis are clearly linked to the senseless battle with the European Community and the resulting lack of frozen aid, and nothing else. It was already evident during the covid pandemic that Fidesz’s policy-making machinery, which is thought to be super professional, is also prone to breaking down when they have to defeat a real enemy and not one that they themselves have declared, painted on the wall and moved around to scare the public with it. The increasingly severe economic crisis has also now noticeably kicked the NER in the knee, and the lack of EU funding has caused concrete dysfunction and haste in the system. What is now coming cannot be covered up or explained away by a sea of fake public media, posters and well-written political slogans. Even the most sincere Fidesz supporter will see that it was not George Soros who sneaked in and ate out his fridge in mid-month, it was not “LMBTQ-lobbying Brussels bureaucrats” who re-wrote the price tags with thick markers at the corner shop, and it was certainly not “treasonous liberals”; who caused the collapse of family or self-employed small businesses.
Fidesz can do two things if it truly has the interests of Hungarian families at heart. For once in its life, it could be honest and stop making bogus excuses and constantly pointing fingers at others. Hungarian people deserve a real picture and a real explanation for the serious, negative changes in their lives. With a fourth two-thirds, perhaps they can afford to finally be honest. And secondly, it is high time the government at least partially implemented the MSZP’s “security of livelihood package”; which would provide rapid and crisis-resilient assistance to the most vulnerable social groups in an increasingly acute social crisis. The illiberal state has not been known for its social sensitivity, for helping the excluded and those in trouble; but now we are entering a period when it is a clear duty to provide just and genuine help to those in need, in line with social democratic values. If we were in a position to decide, we would certainly do so.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
17 July, 2022.

Government can No Longer Hide its Correspondence with European Commission!

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Hungary is facing an increasingly difficult economic situation, and we urgently need to draw down frozen EU funds. To achieve this, it is of the utmost importance that the Hungarian government reaches a compromise with the European Commission as quickly as possible.

The fact that the procedure has dragged on so long and that we have already lost HUF 300 billion is entirely the fault and responsibility of the government. In fact, if no agreement is reached in the coming months, we could lose a significant part of the total non-refundable aid budget, an additional HUF 1600 billion, through government failure. It is therefore Fidesz’s duty and responsibility to finally reach an agreement in Brussels and make the money we are owed available. The steps announced by the government this week, such as changing the proportion of single-actor tenders in agreement with the Commission’s proposal on four points, providing legal remedies in corruption cases against decisions of the Prosecutor General’s Office and wider public consultation in the legislative process, are all well and good, but sadly they are likely to fall short. The Prime Minister of Fidesz is undoubtedly a great gambler, and as usual, as soon as he senses that he has hit a wall, he will put on a show of being a cooperative Prime Minister, in the hope that this will calm the mood and be enough to unlock the money. It’s a big gamble, because this game also includes the fact that if the European Commission, quite rightly, by the way, demands that the agreement should include the fulfillment of the additional objections to the rule of law and country-specific recommendations that they have long ago put on the table of the Hungarian government, then, just watch, the prime minister will spread his hands and say so into the camera of public television: ‘I told you that these Brusselsites are like that; they are the cause of all the problems, while we, the good-hearted Fidesz government, are very open to compromise’.
The reality behind the gamble is much simpler than that: the Hungarian prime minister believed that, as he had done so many times before, he would be able to blackmail the European institutions successfully, because they usually gave in in the end, to avoid the trouble. Enough and to spare. This time, too, he was going to all the way to the wall, maybe even two steps beyond it, and then, if necessary, he would blackmail a little, dance back half a step until the end result would be to his advantage. But now the hand is noticeably different and bluffs are not taken so well. The Hungarian Government has indeed become a prisoner of its own crimes and wicked games: this time around, the sweet talk will not wash, and nor will the Cipolla-like magic tricks starting with “do not mind what I say…”  The proceedings against the Hungarian government are based on concrete and tangible points, which can and must be agreed on. It is not a market bargaining on whether it is alright to leave more on the scales than ordered. It is therefore important and fundamental that the government’s correspondence with the European Commission should be made public as soon as possible and in full. Recently, I asked Fidesz to make the Commission’s expectations and the detailed Hungarian responses public; so far, this has not been honoured, not a word from them on the matter. However, it is not right in any way that the government is haggling over the heads of millions of Hungarians about the fate of us all, but the details of this are being concealed or, worse still, outright lied about. Indeed, it has already been revealed that Fidesz ministers have directly and knowingly lied to Hungarian people’s face when they claimed that the recovery funds were frozen because of the adoption of the homophobic law. If the government is lying about this, what else is it not telling the truth about regarding the negotiations on resources in Brussels?
Since the government has not released the documents requested, has not responded to my request and we do not have a clear picture, the government is forcing me to go to the European Commission on this matter. Today, as an MEP, I sent an urgent letter of formal notice to Vice-President of the European Commission for Economic Affairs Valdis Dombrovskis, asking him, among other things, whether the four points of the Hungarian Government’s commitment are sufficient to mobilize billions of EU funds, in particular the Recovery Fund, and whether there are any additional requirements or criteria that the Hungarian Government must meet in order to reach an agreement. Let us be clear: it is in Hungary’s interest to receive these funds as soon as possible, and I am therefore firmly of the view that a compromise must be reached as soon as possible, but first of all the Fidesz government must regain its credibility. It can do so vis-à-vis the European community if we immediately join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, and vis-à-vis the Hungarian public in this matter if it apologizes for the factual lies that were told in connection with the Brussels negotiations and promptly publishes all its correspondence with the Commission.

MEP István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
10 July, 2022

István Ujhelyi and Sándor Pintér meet to discuss health tasks

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ceb73cc0-70b7-4e8e-9ba3-96997ca34ac2Immediately after the formation of the new government of Hungary, I indicated that, as a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health, one of my first tasks would be to knock on the door of the new member of government responsible for health to consult him on health issues and proposals affecting Hungary. Despite the fact that, as an opposition politician, I am strongly critical of and dissatisfied with the Fidesz government’s policies, its relationship with the European Union and its exercise of power, we must be able to seek possible compromises on certain issues in order to effectively promote the national interest in Europe. That is why I have initiated a meeting with Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, with whom, as the person responsible for this area, today we discussed European issues in the health sector and my relevant proposals.
I handed over a four-point note to the Minister, in which among others I drew his attention to the fact that one of the most important, majority conclusions of the series of international conferences on the future of the European Union was that certain Member State competences, such as health care at present, should be partially reviewed and that more EU coordination and pan-European influence should be provided in this field in order to ensure efficiency and better quality of care.
In this context, I urged the government to show openness and support the wider implementation of the European Health Union, of which I was an initiator, such as the development of minimum quality standards for healthcare systems and their mandatory enforcement at EU level. During the consultation, I highlighted as a key issue the objectives and the way in which the Hungarian Government intends to use the resources of the multi-billion EU4Health programme, which is currently frozen due to problems with the rule of law, and whether they are willing to amend the national plan on the Recovery Fund. I made it clear to Minister Sándor Pintér that, as a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament, I consider it of the utmost importance that the government give priority to strengthening mental well being and the creation of programmes and national strategies related to this, as well as to the publication of the government materials already prepared and related to this as soon as possible.
In the four-point note, I also drew the Minister’s attention to the fact that the previous health administration knowingly and, in most cases, unlawfully withheld data of public interest, which seriously undermined confidence in the governance of the sector. I have also urged Sándor Pintér to review the circumstances of the procurement of healthcare supplies in recent years as soon as possible, in particular the vaccine and covid test contracts concluded by the National Public Health Centre and the National Hospital Directorate General, as it is unacceptable that there should be the slightest possibility of managerial incompetence, conscious or innocent violation of the law or corruption in a care sector that is a social priority and based on a fundamental relationship of trust. The conversation with the Interior Minister was a fair, professional discussion without political overtones. This is how it should work in a normal European country.

István Ujhelyi MEP
Member of the EP Committee on Public Health
Budapest – 04/07/2022

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