The Hungarian prime minister recently boasted like a proud little rooster before the pro-government public, claiming he had managed to fight for the exclusion of the rule of law mechanism from the elements of the EU budget agreement.
However, Viktor Orbán was tricked in Brussels, and it has now become clear and final that there will be rule of law control over EU money, and that it will be even stricter than Fidesz had previously hoped. The interests of Hungary and the European Union now collide against the power machine of Orbán.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also made it clear in the plenary debate that the protection of EU funds and respect for the rule of law go hand in hand, and that this mechanism can be enforced by agreement between the Prime Ministers. The President of the European Commission has confirmed that they will again consult the 2018 rule of law proposal, which could put the Hungarian Prime Minister, who relies on his illiberal allies, in a difficult position. According to the proposal, possible sanctions can only be voted down by a qualified majority in the body comprised of the Heads of State and Government.
It is also extremely spectacular how a large majority of the European Parliament, in contrast to the conduct of Fidesz, adopted a joint resolution expressing a critical opinion on the budgetary agreement of the Heads of State and Government. The EP has shown a clear and decisive path towards the necessary increase in resources for future-oriented goals (e.g. healthcare, climate protection) and the strengthening of the rule of law criteria. Viktor Orbán trying to present himself as the hero of his folk tales is all in vain; he is now more like the losing black knight of the film The Holy Grail.
Brussels – 23/07/2020
Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi sent a joint letter to the Ministers and State Secretaries of Culture in all EU Member States. The letter was also signed by Urs Pilz, President of Fédération Mondiale du Cirque and the European Circus Association with the executive and managing directors of the organizations. The signatories call on policy makers to pay special attention to helping the cultural sector, which, alongside tourism, has suffered the heaviest losses as a result of the restrictions that had to be introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.
They also draws attention to the fact that, thanks to EU measures, considerable resources are now at the disposal of the governments of the Member States for recovery. The letter pointed out that part of the rescue package (“NextGenerationEU”) originally proposed by the European Commission and currently discussed by the EU Heads of Government was a multi-hundred billion euro budget framework (“Recovery and Resilience Facility”), part of which Member States will be able to use as non-refundable funds and the other part as a soft loan. In the joint letter, the Hungarian MEP and the leaders of European circus world, among other things, calls on the governments of the Member States to accept the proposal of the EU Commissioner for Culture Mariya Gabriel and spend at least 2 percent of this framework specifically on rescuing and helping those affected by the crisis in the cultural sector.
“Even two percent of this soon-to-be-finalized budget amounts to billions of euros, which could already provide meaningful help and relief to the European players in the entertainment industry, such as musicians, actors, dancers, event organizers, technical background staff and, of course, circus artists and performers, who are often left off this list. Should the recovery package be adopted with no head of state or government vetoing it as blackmail, this money will soon be available to decision-makers in the Member States. From then on, it is their responsibility and duty to distribute this EU public money in a targeted way, to the sectoral players genuinely in need of these funds. I trust that this is how it will happen everywhere” said MEP Ujhelyi.
Brussels – 20/07/2020
After the European Parliament has adopted by a large majority the resolution on the public health strategy and the concept of the European Health Union advocated by MSZP, the party’s MEP will tour the country to personally seek the views of the municipalities, professional and non-governmental organizations concerned. This is what one of the creators of the healthcare concept, MEP István Ujhelyi announced at his online press conference on Saturday.
As is well known, on Friday, the European Parliament adopted a document containing, among other things, proposals made by the MSZP politician, such as the definition of minimum standards for quality healthcare and the conduct of related stress tests in the Member States.
At the briefing, István Ujhelyi reminded that not only the Hungarian Medical Chamber, but also several other Hungarian and European professional NGOs helped to develop the basic concept. The MSZP representative emphasized that the aim of the proposal was not to relieve the government of its powers in the field of health, but to ensure that through stronger European coordination, an increased budget and specific quality requirements the same level of services be available in all EU Member States.
According to Ujhelyi, there are unsustainable imbalances and inequalities in the quality of healthcare systems, and these must be reduced by introducing quality standards. “It is untenable that while in Germany there are twelve nurses for a thousand people, in Hungary, only six. In Germany, there is three times less chance of someone getting a fatal hospital infection than in our country. It is untenable that more than twenty-five thousand nurses are missing from Hungarian healthcare and over seven thousand doctors have left Hungarian institutions.
Just as it is untenable that, according to an expert report, there has recently been a year in which the lives of at least thirty-two thousand people could have been saved with a better and timelier care system and more effective public healthcare interventions. This is the population of a smaller town,” Ujhelyi said. The European politician of MSZP also emphasized that Hungary currently spends half of the EU average on healthcare. This clearly shows the attitude of the government, which has sole responsibility for the sector.
At the press conference, István Ujhelyi asked the government to support the implementation of the European Health Union and, for example, to be among the first to perform the stress test that shows the weak points of the Hungarian care system.
MSZP’s European politician also called on the government not to resort to “blackmail” regarding EU Recovery Funding, as it also jeopardizes the achievement of the nearly € 10 billion budget that Member States will be able to spend on healthcare development.
Budapest – 11/07/2020
A five-party cooperation has lined up behind the concept of the “European Health Union.” The EU public health strategy, which also provides quality care for Hungarian people, is expected to be adopted by a large majority at the European Parliament’s plenary session, said one of the developers of the concept Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi at his online press conference on Wednesday.
The MSZP politician pointed out that the related document is being jointly submitted by the S&D Group, the European People’s Party, and the Liberal ReNew Group, but the Greens and the far-left GUE Group have also joined the resolution. The debate on the document will take place on Wednesday at the Brussels institution and the final vote will take place on Friday.
“One of my most important commitments as a re-elected MEP for this parliamentary term was to lay a proposal for a set of criteria for improving the quality of healthcare on the table of European decision-makers, thus supporting Hungarian people’s access to healthcare and improving the quality of Hungarian healthcare in general. The coronavirus epidemic has accelerated events and, with the support of the S&D Group, we can already lay the foundations for this program,” said Ujhelyi, stressing that it is unacceptable that there are significant differences in the quality of healthcare systems in EU Member States, and it is also untenable that patients receive a different level of service in Hungary, depending on where they apply for care.
According to the Socialist politician, the joint resolution calls on the European institutions and the Member States to learn from the lessons of the virus and develop a much stronger cooperation in the area of health and “create a European Health Union.” The latter concept is also the name of the reform package previously adopted by the S&D Group, which includes the creation of a framework of minimum quality requirements that guarantees quality care, patient safety and decent working conditions for healthcare workers, while preserving Member States’ competences.
Regarding the resolution, Ujhelyi also emphasized that the document recorded the fact of serious imbalances between Member States’ care systems and the risk of inequalities in Member States due to the emigration of health professionals as a historic breakthrough. The European politician of MSZP added that it was an important achievement that EUR 9.4 billion had been allocated in the European reconstruction package to finance health programs, which is multiple times the amount spent in this area in previous budgets.
“The resolution also states that the level of resources allocated to health in the next seven-year EU budget cannot be limited, as long-term investments and commitments are needed: targeted EU funding, for example on strengthening hospital infrastructure and health services, and all this based on clear criteria,” said István Ujhelyi, concluding that he was confident that the healthcare resolution he initiated would receive a large majority and that there would be no Hungarian MEP to vote against the document.
Brussels – 08/07/2020
Viktor Orbán and his government are deliberately weakening the forint and profiting from it at the expense of Hungarian people, while keeping Hungary away from joining the eurozone against Hungarian interests and contrary to their own former creed. This is more than a crime. The introduction of the euro is not a matter of choice, but our commitment, which we undertook by signing the accession treaty. Fidesz has been babbling about the common currency for years and always relates to the introduction of the euro according to the temporary financial interests of its most favoured oligarchs. In its 2009 but still valid European Parliament program, Fidesz blamed previous governments precisely because they did not consider the introduction of the euro a priority.
“In the current financial and economic crisis, the euro has passed the test and proved to be a stable currency (…) If the current crisis had hit Hungary within the eurozone, there would have been no forint crisis in the first place. Secondly, loans taken by households in foreign currency would not have become more expensive (…) Every effort must be made, therefore, to make Hungary a member of the euro area as soon as possible (…), the Maastricht convergence criteria for the introduction of the euro must not be disputed, but met” – goes the wording of the program. Moreover, according to the document, Fidesz believes that “the introduction of the euro will also be an important feat of arms for national self-esteem.”
If they did not lie then, then the current government policy simply cannot be interpreted in any other way than Viktor Orbán and Fidesz having renounced the strengthening of national self-esteem for simple, primitive profiteering.
A few years ago, the then secretary of state and current finance minister, Mihály Varga said that joining the euro zone would not be worthwhile for Hungary for the time being, “however, if other countries from our region enter the zone, Hungary cannot be left out, either.” So it would seem the minister either does not read the news or has already forgotten his previous commitment, as after the Slovaks and Slovenes, Bulgaria and Croatia have now announced that this year they will join ERM2, which is considered the gateway to the euro and adopt the single currency in 2023.
By not even setting a target date for the introduction of the euro, even though according to the latest surveys more than 65 percent of Hungarian society would support it, the government clearly and unequivocally goes against Hungarian interests. This way Hungary is left out of the inner circle of the core countries and is excluded from certain decisions, and does not benefit from their advantages and protective network.
Back in 2004, as an opposition leader, Viktor Orbán said: “a weaker forint means a weaker state, and only weak people can wish for a weak forint.” He also added that the weakening of the forint by the government is in fact a simple theft, because it is “stealing money out of people’s pockets” when their salaries are devalued. When Fidesz took power in 2010, the exchange rate of the euro was just over 280 forints, and now (when it is said the golden age is here thanks to the government), the exchange rate is already at 356 forints for a single euro, reaching an historic peak. So much for the national self-esteem mentioned by Fidesz and the weak state of Viktor Orbán.
After the Hungarian PM’s landmark speech in Tusványos in 2014, in which he proclaimed his desire to turn Hungary into an illiberal state, I pledged to draw the public’s attention to the transgressions of this regime in an open letter every week. This is the 253rd time I ring the bells of alarm, as it still seems necessary. And also, because as a radical European Democrat, it is my duty to do so.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
5 July, 2020