Ujhelyi: the deal in Brussels is the opportunity to Hungary for “eternal reduction of overheads”

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pexels-led-supermarket-577514“The compromise negotiated in Brussels is a good one; moreover, it creates the opportunity for the ‘permanent reduction of overheads’ in Hungary, which we will demand from the government.” This is how István Ujhelyi assessed the decision on the Russian oil embargo in his video message published in the early hours this morning. The MSZP MEP recalled that he had previously advocated, and even initiated himself, that Hungary should not accept the original sanctions package, as it was contrary to Hungarian interests. However, Ujhelyi also called for an agreement as soon as possible, which, according to the Socialist politician, was only reached in the end because, unlike the Hungarian Prime Minister, the leaders of the other Member States were prepared to make real compromises.
“The task is a big one, because Hungary has now also been given a huge opportunity, the chance for a ‘permanent reduction of overheads’ and to break the current energy dependency is here. This should have been done even if there had been no war, but the current situation and the European Union are now forcing the Hungarian government to do it,” Ujhelyi said. The Social Democrat politician stressed that it is both an “opportunity and a responsibility” to create energy independence as part of the largest programme in the history of the European Union, mobilizing some €200 billion, by making a substantial switch to renewable and sustainable sources, and reduce energy consumption in buildings by 50-60 per cent through a comprehensive modernization programme for all households and public institutions, without any co-payments. “We will demand this from the government, which has the responsibility to implement the ‘permanent reduction of overheads’ programme we have advocated, and we will hold them accountable,” István Ujhelyi said on his social media page.

Budapest/Brussels – 31/05/2022

Is new era of health policy governance really beginning?

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 All Hungarians are entitled to equal access to health! In the fifth Orbán government, several ministries declaredly deal with finances, but none of them have people and human policy as a key concern – a clear indication of what Fidesz’s real priorities are.
While we, the left-wing, social democrats, put people first, the illiberal power puts money first. Despite the fact that, as a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health, I myself, during the election campaign, firmly demanded that there be an independent Ministry of Health in the next cabinet, I do not think it entirely absurd that the Ministry of the Interior should now be responsible for the political management of the sector.  It is not so much the structure, but the intention, accountability and effectiveness that really matter. It is for this reason that I have today sent a long letter to Peter Takács, the new Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Interior, who is responsible for the political management of health. I indicated that, although as an opposition politician I am strongly critical of and dissatisfied with the current government’s policies, I am sufficiently and obligingly open to his appointment for the time being. Indeed, I am confident that the new Secretary of State will soon prove that he is truly committed to being a dedicated representative and leader of the health sector, which is a priority for government attention, and will move beyond the patronizing routines and shameful practices of the previous administration. Unfortunately, his predecessors have demonstrated the opposite in recent years: they have swept policy proposals of high priority for the country’s health care system off the table without meaningful dialogue or debate, illegally concealed and withheld data of public interest, deliberately misled public opinion on EU epidemic management, and knowingly or unknowingly assisted in the implementation of shady government health care procurements that clearly smell of corruption. It is in all our interests that the health sector is run effectively by its leadership that bears the interests of both the workers in the sector and people in general in mind and which can represent health effectively in government. We will soon see what Secretary of State Takács and Minister Pintér can achieve in this regard.
In my letter to the new government official in charge, I have summarized in five points the issues and questions to which the previous ministry leadership has blatantly refused to provide substantive answers or has simply illegally concealed the requested data. In my letter, I asked Secretary of State Péter Takács to provide adequate information on these pressing issues as soon as possible, in order to restore at a minimum the severely damaged credibility and integrity of the health administration. I reminded him that the government has refused on several occasions in the past to disclose strategic health programmes, such as the National Cancer Control Programme. This is a disgrace and a serious disadvantage, for example, when I am fighting for increased EU funding for Hungarian cancer targets in Brussels. But so too does the health government owe us details of the circumstances surrounding EU vaccine procurement, which are being illegally withheld; for this, even the NAIH (National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information) investigation censured the now-defunct Ministry of Human Capacities. Thirdly, I pointed out to the new Secretary of State that to date, vaccination data for covid patients are not fully public, and are routinely withheld by government institutions, despite being of considerable value to both the public and the profession. In the same letter, I asked the Secretary of State whether he agreed that the National Vaccine Factory being built would only produce Chinese and Russian vaccines for the time being, and whether he intended to make the preliminary agreements on this matter public. Finally, I drew the attention of the new government decision-maker to the fact that during the epidemic period there were numerous public procurements of equipment that raised serious allegations of corruption and which are still awaiting a substantive review. In my letter, I cited as an example the 3.1 billion forint state procurement for rapid tests, which was won by the newly founded company of a former Fidesz politician and which was sold shortly afterwards to a young man in his twenties living in a village in Borsod County. I drew the attention of Péter Takács to the fact that clarification of these matters and questions (even if they may not necessarily be his responsibility within the new government structure) is essential for decent governance. If you want to start with a clean slate, you need a clear situation. I trust that the new Secretary of State will prove that the era of deliberate obstruction of public information in the health administration is over.
After the Hungarian Prime Minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos proclaiming 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 regime that has been created. I am ringing the bells of alarm for the 353rd time and will do so for as long as it seems necessary. Because we must give revival and a shared homeland a chance.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
29 May, 2022.

MEP Ujhelyi proposes introduction of “food-coupon” to Orbán-government

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foodcpIstván Ujhelyi is calling on the government to introduce a monthly coupon worth twenty thousand forints, redeemable only for basic foodstuffs.
The MSZP MEP spoke about this at his online press conference on Tuesday, where he said that in view of the pressing inflation situation, he proposes the introduction of an electronic ticket system for single-parent families, families with at least two children, pensioners with lower incomes, the severely disabled, the homeless and the unemployed on social welfare, the entitlement to which he would also extend to students receiving social grants. According to Ujhelyi, this monthly voucher, which would only be granted until the end of the inflation crisis, would be redeemable only for basic foodstuffs and consumer durables.
“Hungarians must be given a chance to make a living. We have been hit by an insane monetary crisis, which we are not accustomed to, where wages and pensions simply cannot keep up with this inflationary pressure”; Ujhelyi said. The Socialist MEP pointed out that the European Commission had recently been forced to make negative changes to its forecasts for inflation and growth in Hungary, and that there has already been a significant shift in food prices: bread and poultry meat are 30% more expensive, dairy products cost over 20% more, and eggs, for example, are 25% more expensive.
According to Ujhelyi, the announcement by the Fidesz prime minister that the price freeze already introduced for previously defined foodstuffs will be extended is not enough: much more is needed. The Social Democrat politician added that the introduction of food coupons was raised by former MSZP politician Zoltán Gőgös in an earlier interview, and recently the Romanian government introduced a similar measure, helping more than three million people in need to make ends meet. Ujhelyi pointed out that Romania is basically providing this support from EU funds, which the Hungarian government could do if it could finally agree on the release of the EU funds Hungary is entitled to. “If the government joins the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, if it puts the rule of law in order, then the funds will be freed up and we can expect to receive around 18 thousand billion forints in subsidies in the coming years. “As an MEP, I take responsibility and pledge that if the government will be less arrogant and less combative, and if it will come to an agreement with the European Union, we will find the resources to provide this significant support in the form of a voucher to the people concerned”; Ujhelyi said, adding that he would ask the MSZP parliamentary group to submit proposals related to the introduction of the food voucher to the House.

Budapest/Brussels – 17/05/2022

Five Tasks for Fifth Orbán Government

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tasksTomorrow, 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.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
15 May 2022.

Ujhelyi sends national tricolour earrings to Katalin Novák for her inauguration

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giftMEP István Ujhelyi sent earrings depicting the national tricolour of Hungary to Katalin Novák on the occasion of her inauguration today. Alluding to occasions in the past when Katalin Novák appeared at political events of the governing party wearing earrings with the inscription “Fidesz” and “OV22”;, the Social Democrat politician wanted to draw the attention of the new President to the fact that after taking office she is no longer the public dignitary of a certain political community, but of the entire Hungarian nation.
In a covering letter published on his social networking site, Ujhelyi wrote to President Katalin Novák that although her election was overshadowed by her previous party political activity and the fact that she had accepted the votes of government party members under criminal prosecution, “an opposition MEP, leaving behind the rejectionist political attitude”; he approached the new President’s inauguration “in a sufficiently open-minded manner”; Ujhelyi noted that he was confident that Katalin Novák would prove in her first days that she would not keep the interests of her former party in mind, but those of the entire Hungarian nation, and that as President of the Republic she would be “an active defender of the republic against political intentions that have been undermining the values of the republic and weakening the rule of law in the past decade”. According to the left-wing MEP, the symbolic gift sent for the inauguration will remind Katalin Novák of this.

Budapest – 14/05/2022

Ujhelyi: new Hungarian national plan needed for use of EU Recovery Fund

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signal-2022-05-12-080240_001Exactly one year ago today, the Hungarian government submitted to Brussels a national plan for the use of EU recovery funds, but the document has not been approved by the European Commission to date.

The reason is that the draft submitted by the Fidesz government did not meet expectations either in content or in its adoption without substantive and wide-ranging consultation, but the constantly upheld objections to the rule of law situation in Hungary have also contributed to the freezing of funds.
Hungary is entitled to some HUF 2,500 billion of EU money from the recovery fund, which is much needed by Hungarian people and the Hungarian economy. The gravity of the situation is well illustrated by the fact that only two of the 26 Member States’ drafts submitted to the European Commission, the Polish and the Hungarian, have not yet been adopted, and neighbouring countries are already in the lead, having received substantial amounts from this envelope: Romania has already claimed and used HUF 700 billion, Slovakia HUF 310 billion and Croatia, for example, HUF 311 billion in non-refundable aid.
The Hungarian government urgently needs to make a change and present a new national plan to the European Commission. As a MEP representing the left, I am also making a concrete proposal: instead of the commitments in the original document, three issues should receive priority political attention and support from the Fund. I propose that a significant amount of this funding be used to implement the “permanent reduction of overheads” through energy efficiency and the mass, targeted modernization of housing. I propose that the government introduce means tested food vouchers for a limited range of basic foodstuffs to counter the crippling impacts of inflation on the most vulnerable in society. I propose that the freely usable amounts of the Recovery Fund be used to make immediate, one thousand billion forint improvements in the health sector, especially on the human resources side, i.e. spend substantial sums on wage improvements and better working conditions. I expect the government to finalize the new national based on the results of deep and meaningful consultation with local authorities and professional organizations, contrary to its previous practice.
If the government is prepared to take action on this, then as a Hungarian MEP I will support the swift mobilization of resources.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Budapest/Brussels – 12.05.2022

Russian Oil-Embargo: jump in at the deep end only if we can swim!

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sancThis may come as a surprise to many, but as a Hungarian MEP, I will only be able to support an restrictive measures on Russian oil or sanctions on energy imports under strict conditions. My position is that we should only jump in at the deep end once we can swim, or at least have a lifebelt around our waist.
In the coming days, the European Union is expected to present its new raft of sanctions against Russia that is waging a war of bloodshed as an aggressor, and this package will probably also include items relating to a kind of oil embargo as a further step. There is no question that, in order to achieve peace as soon as possible, we must be able to use all possible means to restrain Putin as a united front. There is also no question that it is unacceptable and untenable that we are indirectly financing the war crimes of the Russian aggressor by buying fossil fuels. However, restrictions on energy resources have not only political and moral but also substantive economic implications, which can only be radically implemented if the European Community can provide adequate guarantees for Member States that may be disadvantaged by the restrictions, such as Hungary. Therefore, I can only support extreme sanctions if we receive adequate compensation and support from the European Community, and if the Hungarian Government also takes immediate steps to ensure that we can process as much raw material as possible from alternative sources to Russian oil, thereby ensuring security of supply for both the public and the industry. We would, of course, be in a much better position if the Fidesz government had used its extraordinary mandate over the past twelve years to reduce our energy dependence on Russia and to promote the spread of renewable and sustainable alternative energy sources. I firmly maintain that sanctions on energy carriers must follow the principle of gradual implementation in the interests of vulnerable European Member States, and that there can be no common European solution without representing the interests of Hungarian society.
In recent days, I have written an official letter to the European Commission to urge them to take into account the specific circumstances of the Member States in connection with the embargo on oil imports and to seek a compromise in the sanctions package. This instrument is only effective if it is precisely targeted. If it misleads, it will only do greater damage.

István Ujhelyi MEP
Vice-Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism
Budapest/Brussels – 30.04.2022.