MEP Ujhelyi proposes introduction of “food-coupon” to Orbán-government

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foodcpIstván Ujhelyi is calling on the government to introduce a monthly coupon worth twenty thousand forints, redeemable only for basic foodstuffs.
The MSZP MEP spoke about this at his online press conference on Tuesday, where he said that in view of the pressing inflation situation, he proposes the introduction of an electronic ticket system for single-parent families, families with at least two children, pensioners with lower incomes, the severely disabled, the homeless and the unemployed on social welfare, the entitlement to which he would also extend to students receiving social grants. According to Ujhelyi, this monthly voucher, which would only be granted until the end of the inflation crisis, would be redeemable only for basic foodstuffs and consumer durables.
“Hungarians must be given a chance to make a living. We have been hit by an insane monetary crisis, which we are not accustomed to, where wages and pensions simply cannot keep up with this inflationary pressure”; Ujhelyi said. The Socialist MEP pointed out that the European Commission had recently been forced to make negative changes to its forecasts for inflation and growth in Hungary, and that there has already been a significant shift in food prices: bread and poultry meat are 30% more expensive, dairy products cost over 20% more, and eggs, for example, are 25% more expensive.
According to Ujhelyi, the announcement by the Fidesz prime minister that the price freeze already introduced for previously defined foodstuffs will be extended is not enough: much more is needed. The Social Democrat politician added that the introduction of food coupons was raised by former MSZP politician Zoltán Gőgös in an earlier interview, and recently the Romanian government introduced a similar measure, helping more than three million people in need to make ends meet. Ujhelyi pointed out that Romania is basically providing this support from EU funds, which the Hungarian government could do if it could finally agree on the release of the EU funds Hungary is entitled to. “If the government joins the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, if it puts the rule of law in order, then the funds will be freed up and we can expect to receive around 18 thousand billion forints in subsidies in the coming years. “As an MEP, I take responsibility and pledge that if the government will be less arrogant and less combative, and if it will come to an agreement with the European Union, we will find the resources to provide this significant support in the form of a voucher to the people concerned”; Ujhelyi said, adding that he would ask the MSZP parliamentary group to submit proposals related to the introduction of the food voucher to the House.

Budapest/Brussels – 17/05/2022

Five Tasks for Fifth Orbán Government

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tasksTomorrow, on Monday, Viktor Orbán will be elected prime minister for the fifth time. Once again, he will take the seat as head of government with two-thirds of the votes, that is, with virtually unlimited power. Over the past twelve years, we have seen and experienced first-hand what he has used this mandate for: he built a hybrid regime that primarily serves his own exercise of power, and his gaining of wealth and influence. There is no doubt that the regime-building of the last twelve years has produced results that serve the real interests of the nation, but these are not at all balanced by the attention and resources that have been devoted to building patronage, boosting the capital of a narrow elite and the propaganda to cover it all up. The last twelve years have not only been a period of building the hybrid regime of the NER (Orbán’s so-called national Cooperation System), but also a criminal waste of Hungary’s historic opportunity. Viktor Orbán has had the power and resources that, if he had put at the service not of his own regime but of the nation as a whole, we would be living in a very different country today, a stronger, more developed, more independent and more sustainable country, not only in words but also in reality. But, that is not what he did.

On the 16th. of May, Viktor Orbán will begin another four-year term in office, once again with two thirds, unlimited power and opportunity. The majority of the electorate, despite all his known and covered- up crimes, chose to give him a mandate; it is our task to understand and deal with this. Orbán’s task, however, is to live up to this trust and, in addition to, or rather instead of, his own political games, provide meaningful answers to the most pressing issues of Hungarian society. Not only in words, but also in deeds. As a politician of the left and a Hungarian Social Democrat MEP, I would like to propose the following five points as a kind of homework to Viktor Orbán, who is about to take his fifth oath of office as head of government:

1. Reach a compromise with the European Union without delay on the issue of the funds due to Hungary but currently frozen. In total, nearly 18 thousand billion forints are at stake, which have become unavailable to us solely because of the Orbán government’s actions over the past decade, which go against EU laws and values. The fifth Orbán government has a duty to provide adequate guarantees and make compromises; after a certain limit, it no longer pays off to be obnoxious and Hungary is now suffering serious damage. Accession to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office should be an appropriate and immediate step, and Fidesz can only have a political, not a theoretical, reservation against this, since in their last written election programme still in force, they themselves argued in favour of accession to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

2. For many, the economic crisis, intensifying in the dual stresses of the covid epidemic and war, has made decent, basic living conditions unattainable. Rampant inflation is creating a serious crisis of livelihood for the most vulnerable segments of society. The price control measures introduced by the authorities were necessary, but not sufficient and certainly not sustainable. One of the first steps of the fifth Orbán government should is to introduce a “basic coupon”, a kind of food voucher that would provide free access to basic foodstuffs on a strictly means-tested basis during an inflation crisis.

3. Over the past twelve years, the government has had the opportunity to implement a truly comprehensive and effective energy efficiency programme in Hungary. They missed out on this opportunity. Now is the time, especially in view of the need to counter energy dependence on Russia, to devote significant EU resources exclusively and specifically to the sustainability of residential energy use. The cuts in utility bills introduced and operated by Fidesz are a temporary relief for the public, but the burden will still have to be borne by the state, and real cost reductions can only be secured by increasing the efficiency of energy use. If you like, we can only achieve “perpetual overhead cuts”; if we modernize all residential, then commercial and other properties. It will take many years and thousands of billions of forints of investment, but with the EU funds available to our country over the next four years, the first stages can already be achieved.

4. It is untenable that workers in the sectors that are the main pillars of Hungarian society still do not receive the real recognition they deserve. The fate and long-term prosperity of the Hungarian nation rests in the hands of the people working in law enforcement, health and education. They are the guarantors of our security, our health and the future of our children, and that is why the establishment of a significant sectorial minimum wage system with above-average benefits that ensures their livelihood, decent working conditions, career and dignity should be beyond discussion. As a first step, the government should submit a new national plan for the use of the EU Recovery Fund to Brussels, and request an adequate amount of money to provide meaningful wages and improve working conditions for workers in the sectors concerned.

5. Hungary has always been proud of its renowned scientists, creative inventors and pioneering personalities. In recent years, however, the quality and effectiveness of our education system is on the decline: the forced reform of the national curriculum, the senseless centralization of education management, the increasing burden on teachers and their low pay all contribute to the dwindling intellectual resources of the Carpathian Basin. A new, revolutionary approach is needed to bring the Hungarian education system into line not with the expectations of the past, but with the challenges of the present and the goals of the future. We need to educate our children for life, not for the narrow-minded ideas of a partisan culture. In addition to actively preserving our traditions and intellectual heritage, a completely new approach to education is needed to make our children competitive by introducing innovative new teaching materials, subjects and tools: the world is changing and we need to change with it. The new Orbán government, although it will not treat public education as a priority, must engage in a dialogue with professional and innovative civil society organizations on a viable and necessary education reform.

For me, as a social-democrat politician who follows the values of the left, it is fundamental that these proposals achieve their goals and results. If the fifth Orbán government shows openness to this, it will act responsibly and in the real interests of the nation. If it continues to use the next few years purely for power games and political gambling, it will waste more years of all of our lives, but above all of our children’s lives.

After the Hungarian Prime Minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos, in which he proclaimed the illiberal state, I vowed that, as an MEP, I would write an open letter every week to warn the public of the crimes of the established system. I am ringing the bells of alarm for the 351.st time and will do so for as long as it is needed. Because we must give revival and our shared homeland a chance.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
15 May 2022.

Ujhelyi sends national tricolour earrings to Katalin Novák for her inauguration

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giftMEP István Ujhelyi sent earrings depicting the national tricolour of Hungary to Katalin Novák on the occasion of her inauguration today. Alluding to occasions in the past when Katalin Novák appeared at political events of the governing party wearing earrings with the inscription “Fidesz” and “OV22”;, the Social Democrat politician wanted to draw the attention of the new President to the fact that after taking office she is no longer the public dignitary of a certain political community, but of the entire Hungarian nation.
In a covering letter published on his social networking site, Ujhelyi wrote to President Katalin Novák that although her election was overshadowed by her previous party political activity and the fact that she had accepted the votes of government party members under criminal prosecution, “an opposition MEP, leaving behind the rejectionist political attitude”; he approached the new President’s inauguration “in a sufficiently open-minded manner”; Ujhelyi noted that he was confident that Katalin Novák would prove in her first days that she would not keep the interests of her former party in mind, but those of the entire Hungarian nation, and that as President of the Republic she would be “an active defender of the republic against political intentions that have been undermining the values of the republic and weakening the rule of law in the past decade”. According to the left-wing MEP, the symbolic gift sent for the inauguration will remind Katalin Novák of this.

Budapest – 14/05/2022

Ujhelyi: new Hungarian national plan needed for use of EU Recovery Fund

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signal-2022-05-12-080240_001Exactly one year ago today, the Hungarian government submitted to Brussels a national plan for the use of EU recovery funds, but the document has not been approved by the European Commission to date.

The reason is that the draft submitted by the Fidesz government did not meet expectations either in content or in its adoption without substantive and wide-ranging consultation, but the constantly upheld objections to the rule of law situation in Hungary have also contributed to the freezing of funds.
Hungary is entitled to some HUF 2,500 billion of EU money from the recovery fund, which is much needed by Hungarian people and the Hungarian economy. The gravity of the situation is well illustrated by the fact that only two of the 26 Member States’ drafts submitted to the European Commission, the Polish and the Hungarian, have not yet been adopted, and neighbouring countries are already in the lead, having received substantial amounts from this envelope: Romania has already claimed and used HUF 700 billion, Slovakia HUF 310 billion and Croatia, for example, HUF 311 billion in non-refundable aid.
The Hungarian government urgently needs to make a change and present a new national plan to the European Commission. As a MEP representing the left, I am also making a concrete proposal: instead of the commitments in the original document, three issues should receive priority political attention and support from the Fund. I propose that a significant amount of this funding be used to implement the “permanent reduction of overheads” through energy efficiency and the mass, targeted modernization of housing. I propose that the government introduce means tested food vouchers for a limited range of basic foodstuffs to counter the crippling impacts of inflation on the most vulnerable in society. I propose that the freely usable amounts of the Recovery Fund be used to make immediate, one thousand billion forint improvements in the health sector, especially on the human resources side, i.e. spend substantial sums on wage improvements and better working conditions. I expect the government to finalize the new national based on the results of deep and meaningful consultation with local authorities and professional organizations, contrary to its previous practice.
If the government is prepared to take action on this, then as a Hungarian MEP I will support the swift mobilization of resources.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Budapest/Brussels – 12.05.2022

Russian Oil-Embargo: jump in at the deep end only if we can swim!

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sancThis may come as a surprise to many, but as a Hungarian MEP, I will only be able to support an restrictive measures on Russian oil or sanctions on energy imports under strict conditions. My position is that we should only jump in at the deep end once we can swim, or at least have a lifebelt around our waist.
In the coming days, the European Union is expected to present its new raft of sanctions against Russia that is waging a war of bloodshed as an aggressor, and this package will probably also include items relating to a kind of oil embargo as a further step. There is no question that, in order to achieve peace as soon as possible, we must be able to use all possible means to restrain Putin as a united front. There is also no question that it is unacceptable and untenable that we are indirectly financing the war crimes of the Russian aggressor by buying fossil fuels. However, restrictions on energy resources have not only political and moral but also substantive economic implications, which can only be radically implemented if the European Community can provide adequate guarantees for Member States that may be disadvantaged by the restrictions, such as Hungary. Therefore, I can only support extreme sanctions if we receive adequate compensation and support from the European Community, and if the Hungarian Government also takes immediate steps to ensure that we can process as much raw material as possible from alternative sources to Russian oil, thereby ensuring security of supply for both the public and the industry. We would, of course, be in a much better position if the Fidesz government had used its extraordinary mandate over the past twelve years to reduce our energy dependence on Russia and to promote the spread of renewable and sustainable alternative energy sources. I firmly maintain that sanctions on energy carriers must follow the principle of gradual implementation in the interests of vulnerable European Member States, and that there can be no common European solution without representing the interests of Hungarian society.
In recent days, I have written an official letter to the European Commission to urge them to take into account the specific circumstances of the Member States in connection with the embargo on oil imports and to seek a compromise in the sanctions package. This instrument is only effective if it is precisely targeted. If it misleads, it will only do greater damage.

István Ujhelyi MEP
Vice-Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism
Budapest/Brussels – 30.04.2022.

“Community of Chance” – Proposal for the revival of MSZP  

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kétarcWe need to start the change and transformation within ourselves to get closer to the masses who want change, so that we can represent our own electorate more successfully and more credibly.

I joined MSZP as a young teenager, and I still consider it one of the most important communities in my life; one from which I have received much and to which I hope I have been able to give back at least as much over the past years. I am a dedicated patriot and a committed social democrat: I still carry in my wallet a 40’s MSZDP membership booklet; it was the will of a ‘social-democrat’ veteran I never met that it should be passed on to me. I was so moved I even shed a tear when it was handed over.
There are moments in life when you really must stop and take accountability. With straightforward, and if necessary, painful honesty. The fourth two-thirds Fidesz victory made it clear to all of us that we do not have to fight better and harder for what we believe is right, but in an entirely different way. We must leave the ‘poles’ in place, but tear down the edifice to the foundations. At the MSZP’s caucus meeting on Saturday, I presented a concrete proposal to my fellow party members, which I believe could be a good starting point, an initial foothold for the rebirth of our community. Because we have to be honest: we no longer need small improvements, but a complete overhaul. We have to accept that the MSZP brand has become obsolete and worn out over the last decades. Our values and merits remain firmly in place and provide clear and unambiguous guidance, but in order for our social democratic community to be strengthened and to make sure it has a meaningful impact on public life, we need to start building on a completely new foundation. We need to deal with certain taboos, such as clinging to a 33-year-old brand and let go of grand-party operational reflexes. We must respond to reality and the present in order to plan for the future. We need to be able to say it out loud that the carnation has withered, but that does not mean we should throw it out with the pot: rather, we need to bring in new soil, give it fresh water and plant a new flower. We must give a chance for change, a chance for a shared homeland and a chance for a more just society; a chance for the renaissance of Hungarian social democracy with its one hundred and thirty-two- year-old history.
I have proposed that the Hungarian Socialist Party should in the future transform itself into a social democratic community which, in its new name, already bears the values and all that it wants to provide for Hungary through its voters: a chance. Let the name of our new organization be “Esély Közösség – Community of Chance“, which not only carries but also delivers messages and political expectations through its small, networked local communities. I see the future of my party as an active community that represents its electorate through concrete issues and tangible commitments, such as taking up the debate on the introduction of a four-day working week, developing a national strategy to identify and treat cancer more rapidly and effectively, or demanding a ‘perpetual reduction in overheads’ through energy investments with EU funding. There is nothing and no one to wait for, now is the time to make a change. In the coming weeks, I will continue the tour of the country that I have already started, gathering further suggestions, corrective comments and supporters for the vision I have outlined, for the revival of our community. We are asking for a chance because we want to give it to everyone.

After the Hungarian Prime Minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos, in which he proclaimed the illiberal state, I vowed that as an MEP I would write an open letter every week to warn the public of the regime’s crimes. For the 348th time, I am ringing the bells of alarm, and I am doing it now for my own community, for my own party. Because we must give revival and a shared homeland a chance.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament<
24 April, 2022.

Ujhelyi nominates ADOM Student Movement for European Citizen’s Prize

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278900912_536762494475582_7235803401695403708_nIstván Ujhelyi has nominated the Alternative Student-Centered Education Movement (ADOM) , and with them symbolically Hungarian young people who follow European values, for this year’s European Citizens’ Prize, the MSZP MEP announced on his social media page.

In his reasoning, the European politician highlighted that the ADOM Student Movement has actively contributed to the promotion of the free InterRail pass programme (DiscoverEU) in Hungary, and as the voluntary ambassadors of the programme, they have spread the word of the opportunity to thousands of young Hungarians and helped them to submit their applications.
Ujhelyi added that the ADOM Student Movement is a role model not only in its advocacy work, but also in organizing youth cooperation and in authentically promoting European values, which is why he decided to nominate the organization.
The prize is awarded to the winners every year by the European Parliament. The European Citizen’s Prize is open to individuals or organizations that have made an exceptional contribution to deepening mutual understanding and fostering closer integration between citizens of EU Member States, or who have strengthened the European spirit through, for example, cross-border cooperation.
Nominations are assessed in each Member State by a national jury of three MEPs, one national NGO and one national youth organization. Their shortlist of up to five candidates is forwarded to the European Citizens’ Prize Board of Trustees, which takes the final decision on the winners, chaired by the President of the European Parliament.

Budapest/Brussels – 22.04.2022.

Ujhelyi: after profiting from epidemic thus far, suddenly saving begins?

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test-g6ee8889dc_1920It didn’t take long after the election for the Fidesz government that has been irresponsibly managing the economy to start siphoning money from public services.
It is hard to explain otherwise than with a rush to save money the fact that the health government has stopped free PCR testing by paramedics, and that the highest-capacity laboratory will no longer test PCR samples. The question still remains as to who will carry out the most reliable testing and how, as the government has not yet provided a straight answer in this regard.
All this suggests that the government simply wants to save money on Hungarian people and, despite the unanimous opinion of experts, is content to use only rapid tests, which it has previously even described as unreliable, in its management of the epidemic. It is true though that Fidesz politicians have previously profited billions from the state procurement of the latter in quite a stomach churning manner, which kind of explains the preference.
We have lost 46,000 Hungarian lives in the coronavirus epidemic to date, and dozens of people continue to die every day as a result of the virus. Experts claim that the accuracy of PCR testing is essential to control the epidemic and to identify infections with certainty. It is irresponsible and insensitive for the state to stop providing this free of charge even in cases with clear symptoms and justified by GPs. It is an excessive burden for families with low incomes to have PCR tests, which often cost nearly twenty thousand forints, and therefore, especially from a government that claims to be family-friendly, it would be more than justified to provide them free of charge.
On several occasions, I have highlighted the EU funds and programmes that provide assistance and support for epidemic management, but the Hungarian government has mostly responded with its usual arrogance. Most recently, they refused a HUF 900 million non-refundable EU subsidy that could have been used to provide Hungarian people with free or reduced-cost covid tests for travel restrictions, yet they did not take advantage of it. Likewise, due to the government’s practices of secrecy, it is unclear how the half a million rapid tests sent to Hungary under another EU programme were used, and my requests for information on this have been systematically denied by the government.
When the coffers are empty, it is time to be honest with the electorate and admit it, instead of sneakily skimping on them. Health and disease control should not be subject to bargains. There are plenty of EU opportunities available to the government right now; it just needs to take them.

dr. István Ujhelyi
MEP, Member of the ENVI Committee
Budapest/Brussels – 20.04.2022.

Responsible minister of health needed in next government!

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replaceViktor Orbán has promised significant changes in his next government, stressing that the new cabinet structure and personnel composition will have to be adapted to the most important challenges and tasks the country will be facing.
As an opposition politician, especially one that witnessed the illiberal governance of the last decade, I certainly have some concerns about the accurate identification of the real challenges and the personnel responses to them, but until Orbán comes up with his new government programme, let us give him the chance to make the right choices. However, as a father of six children, an opposition politician and a member of the European Parliament’s Public Health Committee, I must emphasize one thing: it is simply inconceivable that the health sector will not (or more accurately, will continue not to) have a decent and responsible minister, preferably with a dedicated, independent portfolio.
The covid pandemic, the global health threats, the transforming and more cooperative European health systems, the undeniable backlog of the Hungarian care system, the mandatory improvement of the conditions of health workers, the waiting lists that are almost a threat to national security, the unanimous and devastating opinion of the Hungarian people are just some of the arguments that call for a responsible, independent ministry and a responsible and capable minister to lead it within the health sector.
I respect Miklós Kásler as a professor of medicine and as a human being, but I strongly despise him as a politician and as a minister. It is unthinkable that he should continue to be in charge of running health care. Because as a politician he has clearly failed in this task. Even with a two-thirds mandate behind him, he has not been able to find a reassuring solution to the working and living conditions of health workers, he has forced unprincipled compromises on the exploited professionals, he has not done everything in his power to ensure that the sector he represents, especially as a doctor, receives the attention it deserves and that the government finally increases the level of public funding (which is currently below the EU average) substantially.
He has abandoned hospitals drowning in debt, ignored the growing number of empty GP practices, and allowed sector reform to be outsourced to another ministry to do the job. Miklós Kásler’s greatest political crime, however, is that he assisted the culmination of arrogance and lawlessness in government. Despite being censured by the state data protection authority, he has refused to release data of public interest, and they have used every possible petty and despicable means to prevent to date the disclosure of information that ought to be aware of. Kásler, knowingly or unknowingly (you decide which is worse), essentially assisted in certain Fidesz politicians and their circles in making billions on the purchase of equipment to combat the covid epidemic of record death tolls. But he is also the minister who, as an oncologist, to this day refuses to disclose the national cancer strategy that the government claims to have drawn up. Yet I have tried to obtain this document on several occasions so that, as an MEP, I could help to align its objectives with the framework and instruments of the European cancer strategy. As one of the initiators of the European Health Union programme, I have made proposals to the health government on several occasions, but the response has always been nothing but obnoxiousness.
There is no question that health must finally be one of the priorities for the next period. Therefore, the establishment of an independent ministry of health, headed by an efficient, cooperative and honest professional, should be a kind of national minimum. Miklós Kásler only partly meets this requirement. It is therefore time for a change.

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

Circus – Art of Peace and Cooperation

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circFor the thirteenth time, we celebrate World Circus Day, but this time with a far greater meaning and message.
While former President of the European Parliament David Sassoli said: “Circus arts are an important part of our European cultural heritage,” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen put it this way: “Circus art is a vivid part of Europe’s cultural heritage with a history, in all its forms, that spans centuries.”
Now, with a global pandemic threatening our world and a war of bloodshed raging in the neighbourhood of our community and our nations that stand together, cohesion and cooperation are of even greater significance. Just as aerial gymnasts trust each other and cling together over the abyss, so must we preserve the peace and security of our continent and our European Community.
Circus arts are an important cornerstone of European culture. It offers enjoyment and entertainment for many generations and shows them the wonder of diversity and of the delicate cooperation between nations and people. It is important that this special asset is preserved and passed on to future generations.
On this World Circus Day, we would like to express our special solidarity and support for circus artists, circus schools and artistic communities in Ukraine.
Circus art is an art of peace and cooperation. And it shall remain so.

MEP István Ujhelyi
First Vice-Chair of the TRAN Committee of the European Parliament
Ambassador of the World Circus Federation (Fédération Mondiale du Cirque)
Founder of the BigTopLabel European Circus Quality Award

Brussels, 16.04.2022.