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.

Government should disclose content of Brussels agreements!

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kerdojelekReaction to Viktor Orbán’s press conference.

Viktor Orbán continues to deliberately mislead the public about the results of government negotiations and discussions with the European Union. In doing so, he is, to use the Prime Minister’s own words, deliberately insulting and disparaging the Hungarian electorate.
The Prime Minister of Fidesz claimed at his press conference today that only political (moreover, left-wing) pressure is behind the freezing of EU funds in Brussels and the withholding of subsidies to Hungary. Viktor Orbán is deliberately lying, as he is directly conflating the delayed disbursement of the Recovery Fund with the rule of law mechanism, and he sees a political agenda behind a procedure that he himself supported and on which the European Court of Justice has already clearly expressed its position.
Orbán claimed that he had already reached an agreement with Brussels on, among other things, the review of the system for allocating EU funds and the expected action against corruption at state level, claiming that the only issue still open for discussion was the so-called ‘child protection’ law. This is another deliberate lie to mislead Hungarian voters. The latter is the subject of a separate procedure and does not affect the payment of any of the subsidies in question.
I call on the Prime Minister of Fidesz to disclose his official and unofficial communications with European Union decision-makers on this matter, and at the same time explain what commitments and guarantees he has undertaken towards Brussels in order to eradicate corruption and protect EU funds, that is, if the Prime Minister’s statement is true and an agreement has indeed been reached with the EU.
Hungary is entitled to EU funds and subsidies. Their late availability is causing serious damage to our country. In the case of the Recovery Fund, more than six thousand billion forints are at stake, while in the case of the multiannual EU budget subsidies to which we are entitled, more than eleven thousand billion forints. It is therefore a legitimate expectation that the government should do everything in its power to provide adequate guarantees and ensure that the public is properly informed.

István Ujhelyi MEP
Budapest/Brussels – 06.04.2022.

Tomorrow we shall wake up to another Hungary!  

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stoporbIt is a lot to even just state, but the fact is that every Sunday, for eight years now, I have been writing these open letters to warn the public of the crimes of the Orbán regime, in which I always mention that I will ring the bells of alarm for as long as it is necessary.

In recent years, there was a lot to call attention to, with Fidesz’s rabble-rousing every week. Today, we can put an end to this twelve-year nightmare; we can put an end to the crimes of Orbán. Perhaps from tomorrow I will have no reason to ring the bells any longer; perhaps this is the last letter in the series. Eight years ago, I grabbed the keyboard because Viktor Orbán, intoxicated by his newly won two-thirds victory, proclaimed in his Tusnadfürdő speech the ‘illiberal state’ that has since taken on a predatory form. The prime minister of Fidesz then declared war on the NGOs that were a nuisance to them (and called them “foreign agents”, following the Russian example). It was then that he argued for the majority of the banking sector to be “in Hungarian hands” (he forgot to add, that by Hungarian hands they meant Lőrinc Mészáros, i.e. themselves), but it was also in this speech that he first thanked Hungarians living outside the borders of Hungary for their votes that gave Fidesz a two-thirds majority.  Since then, we have also seen how these postal votes from across the border are collected and manipulated.
The most important milestone, however, was when Orbán announced his complete turn away from the European Community and called for the following of ‘stars’ such as Russia. He proclaimed the establishment of an ‘illiberal democracy’ in Hungary, which, following the Russian model, later stifled civil society, cornered those who dissented, took full control of the media and looted public assets and EU funds that Hungary was entitled to. In the time since then, the work has been completed, the mafia state has been built, and the mock battles against their self-created enemy figures have given the people the necessary circus. What Orbán and his party had not counted on was the alliance and unification of the opposition, which was slowly but surely forming, and the global challenges that could not be addressed by propaganda showmanship-governance. The record number of Hungarian lives lost in the covid pandemic (and let’s not forget that even in the midst of the deadly epidemic they were still only obsessed with disgusting profiteering), and now the panic-stricken squirming in the strangling embrace of Putin, who initiated the bloody aggression, all proved that we have had enough of the illiberal madness, it is time to turn back towards the European Community of peace, security and development!
After today’s vote, tomorrow morning we will most certainly wake up to a new Hungary. The illiberal Fidesz has already lost this election. The arrogance, nation-division, hate-mongering and vile thievery of the last twelve years have changed this country, and the majority of Hungarians do not want to be part of it. They too know this, they too feel it and that is why they are nervous. It is also true that it will take many years for our society, to squeeze out every last drop of the nation-killing poison through its pores that has been pumped into us by the divisive lies and the hate-mongering that has turned family members against each other. But in the Hungary of all, where ‘nation’ is not just a word in a framed manifesto that has to be hung on the wall by law but stands for the community of all Hungarians, there will be a cure for this, too. Orbán back then concluded his speech in Tusnádfürdő by saying that “it may well be, since anything can happen, that our time will come.” Well, my dear Viktor, your time is now up. You have been given an unprecedented opportunity to build this country into an enlightened, free, developing and European country. But you thought only of yourself. That young man from Felcsút who wanted to be somebody at all costs, to break out of the place he had come from. Your time in office was not about service, it was about domination. And history will remember you as someone who, as a brilliant young man, was given unparalleled opportunities, but instead of building a nation, exchanged them for pennies and used them to build a stadium at the back of his house in Felcsút.
After the Hungarian Prime Minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos proclaiming the illiberal state, I vowed that as an MEP I would write an open letter every week to warn the public of the regime’s crimes. For the 345th time, I am ringing the bells of alarm and will continue to do so for as long as it is needed. Perhaps for the last time today.

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

Why did family of head of Russian intelligence get golden visa from Fidesz?!

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visasOver a week ago, I sent a letter to the relevant ministries of the Orbán government, the Prime Minister and the Government Spokesperson, but so far none of them have managed to answer the very simple question: why did the relatives of the head of foreign intelligence in the Russian government led by Putin receive golden visas from Fidesz?

In fact, this is not only a simple question, but also a very pressing one in our current situation. What other interconnections and, in the current climate, what other cooperation between Putin’s inner circles and the Hungarian Government pose a serious risk to our national security? To guarantee Hungary’s peace and security, this must be clarified as soon as possible! Enough of Fidesz’s sneaky deals! I demand detailed information on this as urgently as possible! As a result of Russian aggression, the European Union has already adopted a number of sanctions together with the leaders of the Member States, thus with the agreement and support of the Hungarian Government. Among other things, sanctions have been imposed on high-ranking Russian leaders, including visa bans and asset freezes. Such leaders include, for example, Sergei Naryshkin, the Speaker of the Russian Duma, who has also been in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Service since 2016. It is known that Naryshkin, who has been on the EU’s ‘blacklist’ since the start of the years-long crisis in Ukraine, is involved in, and even actively directing, the current Russian military aggression and the disinformation and other intelligence operations surrounding it.
Earlier, there were numerous reports that Sergei Naryshkin’s relatives (his son Andrei and his daughter-in-law and grandchildren) had bought for themselves quite a few residency bonds, the so-called ‘golden visas’, announced by the Fidesz government, and had thus obtained Hungarian (i.e. EU) papers. The Hungarian Immigration Office has previously admitted that Andrei Naryshkin was their client, but the details of the case remain unclear. The Fidesz government must immediately provide meaningful answers as to why the documents previously issued under the residency bond programme, which were given to persons linked to the current war-aggressor Russian leadership, have not been reviewed! The Fidesz government must immediately give an answer as to when it will revoke or suspend these permits as part of the common EU sanctions policy! The Fidesz government must immediately provide an answer as to exactly how many individuals who are in any way connected to the current Russian state leadership have been ‘clients’ of the Hungarian government’s resettlement programme! The Fidesz government must immediately answer whether there is any national security risk posed by the fact that close relatives of one of the state leaders in charge of the Russian military aggression were ‘clients’ of the Hungarian government’s residency bond programme! However, the Hungarian government is not only accountable to the public for the golden visas issued under the residency bond programme; they must also answer the question: why do they not suspend the full diplomatic immunity (originally already granted in a completely unjustifiable manner) of the leadership and staff of the Budapest-based International Investment Bank with Russian interests (also linked to espionage activities)?
Viktor Orbán and Fidesz talk about national sovereignty and independence, about representing national interests against the European Union, while they refuse to use any means at their disposal to take action against the Russian aggressors; in fact, they secretly ally and cooperate with them and even open loopholes for them. The question arises: when he talks about stopping Brussels, who is really dictating Orbán’s words? Certainly not the Hungarian people. This, especially in the present situation, is completely unacceptable and life-threatening! Enough of Orbán and Fidesz’s sneaky, Putinist dealings! They must answer the questions and come clean! If they can, that is.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
27 March, 2022.

S&D-research: one in five Fidesz-voters would leave the EU

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Képernyőfotó 2022-03-22 - 10.00.24Publicus Institute, commissioned by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and Hungarian MEP István Ujhelyi, measured the public opinion towards the European Union by surveying 2006 individuals in a nationwide representative poll conducted between the 3rd and the 14th of February 2022. 

According to the vast majority of respondents, membership in the European Union is rather advantageous for Hungary. If a referendum were held this Sunday on whether the country should join the EU now, 86 percent of respondents would vote in favor. Fidesz voters have the most resentments against the EU: for instance, if a referendum were held this Sunday on whether Hungary should leave the EU, one in five pro-government voters would vote in favor.  The idea that Orbán wants a “Huxit” often arises in Hungarian public consciousness. There are more respondents who think the prime minister wants to leave the EU than the ones who think he does not (48 vs. 43 percent). Every other respondent considers it conceivable that Hungary may be excluded from the European Union, regardless of Hungary’s intention, because the country’s current actions do not meet the conditions of the EU. Regarding the European Union, eight out of ten respondents attach great importance to peace and cooperation among Member States, as well as to the rule of law.
Three-quarters of respondents consider economic benefits to be a very important value for Member States, while seven out of ten respondents think the same about the free movement of labor, and two-thirds of respondents about the abolition of borders and free movement. Almost every second respondent considers the most important of the European Union’s values to be peace and cooperation among Member States. One in four respondents mentioned the security of the rule of law. One in two respondents says that the rule of law is currently in the greatest danger of European values in Hungary.
Six out of ten respondents rather not believe that the EU wants to bring millions of migrants to Europe as a solution to demographic problems. The same share of respondents also rather consider it untrue that Hungary does not have access to the recovery funds because Brussels does not accept the government’s resistance to allowing LGBTQ activists into Hungarian kindergartens and schools to promote sex reassignment surgeries there. Three-quarters of respondents rather consider it true that Hungary does not have access to the recovery funds due to problems with the rule of law and state-level corruption. Eight out of ten respondents have heard that the European Commission has imparted to the Hungarian government in a written list: due to the dismantling of the rule of law and state- level corruption, the country is not yet able to access its resources.
Two-thirds of respondents think that if a Hungarian MEP supports the withholding of EU funds because of problems with the rule of law and corruption, he is actually acting against the corrupt government in the interests of his country. Seven out of ten respondents would rather give the European Union a greater power in the fight against corruption, the fight against terrorism and in climate policy than the current Hungarian competence. Two-thirds of respondents say the same in the case of the rule of law, and six in ten respondents would rather give more rights for the EU in healthcare and education. Three quarters of respondents would support European coordination in healthcare, in other words the creation of a European Health Union.
Eight out of ten respondents say it is important for European citizens to have a direct say in European processes. One third of respondents have heard about the Conference on the Future of Europe, where every EU citizen can write down their opinions so that a number of issues about the future of the EU can be decided according to the view of its citizens. The majority considers it possible to attend such a conference to share their views. Six out of ten respondents rather disagree that the European Parliament, where the citizens’ elected representatives decide, should be abolished and that the European Council, which brings together prime ministers, should decide on more issues than at present.

Full research available here: https://bit.ly/3ufiEYV 

Brussels/Budapest – 22.03.2022.