Fidesz has been in government for 12 years, with a mandate that has given its decision-makers an historic opportunity: they could and can do practically anything to this country. And they have. But their primary concern has not been the long-term interests of Hungarian citizens and the catching- up and economic sustainability of the country – I do not deny that there have also been positive and constructive steps taken, still, they mainly cared for the endless greasing of the NER (Orbán’s so- called National Cooperation system) elite, themselves and their cronies. The dismantling of the rule of law and the suppression of critical voices are not necessary for ideological or dictatorship fetishes, but to cover up and explain away the total theft of public assets as well as possible. This is both important and sad, because twelve years of unlimited power could have brought about real and lasting positive change, that is, if they had really put Hungary first. But, they had not.
Let us take the example of energy-saving home renovations. In 2010, after the change of government, Fidesz pledged to start a modernization programme from January 2011 with the complex renovation of 100,000 homes per year, with the reallocation of EU funds, and to expand this to 200,000 homes per year over time. Three years later, a housing estate renovation programme was also announced, with the aim of renovating an additional 380,000 flats between 2014 and 2020.
The “National Strategy for Energy Efficiency in Buildings” launched in 2015 pledged to renovate around 700,000 homes by 2020, but none of these commitments have actually been met, or only a fraction of them. The money went to other things that were more important for them. The Fidesz government’s approach to the issue is perfectly illustrated by the fact that the precast concrete housing programme was not even re-launched, and the non-repayable funding for housing renovation from the EU budget cycle 2014-2020 was not allocated, contrary to their commitments.
To sum it up, if the government had delivered on its promises made with great propaganda and nationalist gloss in recent years, by now around 1.1 million homes would have been renovated and these homes would now offer their residents much more protection against high energy prices. In contrast, it is a valid question now how much and on what the Fidesz government intends to spend the EU subsidies still withheld due to rule of law problems on energy-saving home renovations, for example. Despite all the Fidesz rhetoric and misleading propaganda, the reality is that in terms of effectiveness, they barely intend to spend on this at all. HUF 160 billion from the so-called Recovery Fund and a total of some 774 billion from the Operational Programme for the Environment and Energy Efficiency Plus (KEHOP); it is important to note that the latter is to be stretched over the next seven years.
It is also noteworthy that the framework of approximately HUF 934 billion still does not include a comprehensive building energy efficiency programme for a wide range of households, based on a generalised preferential scheme. The government documents sent to the European Commission (made public so far) show that the Fidesz government plans to build only “27,000 more energy- efficient homes”; and only by 2029. Just to give you a comparison: the amount of money the government is now spending on buying Vodafone with your money could be used to fully upgrade the homes of roughly 100,000 families. That’s almost four times the total amount the government is committing to over the next seven years.
It should be added, of course, that the plans include funding for a residential solar panel programme, but the alarming fact remains that the government has not developed a comprehensive energy efficiency programme that would enable and support the complete insulation of residential buildings, the replacement of windows and doors, and the installation of new energy-efficient technologies (such as heat pumps). The “chance for ever-lower overheads” programme that we are calling for does not mean artificially keeping energy prices low through government regulation (otherwise unsustainable), but rather achieving more efficient and sustainable energy use through subsidized investment.
The government’s job is to act, not just to produce self-aggrandizing social media posts. If Fidesz really puts Hungary first, it will not only look after its already wealthy, privileged elite, but all Hungarians too. We expect the government to finally make public its commitments to the European Union; to change its plans for the use of EU funds according to the country’s real problems; and to finally start providing solutions to people’s everyday problems after twelve years of arrogant scrounging. That is what we, the real left, would do.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
4 September, 2022.