Tomorrow, 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.
Member of the European Parliament
15 May 2022.