Put Healthcare at Heart of Hungarian EU Presidency!

We will be hosting the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union at a time of both high priority and transition this July. It will be a priority period, because we will be just after the EP elections and political deals and positions will still be in full swing, with new power relations between political groups and institutional leaders taking shape. Oddly enough, but precisely for this reason, the Hungarian Presidency may even be overshadowed by a certain weightlessness, since it is exactly these internal tug-of-war processes, the composition and voting of the new European Commission, and the final drive for positioning that will distract attention from legislative processes and issues.

That is why I recently formulated my proposal to use the Hungarian Presidency to show the best side of our shared homeland. Let us use it to prove that Hungary is not equal to the NER elite, not equal to Orbán’s insane policies and that even Fidesz is capable of self-reflection if it wants to be. Yes, I know it’s a rather naive idea – especially after some Fidesz politicians have already said that the focus of the Hungarian presidency will be on migration and ‘draining the Brussels swamp’; bravo – but as a dedicated bridge-builder and political witness, I will make a few attempts at something useful and normal.

I firmly believe that one of the priorities of the Hungarian Presidency should be health and its management at EU level. This will be an opportunity, which will not come back for a long time, to organise – depending on the broad political noise – a dialogue on the move towards integrated action for the quality and safety of public health care. Few people know (certainly not the anti-EU agitators in the comment sections) that, within EU competences, the financing and organisation of healthcare is the exclusive competence of the Member States. This means that everything that happens in and related to the healthcare system is the sole responsibility of national governments.

The European Union can give advice, guidance and support, but it has no say in the way and quality of how a Member State organises its own publichealth care, or how much it spends on it. In recent years, I have invested a great deal of energy in trying to change this – primarily in order to improve the quality of care in Hungary – or at least to start a meaningful dialogue on the revision of EU competence in this area. I have achieved, and we have achieved, notable results, since, as a Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health, I was able to participate in and partly initiate, among other things, the European Health Union programme, which also includes the minimum quality requirements system that is planned to be guaranteed in all Member States in the future.

Several European Parliament resolutions already include the initiative and the need for Member States to carry out the stress tests necessary for implementation – full implementation, however, still needs a lot of work. The Hungarian Presidency would provide an excellent opportunity to take this forward and – surprise, surprise – if the Hungarian Government were open to this, I would be ready to cooperate on a professional basis. After all, this is in the interests of all Europeans, including Hungarians. Or it would be, to be precise. If only the Hungarian government were open to it and would not cry „anti-Hungarian conspiracy” and „infringement of sovereignty” for every reform that would improve the situation.

I have previously contacted the Hungarian government in futility about the implementation of the guidelines contained in the EP resolution on the European Health Union. (Only Sándor Pintér received me and listened to my position on this at the beginning of the term, but his colleagues responsible for the field have not paid any attention to my arguments since then) I would have liked to know, for example, when and how the Hungarian government intends to implement the sectorial „stress test”, which will show the weak points of the care system and by comparing the status diagrams, the EU can develop a common European quality requirements system. The then State Secretary for Health simply replied that „the Hungarian care system is under constant scrutiny” and that any „EU action can only be taken in respect of the competences of Member States.” In other words, they are also making this a sovereignty issue and are not supporting a European quality system that would set minimum standards for all Member States, including Hungary. The latter, incidentally, would clearly improve the quality of care and patient safety in our shared homeland. Yet the Fidesz government will not have it for the time being, because it does not want to be told how much its care system should spend as a minimum, how much its hospital debt should be, for example, or whether it needs toilet paper in its clinics. They will be the judges of what the Hungarian people need, and the EU should not interfere. I think they are wrong. And at the very least, if we are to hold the EU presidency, we should minimum support a calm, professional dialogue on the matter. Or would that also be a sovereignty problem?


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