Ujhelyi: Hungarian Government Could Demand Billions More from Brussels to Help People

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20151016ujhelyi-istvan-foglalkozas-foto-fototemaIn January, the opportunity will be there again for the Hungarian government to request EU funding to help employees in trouble.

For the time being, however, the question is whether Fidesz will use this opportunity, said MSZP MEP István Ujhelyi at his online press conference on Monday. The Socialist politician said that he had addressed a written question to EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit, who had recently informed him that the remaining free funds would be made available to Member States who had applied for the SURE-program, including Hungary, in a second round of applications, with a total value of around € 9.7 billion.

Ujhelyi said that the Hungarian government should indicate its intention to apply as early as January as well as the purposes for which it intends to spend this extremely favourable EU loan.

At the press conference, MSZP’s European politician recalled that the SURE-program was launched this spring to help protect jobs and employees affected by the coronavirus epidemic, including by supporting reduced or part-time employment or even wage supplements for the self-employed. Of the 100 billion euros, many Member States requested funds, but Ujhelyi said that Hungary asked for surprisingly little: while the Czech Republic claimed 2 billion euros, Poland 11 billion euros and Romania 4 billion euros, the Hungarian government could only bring a 504 million euro budget from Brussels.

At the press conference, the politician of MSZP said the Hungarian government had to be “encouraged” to apply for this amount of money at all, and later they even tried to refuse to tell exactly what it would be used for. Ujhelyi pointed out that the government is post-financing, among other things, the temporary tax relief granted to small taxpayers and the short-term extension of family benefits from the EU loan requested under the SURE program, but it was also used to finance the oayment of the one-off benefits to health care workers (which MSZP proposed initially and the government finally introduced it).

“We applied for little money in the first round, but thanks to our successful lobbying, now is another opportunity for the government to step up again and bring home another amount from Brussels. It is time for Fidesz to finally address people’s real problems instead of constant propaganda and lying. Lay on the table proposals made by the opposition, such as programs jointly developed by MSZP and the trade unions to help employees.

You go, Government!

Start working and governing finally,” stated István Ujhelyi, adding: he expects the Hungarian cabinet to make it clear as soon as possible for what purposes and in what amount they want to apply for EU support from the reopening framework.

Budapest / Brussels – 28.12.2020.

Ujhelyi: DiscoverEU to Be Re-launched with 400 Million Euro Budget

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ujhelyi_interrail_fit_800x10000It has officially become part of the European Union’s budget for the next seven years, so after the coronavirus pandemic, the free train pass program for young Europeans will be re-launched with a roughly 400 million euro budget, said Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi, mentor of the DiscoverEU program, at his online press conference on Saturday.

The basic idea for “FreeInterRail” comes from two young German activists, Vincent-Immanuel Herr and Martin Speer, who a few years ago proposed that the European Union surprise all young Europeans with a free train pass on their 18th birthday. The proposal was first embraced and supported by István Ujhelyi, Member of the European Parliament, who stood by it until its implementation. In recent years, hundreds of young Hungarians have been able to take advantage of the opportunity; the success of the program is well illustrated by the fact that almost ten times more youngsters registered for season tickets in Hungary than the number available and the program recently won a European quality award.

At the press conference Ujhelyi highlighted that during the pilot period of the program, more than 350,000 young Europeans applied for the opportunity, more than 70,000 of whom got the free train passes. The European politician of MSZP considered it an important success that the financial framework for Erasmus+ was not only maintained but extended in the next seven-year EU budget, and that the financial envelope of the DiscoverEU program was now included in it.

According to Ujhelyi, the result of long and “excruciating” lobbying is that the project distributing free InterRail passes is now registered as an official program. In this, he said, the support of leader of the People’s Party Group leader Manfred Weber and former EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics was also an important help.

Ujhelyi added that he has been urging the Hungarian government to join the program for a long time and to provide free train passes for young people over the age of eighteen every year from the state budget, which would cost about HUF 9 billion a year, according to the Socialist politician. Ujhelyi said the government had not yet responded to any of his proposals in this regard, however, several municipalities had already joined the program and bought free passes for local youth from their own budgets.

Thus, for example, in the towns of Ajka and Veszprém; in the latter place, the Fidesz-majority assembly purchased Interrail passes worth HUF 1 million on the basis of a joint motion by the mayor delegated by Fidesz and the leader of the socialist group in the municipality.

Budapest / Brussels – 19.12.2020

EU Funding for Hungarian Job Protection En Route, But Who Shall Benefit from It?

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Plenary Session week 44 2015 in Strasbourg

More than seventy billion forints worth of EU funds will be transferred from Brussels tomorrow under the European Job Protection Program. This is the first tranche of the EUR 500 million, or roughly HUF 180 billion, individual loan package approved for Hungary. The only question is: who is to get any of it?

Back in the spring, during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic, I called on the Hungarian government several times to make the widest possible use of the resources available through the European Union’s crisis management, for example by the drawdown of funds from the Employment Protection Fund (SURE program).

At first, the Fidesz government denied even the existence of these EU support instruments, but over time they were forced to admit that they had applied for a credit line worth billions of forints from a program to help finance expenditures related to reduced working hours and similar measures. It is particularly noteworthy that, as it turned out from the details of the disbursement, Fidesz will now also finance the one-time benefit of five hundred thousand forints paid to healthcare workers from this loan, which was originally demanded by MSZP for the employees of the sector.

But the same is true of the exemption for small taxpayers taxing under the KATA system, which the government also intends to cover from this Brussels resource.

Fidesz continues to hide the technical or other substantive reasons that led to the acceptance of the Hungarian government’s application with a significant delay and with some reduction in the amount initially requested. Similarly, we still have to wonder why Fidesz MEPs recently did not vote in the European Parliament for a resolution that would have made this transitional financial instrument constantly available due to the growing impact of the epidemic.

For the time being, however, the biggest question continues to be who will benefit from this concessional EU loan and to what extent the Hungarian state will help. There is concern that this time once again only the NER’s (Orbán’s National Cooperation System) pets and oligarchic financiers will be able to benefit from the support.

I therefore call on the government to account item by item which companies can access the loan, which medical equipment purchases they wish to post-finance from this budget, which state-owned companies ‘costs of special measures’ and which ‘measures to protect the health of public officials’ will be financed from this envelope.

István Ujhelyi

Member of the European Parliament

Budapest / Brussels – 30.11.2020.

MSZP: Government must guarantee COVID-vaccine free of charge!

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c1_1998131_201007113934“We are fed up with the government’s lies and promises, so we call on them to make it clear: are COVID vaccines that are bought for public money guaranteed to be free for the public or not?” Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi asked at his online press conference on Sunday.

The European politician of MSZP recalled that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a recent radio interview that the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine may arrive in Hungary at the end of December, which will first be given to chronic patients and vulnerable elderly people. According to Ujhelyi, contrary to the claims of Fidesz propaganda, the government was not able to prepare in time to provide routine flu vaccinations to the population in sufficient quantity and quality, so it is a minimum requirement that they announce as soon as possible when and what vaccination strategy will guarantee a safe COVID vaccine for applicants.

“It is a national issue of paramount importance that access to vaccination be free of charge and not available through good contacts or some form of financial privilege,” said István Ujhelyi.

The MSZP politician recalled that the European Commission had recently announced that the steps needed for national vaccination strategies had been identified and that a common reporting platform would be set up in Brussels for better coordination. At the press conference, István Ujhelyi also said that he had recently addressed a written question to the government regarding the vaccination strategy and vaccine procurement, in response to which Secretary of State Csaba Dömötör stated that the Hungarian government had joined the joint EU vaccine procurement mechanism launched by the European Commission and when the appropriate vaccine is ready, Hungary will receive 6.5 million vaccines for HUF 13 billion.

The MSZP politician called it supportable that the government was part of the EU procurement processes, but at the same time he said that the as of yet uncertain quality vaccine businesses of government’s ‘seeker and raider buddies’ outside the EU, in Russia and China were redundant. Ujhelyi pointed out that a spokesperson for the European Commission had just made it clear the other day that European citizens could only be vaccinated with a vaccine that had received an EU license; and the Commission has already contracted a total of one billion COVID vaccines for European citizens with six companies.

The Socialist Member of the European Parliament emphasized that on many occasions he had asked the government in vain to respond regarding free access to the future vaccine, and Csaba Dömötör did not make a clear statement in his reply, either. Ujhelyi therefore again called on the cabinet to make a clear statement as soon as possible about the COVID vaccine to be procured from public funds being free for all.

Brussels, 01/11/2020

Government Must Make COVID Vaccine Free for All!

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jegyzetcover11“We demand that when the safe and usable COVID vaccine is available, the government provide the vaccine free of charge to all Hungarian citizens who request it,” Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi announced at an online press conference on Friday.

As a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health he added that MSZP expects the government to already guarantee that the vaccine will be free of charge. Ujhelyi pointed out that Slovakia had already pre-ordered millions of vaccines and aims to provide them to the population free of charge. He also recalled that the Greek and Serbian governments have already made similar announcements.

“The European Commission has recently ordered more than 400 million vaccines from nearly half a dozen large pharmaceutical manufacturers, which means that joint procurement process will take place, and the Hungarian government must also play a role in this. We expect to be informed: on the basis of what scenario and with what sort of schedule does the Hungarian State intend to provide people with the safe vaccine,” said the MEP of MSZP, urging more active participation of the government in European anti-pandemic co-operations.

Ujhelyi added that MSZP, as a social democratic party, is a committed supporter of the establishment of the European Health Union, because in their opinion safe and fair healthcare for all European citizens – including all Hungarians – can only be guaranteed if a European guarantee system obliges Member State Governments to ensure fair conditions, respect for healthcare workers and patient safety in ways that meets minimum requirements.

The MSZP politician recalled that he first raised the concept of the European Health Union more than a year ago, when many still doubted its feasibility. Ujhelyi reminded that since then, the S&D Group in the European Parliament was first to adopt the program it had developed, and then it had become an important pillar of the Public Health Strategy adopted by the EP, and most recently President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stood behind the concept in her State of the Union Address.

The MSZP politician added that another important milestone of success was the recent adoption by the European Parliament of additional documents calling for a European Health Union and minimum quality standards, such as the EP resolution on EU coordination of health assessments and risk classifications and a parliamentary document on the shortage of medicines.

Budapest – 25/09/2020

Ujhelyi: Hungary Must Also Be Member of European Health Union!

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ujhelyi_istvan_sm (1)It is of paramount interest not only for the entire European Community, but also for Hungary that the concept of the European Health Union be realized, said Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi at his online press conference on Thursday.
MSZP’s politician was one of the developers of the concept and of the responsible persons for it in the S&D Group of the EP. In the past year, together with the Hungarian Medical Chamber and other Hungarian professional organizations, as well as European health interest groups, he has shaped the content of the package of proposals intended to set quality standards for healthcare.
“When I first came up with the concept of the European Health Union and the minimum-standards, professional organizations and policy makers alike had their doubts about its feasibility, but the hard work of recent months has paid off: first, the S&D Group in the European Parliament adopted the program, then the concept was included in the adopted health strategy adopted by a majority of the European Parliament, and now, as a historic breakthrough, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has made this program an important part of the next work plan”, said István Ujhelyi.
The socialist politician emphasized that the implementation of the European Health Union means shorter waiting lists, fewer hospital infections and resulting illnesses and death, but it can also bring higher wages in healthcare systems. István Ujhelyi emphasized that, contrary to government propaganda, Fidesz spends less on healthcare than the EU average, and it is no coincidence that Hungary lags behind in terms of quality care.
“While a Czech doctor earns twice as much, a Belgian doctor earns nine times more than his Hungarian colleagues. Today, someone in Hungary is three times more likely to get a serious nosocomial infection than in Germany. These differences are untenable, and the concept of the health union will help to eliminate them,” added the European politician of MSZP.
István Ujhelyi emphasized that after the European Parliament, the European Commission has now made a commitment to the program he initiated. He said now it was the turn of the European Council of Heads of State and Government to support the implementation.
“The joint work has begun, and I also expect my fellow opposition and pro-government MEPs to stand behind the program and help it to be implemented as widely as possible. Without strong health care, there is no strong Europe, without a strong healthcare system, there is no happy Hungary,” the MSZP MEP said at his online press conference.

Brussels – 17/09/2020

Ujhelyi: Von Der Leyen’s stand for Health Union is a historic breakthrough!

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Ursula-von-der-Leyen-1200x800I consider it a significant breakthrough that in her annual State of the Union Address President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also stood firmly behind the concept of the European Health Union which I advocated. This clearly marks the path and the opportunity for the widest possible implementation. I also consider it an important breakthrough that the number one person of the Commission has also raised the issue of rethinking the health competences of the Member States, as this is essential in order to eliminate the serious discrepancies that exist between health systems.
I had an important commitment at the beginning of my second term as MEP to put on the table of European decision-makers a comprehensive concept that ensures minimum standards of quality healthcare in all European Member States and guarantees patient safety. Not only domestic but also international professional organizations took an active part in this work, and the Social Democratic Group in the EP also took on to promote my initiative as their own.
It was an important milestone a few weeks ago, when this finally became one of the cornerstones of the health strategy adopted by a large majority in the European Parliament. Today’s clear statement by the President of the European Commission is another significant step forward. Parliament and the Commission are therefore ready to set up the European Health Union, therefore we expect the European Council, including the Heads of Government of the Member States, to take part in the joint implementation.
Without strong healthcare, there is no strong nation. Without strong care systems, there is no strong Europe.

István Ujhelyi
MEP (MSZP)
Brussels, 16/09/2020

No shame in being a party propagandist, just awkward to deny It!

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jegyzetcover844Undoubtedly, one of Orbán and his gang’s most cunning moves was to cannibalise the Hungarian news agency MTI as soon as possible and then make the news they now controlled and influenced free of charge. This way, they subjugated the public and mushroom-propagated the fake and semi-fake institutes, which echoed their views before the public on all platforms. We have all seen the “experts” and “analysts” in uniform suits who robotically repeat centrally issued templates in the government press. Make no mistake; each and every one of them is a paid party propagandist. As a matter of fact, there is no shame in this: being a party propagandist is a perfectly legitimate job (funding it from public money raises questions though), it’s just infinitely pathetic when they try to deny this.

I confess that I do not even understand those media outlets that do not consider themselves  government servants, yet regularly and without criticism interview, for example Dániel Deák in their news programs and analytical materials. Deák tries to present himself as a serious analyst of a government affiliated institute stuffed with money, but his trembling efforts to hammer exclusively Fidesz’ narrative into people’s heads makes him infinitely ridiculous. The situation is similar with the propaganda institute also cunningly called the Centre for Fundamental Rights. It is a joke in itself that they have only failed to stand up for the fundamental human rights the government has trampled upon in the past period, although they do not hide their position: their declared goal is to be a ‘counterpoint’ to human rights fundamentalism and political correctness that overflows many walks of life these days. I would like to point out once again that being a party propagandist is no shame, trying to sell yourself as a independent and objective expert while being one is, however, rather pathetic. This is also true for this case. The Centre for Fundamental Rights has made itself noticed as of late by organising a highly Fidesz “private event” (i.e. a garden party in a castle) that put half of the government into quarantine; we, of course, wish all coronavirus carriers a speedy recovery. But it is not only because of this that the “independent institute,” which operates from massive public funds, is a perfect example: they have also received millions from the Fidesz party foundation and one of the Hungarian National Bank’s foundations.

The head of the company bathed in public funds is Miklós Szánthó, a former member of the Christian Democratic KDNP’s youth organization, but according to press reports, he has also represented Fidelitas in the youth section of the European People’s Party. At the moment, by the way, he is, not incidentally, the leader of the Fidesz media golem, put together by state aid and controlling hundreds of newspapers and other media. The strategic director of the centre is István Kovács, who was on the Fidesz EP list last year but slipped off the mandate in the last minute, but there is also research director Péter Törcsi, who is reportedly a very lucky company founder: in 2018, as soon he started his own consulting business, he already received orders in the value of millions of forints from the Prime inister’s Office and the Fidesz parliamentary group. But the leadership of the centre also includes deputy director Miklós Panyi, who bashfully only writes about himself on the website that he was the “Hungarian press adviser of the People’s Party of the European Parliament”, which translates to the fact that he worked as a press secretary for Fidesz MEPs. Several of the company’s leading analysts have recently worked at the Prime Minister’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office dealing with government propaganda, and analyst Eszter Párkányi, who is a regular face in the government media, recently held press conferences as a spokesperson for Fidelitas. And before the pro-government comment commando, trained by István Kovács’s Megaphone project, jumps at me with a sharpened keyboard: there is nothing wrong with all this. Educated, well –travelled people work at this government affiliated institute. More precisely, at this institute as well.

The trouble is that these propaganda companies (or, as the government press would put it “pseudo-
civilians”) are stuffed with taxpayers’ money, and the analyses, statements, and declarations they convey are taken seriously by some instead of treating them like the repackaged positions of the Fidesz government, which they are. Orbán has built a well-functioning, professional tell-it-like it-is network to influence the public. If we actually see this, we know it and we take the words of their
actors with the deserved seriousness, they can bend reality in any way, it will always make way for
itself.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
August 30, 2020

Hungarians want the Euro!

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jegyzetcover5Remember what Viktor Orbán said as an opposition leader some years ago? “A weaker forint means a weaker state, and only weak people can possibly want a weak forint.” Moreover, he also stated that the deliberate devaluation of the forint exchange rate is a simple theft, because with it “they steal money out of people’s pockets” by devaluing their salaries.
Well, when Fidesz took power in 2010, the euro exchange rate was just over 280 forints. Today – when we are said to be the engine of all development and growth – the exchange rate is at historic peaks; you have to pay around 350 for a single euro. Due to the deliberate weakening of the forint, inflation is also huge; all our imports have become more expensive, so everyone has to pay more at the cashiers. Recalling Orbán’s sentences at the time: the current power steals from us all when it takes a significant amount out of our pockets by devaluing the forint.
Fidesz tends to refer to two things regularly and willingly: the situation and practice of the countries of the Central and Eastern European region, and the opinion of the Hungarian people – that they have asked for, one way or another. Well, if we look at our region, we are starting to lag far behind our leading role: after the Slovaks and Slovenes, now Bulgaria and Croatia have also announced that they will join ERM II, considered the gateway to the euro, and introduce the single currency in 2023.
And as far as people’s opinions are concerned, which Orbán and his gang claim to follow as a kind of compass, also defines a clear path. At the request of the left-wing daily Népszava, Publicus Institute was the east to conduct a representative survey in the matter, according to which more than 51 per cent of the population wants a Hungarian euro and only 37 per cent reject it, the rest are uncertain or have no opinion on the matter. Unsurprisingly, the rejectors are mainly pro-government voters who support Fidesz’s anti-European and anti-EU policies blindly, without question.

Joining the euro is one of the commitments made in the EU treaties, and it is our duty to fulfil it. It may be up for debate whether the Hungarian economy is ready for the first steps (for example, forint inflation is still far from expected) and when it is best to join, but the intention must be clear. Or it should be. Yet the Hungarian government does not even request observer status at the negotiating table of the eurozone countries, although this does not oblige them to do anything, it is just an important source of information and opportunities. It is infinitely sad that the Hungarian government also treats the issue of the common currency arrogantly, condescendingly and merely in light of the personal profitmaking  needs of the ruling party’s circles.
Fidesz experts should undertake a substantive debate on this and make it clear to the Hungarian people what the state power thinks about this and why. And the government is at least expected to set a timetable as soon as possible, setting at least a target date for the introduction of the euro. In the absence of this, they only prove that our economy is not on such stable foundations as the domestic propaganda claims, and that they constantly gamble with the forint at the expense of the Hungarian people.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
9 August, 2020

Ujhelyi: What were Lukashenko and Orbán really discussing?

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deal“Enough of this Russian roulette, we want to know what Fidesz’s shady game with the Belarusian regime is about,” said István Ujhelyi at his online press conference on Sunday.
The MSZP MEP called on the government to reveal the contents of the minutes and memos of the June talks between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and President Alexander Lukashenko.
He added that if these documents could not be shared with the general public due to their content concerning national security, they should report the details to the National Security Committee of Parliament. Ujhelyi claimed, if Fidesz has nothing to hide regarding the matter, they should clarify exactly what the Hungarian and Belarusian leaders were discussing.
A European politician of MSZP recalled that more than 7,000 people, including seventy journalists, had been detained in recent days in connection with the protests following the falsified elections.  Ujhelyi pointed out that the institutions of the European Union clearly and unequivocally condemn state fraud and terror in Belarus, but according to information, among Member States only the Hungarian government is still reluctant to do so.
“Obviously Moscow dictates, but we should make it clear where we stand, whose interests we are serving,” said Ujhelyi at the press conference. According to the Socialist MEP, it is still unclear what deals had been made at the Orbán-Lukashenko meeting in June, as the specific agreements announced following the talks were effectively weightless.
“Obviously, during his visit in June, Orbán did not meet with opposition leaders, as there is only shamocracy in Belarus; but perhaps this is exactly what the Hungarian head of government went to examine more closely, ”said the European politician of MSZP, adding that the shady game of the Orbán government with the Belarusian regime brought shame on Hungary again, so it is a minimum expectation to see clearly in the matter.

Budapest – 16/08/2020