We Must Not Leave Tourism Sector Behind!


pexels-oleksandr-pidvalnyi-1008155We are celebrating World Tourism Day for the 42nd time, but there is little cause for celebration. The sector, which provides more than twenty-five million jobs in Europe and guarantees the livelihood of at least 400,000 workers in Hungary, was just trying to recover from the severe economic damage caused by the covid pandemic, but the deepening subsistence and overheads crisis, especially in our country, is once again driving the sector to the bottom of the barrel.
The post-opening summer season has already been meaningfully strong, and there is visible progress in global tourism, but the sector needs much more time and much more attention to fully reboot and, above all, to operate sustainably. The flurry of chaos in air transport, small and medium-sized enterprises on the verge of bankruptcy, services being closed down one after the other, spiraling overheads and an unforeseeable future all make it clear that European decision-makers and national governments must not leave the tourism sector behind.
As Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament’s Commission for Tourism, I firmly maintain that it is time to prioritize sustainability, environmental and social aspects in the sector, as well as find a balance between stimulating and serving government measures. It is beyond dispute that the sector and the millions of families who depend on it need a permanent crisis management structure and meaningful EU budgetary support to survive and thrive.
There is no question that we need to support the digital switchover as widely and as quickly as possible, as well as more resources for training and education to ensure that the right numbers of workers can be replaced. But there is also no doubt that in the current severe economic crisis, governments need to ensure that there is a ‘perpetual overheads cut’ for service providers in the sector through investments that increase and maintain energy efficiency.
Tourism is an industry of peace that guarantees the livelihoods of millions of European families and contributes at least 10% of the European Union’s GDP. That is why the tourism sector deserves special attention and support – and not just on World Tourism Day!

István Ujhelyi MEP
Vice-Chairman of the EP Committee on Transport and Tourism
UNWTO Ambassador Extraordinary
Budapest/Brussels – 27/09/2022

If Government Wants Meaningful Consultation, It Will Also Ask These Questions!


DSC_5871-1-scaledOnce again, the government is going back to the tried and tested political recipe: a national consultation on sanctions against Russia. The intention is obvious (and only those of blind faith fail to see it): to burn into people’s minds as deeply as possible the Fidesz logic that everything bad is caused by ‘Brussels sanctions.’
They want to get it into our heads even more that if someone cannot pay their electricity bill, it is Brussels’ fault; if children in kindergartens only get half a bun, it is really Ursula von der Leyen who eats the other half; if half of someone’s pension is already gone with a normal shopping trip to the market, it is also the European Union’s fault. It is the same old recipe they have been working with for twelve years: everyone is evil, everyone is stupid, everyone is to blame but them. Clearly, the all-time low of this genre was when they tried to make Hungarians believe that EU funds were not coming because the Orbán government was resisting Brussels’ intention to have kindergarten boys turned into little girls. The current propaganda is undoubtedly more plausible and effective than that: the ‘misguided Brussels sanctions’ have caused the rise in utility bills, no one has asked the people about them and the Russians have not yet kneeled down from them, so it all makes no sense. And yet, in many places, this logic is quite flawed, too.
For example, it is a gross hoax to cite the war alone as the trigger for the escalation of the cost of fuel, since the petrol price cap was introduced at the beginning of November last year and the decision to fix the price of certain foodstuffs was taken in January this year. This could not have been due to the war, which only started at the end of February this year, meaning that the price caps had to be introduced regardless of Russian aggression and any subsequent sanctions, mainly because of the volatile euro-forint exchange rate and galloping inflation caused by the war against Brussels.So even the very premise of the sanctions is a gross misrepresentation, and it is a downright lie that the ‘Brussels elite’ decided on the sanctions without Hungarians, since the Hungarian government representatives, such as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the European Council, voted for all seven sanctions packages. Each and every one of them. There could also be a substantive debate about how much the sanctions are hurting Putin: no one is arguing that the war is not having a negative impact on the European economy, including that of Hungary, but factual analysis and apparent events all confirm the effectiveness of the sanctions. Why else would Putin call for their abolition in his energy blackmail?
Coming back to the planned national consultation, let us make one thing clear: when there are children freezing to death in Hungarian schools, when Hungarian families are facing a deepening crisis of living standards, it is not customary to buy a mobile phone company worth hundreds of billions of forints with public money, nor is it appropriate to launch propaganda campaigns worth tens of billions of forints. Every single forint belongs to the Hungarian people, so that they can get through the coming months as easily as possible: at a time like this, throwing away billions on knowingly targeted party political campaigns is more than inhumane.
But, if the government cannot be deterred from seeking unnecessary, false self-justification to continue its war in Brussels, they should at least have the decency to ask substantive questions. As a Hungarian MEP, I propose the following questions to the Fidesz government, for example, expecting them to be asked during the forthcoming consultation. These are real questions to which the government can get real answers. Provided that this is their aim.

1. Many people are not aware that 7 sanctions packages have already been adopted by the governments of the European Union Member States, including Hungary. The vast majority of these do not include restrictions on energy supplies, but rather, for example, restrictions on the travel of Russian political leaders and oligarchs, freezing their European bank accounts, banning the import of certain goods and equipment for export to cripple the Russian economy, restricting the transport of goods in transit, banning air transport, making it difficult for Russian and Belarusian banks to operate, freezing the reserves of the Russian National Bank or, for example, silencing the Russian propaganda media. The Fidesz government says all sanctions should be lifted by the end of the year. Some say this would only serve the interests of Putin and his business circles. Which do you agree with?

2. Fidesz claims that the Brussels sanctions are wrong and they were created by the “Brussels elite” alone. The fact is that the Hungarian government has indeed promised to veto several sanctions packages if its own position is not respected: in the case of the sixth sanctions package, for example, the Fidesz government lobbied – successfully, by the way – to remove Patriarch Kirill, an important ally of Putin, from the EU sanctions list. Some argue that the Hungarian government negotiated the EU sanctions inefficiently and not necessarily in the interests of the Hungarian people alone. Do you agree that if the government thinks the Brussels sanctions are wrong, Fidesz is really attacking its own decisions?

3. The government’s national consultation on the energy crisis aims to get Hungarian people’s views. Hungary currently charges a 27% VAT rate on both electricity and gas, and significantly higher prices mean significantly higher revenues for the government, meaning that the more energy costs, the more the state makes from it thanks to the high VAT rate. Some argue that it is time to cut the VAT rate on electricity and gas to five per cent or even zero, following the practice in other European countries. Do you agree with this initiative or would you rather continue to pay the record high VAT rates to the government?

4. According to an earlier announcement by the Fidesz government, a long-term gas contract has been signed with Russia, which “protects Hungarian consumers from gas price increases.” That said, the price of gas will still rise sevenfold. Some say the government lied about cheap gas and is profiteering from this, too. What do you think?

5. Paks is currently able to supply the entire population with electricity at a price of around 12 forints per kilowatt-hour, while the state sells the electricity generated here to local authorities for 462 forints per kilowatt-hour and to the Hungarian population for over 70 forints per kilowatt-hour, which is a multiple and unjustified increase. Why do you think the Fidesz state is profiteering from the Hungarian people and Hungarian municipalities? Some people say that in the current situation, electricity produced in Paks should be provided to both the population and the municipalities at the price of 12 forints. Do you agree with this or would you like to continue to pay a multiple and unjustified price?

6. Some argue that in times of social crisis, it is essential to address social problems in a prioritised way. Do you agree that families who have already been disconnected for one reason or another should be able to reconnect their electricity free of charge, and that a moratorium on disconnection should be introduced for the duration of the crisis, extending it beyond families to small and medium-sized enterprises, municipalities and NGOs?

7. Food prices in Hungary are rising at record rates and at a rapid pace, with bread, for example, up by 66% in one month: a rise that has not been recorded anywhere else in Europe. An earlier proposal was to provide a 20,000 HUF per month “Chance Coupon” food allowance to those in social need, mainly single-parent families, pensioners on low pensions, people with severe disabilities and those on social welfare. Do you agree that the state must provide real and tangible help in the face of the crisis?

These are real questions that beg real answers. Do you think they will also be asked in the consultation questionnaires? Rhetorical question.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
25 September, 2022.



55744553_10156935169916093_1808588497594875904_oOn Sunday, the 45-day deadline for the two relevant government ministries to answer questions about Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz delegation’s recent trip to the US, which they had requested due to the emergency, expired. However, no reply has been received this time either, so as of today, they are now hiding and withholding data of public interest in this matter, in defiance of the laws they themselves have passed.
As I have previously reported, I sent an official request for data to the relevant ministries at the beginning of August, because in that month, prominent members of Fidesz were traveling to the United States for a conservative party political conference and were not overseas to discuss state affairs. If, on the other hand, it was an explicitly party political programme, financed by Hungarian taxpayers, then the minimum expectation is that the government at least accounts for its details and costs. In my public interest request, I asked for information in accordance with the law on who exactly accompanied Viktor Orbán to the United States and in what capacity, what the source of the expenses was, or what clear and unambiguous public interest justified the trip in a private government aircraft, which is said to be a military transport plane.
The government authorities first waited until the statutory 15-day deadline to respond had expired, and then wrote to me to say that they would only send a reply within 45 days because to do so within 15 days would “jeopardize the performance of public duties in the context of the emergency.” They have the legal possibility of doing so, thanks to the amendment to the law that Fidesz has squeezed into the existing provisions. Now, however, after 45 days, they have still not sent a substantive and credible response to the public interest data request, which means that they are no longer complying with their own laws. I will look into the legal options available to me, because from now on, it is a matter of principle that they should account for the full expenses of Fidesz leaders and their entourage.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Budapest/Brussels – 19/9/2022

Ujhelyi: EU Officials Not New to Game, Either! 


14097“It is not the Orbán government that has won with the Brussels decision, but a European Hungary,” this is how Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi assessed the latest decision of the European Commission. In an online press conference on Tuesday, the politician said that the Fidesz government had backed down for the moment, admitted its own previous guilt and had undertaken to comply with the law. Ujhelyi added, however, that EU officials are not “new to the game” and were only putting the Hungarian government to the test, saying that if it does not implement real and far-reaching changes by mid-November, we could indeed lose the EU funding earmarked for us.
By calling the negotiations a success after the decision to withdraw 3,000 billion forints of money, saying that the proposals put forward by the Hungarian government “remedy the concerns”, Justice Minister Judit Varga, in effect admitted herself that the EU and the Hungarian opposition’s previous objections to the rule of law and the use of public funds were justified, the European politician said. “The European Commission’s investigation and decision confirmed that over the past twelve years Orbán and his pals have acted against the EU’s budgetary interests and thus against the interests of Hungarian taxpayers,” the MEP pointed out.
At the press conference, Ujhelyi said that he was rooting for Hungary to receive every single EU subsidy, which is in the interest of every Hungarian citizen in opposition, too. However, if the country loses a single euro cent, it will be the sole responsibility of the Fidesz government. He added, however, that he would not accept any sham measures from the government and would support any demand from Brussels to improve the rule of law in Hungary. The MEP said that he was politically in favour of signing the cooperation agreement and ending EU investigations, but that every day he would be “breathing down the government’s neck” to expose it if necessary if the commitments they made to the EU were only a way to trick the EU and Hungarian citizens.

Budapest/Brussels – 20/9/2022

Frozen Funds: Every Eurocent Lost Responsibility of Fidesz! 


bravoToday the European Commission has taken a decision on the rule of law in Hungary and the freezing of funds to our country, marking the end of an important stage in the senseless battle of Orbán against the European Community. They have proposed to freeze resources worth over 3000 billion forints, that is, more than half of the funding for operational programmes. Never before in the history of the European Union has the Commission formally proposed financial sanctions against a Member State for its failure to respect the rule of law. The Prime Minister of Fidesz and his regime have brought shame on our shared country by making Hungary the first to suffer this procedure and this sanction in this form. This is the sole responsibility of Fidesz.
In the midst of a crisis of subsistence, the governing party keeps claiming that ‘war inflation’ is the cause of the fluctuating euro-forint exchange rate, the spiraling cost of housing and utilities. It is true that Putin’s aggression is having a substantial negative impact on financial market developments, but Hungary’s economic crisis started much earlier and is deepening not because of Russia’s war but because of Orbán’s war in Brussels. After the European Commission’s decision, it became clear that the Orbán government’s excesses over the past few years could lead to a serious loss of resources for Hungary, meaning that a significant part of the subsidies due to our shared country could be frozen for good. By setting a specific deadline for the Hungarian government to meet its commitments, but still not promising to fully conclude the procedure, the Commission has made it clear that it no longer believes the Orbáns’ flip-flopping and discredited promises. Either they take real and effective action against corruption at state level to protect EU public money, or the country will surely lose thousands of billions of euros. This is the responsibility of Fidesz, and Fidesz alone.
Viktor Orbán recently described the report adopted in this week’s plenary session of the European Parliament as boring and ridiculous, that same report that records the crimes of the current government against the rule of law. This is no longer a joke, Mr Prime Minister; your money-grubbing mafia state is depriving families, local governments, small businesses, NGOs and decent Hungarian citizens of the EU subsidies to which they are entitled. This too may be ridiculous to you, Mr Prime Minister, but you must take responsibility for every euro cent that the country loses because of your rapacious government! For years you have campaigned on the need to stop Brussels. Congratulations, you’ve made it.

MEP István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
18 September, 2022.

Holding Orbán Regime Accountable for Crimes: Treason or Patriotism?


79435191_10157656059046093_1089938145673216_o“We have often found ourselves in a situation where the interests of Hungarian citizens were, in fact, represented by Brussels against the Hungarian government”. For this sentence, many in the governing party camp are now calling me a traitor, even though it is a quote from Fidesz’s European programme, which is still in force today. Moreover, it is accurate and true.
But let me go on: here’s another quote from the same Fidesz European party programme: ‘Hungarian democracy (…) is in great need of control, of being held accountable for following democratic norms.”, And in a paragraph on the enforcement of our common values and principles, the current governing party writes: “Fidesz is convinced, however, that the enforcement of our common values and principles should not be subject to discretion. (…) It is a contradiction in terms to expect the EU to make the governments of the Member States enforce the standards, while being reluctant to give it a mandate that might undermine our sovereignty.” Yes, you read that right. I quote this Fidesz programme a lot (Yes, Hungary can do better – 2009), as it perfectly demonstrates how hypocritical Fidesz’s current government position is and how its anti-EU, life-threatening rhetoric is based on blatant lies. It must be pointed out and people’s attention must be drawn to the fact that they are constantly the victims of a vile hoax and deliberate misleading.
Fidesz regularly and deliberately refers to the entire Hungarian nation, as if, on the basis of their governmental mandate, they and only they alone can (and do) represent the interests of Hungarians; i.e., anyone who does not follow the policy they have set out is betraying the nation, acting against the interests of the Hungarians, and is simply a “traitor”. This argument is not only a vicious lie, but also a vile poison, the effects of which will scar generations. Let us stick to Fidesz terminology: what is treason and what is a patriotic act based on these principles? Was Viktor Orbán a traitor when, as leader of the opposition, he called for the withdrawal of EU aid to our country at the 2006 EPP group meeting in Strasbourg? Is it patriotic to point out the crimes of the powers that be in the interests of the nation? Is it treason or a patriotic act to stand up for the fact that the money Hungary is owed is not for the benefit of white-collar gangsters but for the benefit of Hungarian families? Is it in the Hungarian interest that EU funds should disappear uncontrolled into pro-government pockets, or that they should be used fairly to improve the lives of all Hungarians? I think the answers are simple, but the Fidesz logic confuses Hungary with the NER (Orbán’s so-called National Cooperation System), the interests of Hungarian people with the interests of the system. I do not think they are the same. They are very different.
All this is topical again because next week, the European Parliament’s Strasbourg sitting will have on its agenda a report on the situation of the rule of law in Hungary and the violation of the Union's fundamental values. It is no pleasure to say it: for the umpteenth time. This document is in fact a record of the developments, or rather the deterioration, since the last so-called Sargentini report. And, indeed, it concludes that there are still serious concerns about democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary because of the actions of the current government, and the situation has basically only worsened in recent years. According to Fidesz and its visible minority of anti-EU supporters, the report is “another attempt by federalist European political parties to attack Hungary and its Christian Democrat, conservative government on ideological grounds”. I can already predict that next week there will be no substantive debate, no arguments on the content and no concrete explanations of the specific points of accusation, but the usual silly propaganda from the government side: saying that those who support this report are acting against the Hungarian people, or perhaps, as we have already heard from some Fidesz MEPs, that they “hate their country”. It is a blood-curdlingly despicable standard of communication.
I do not consider Fidesz and its leaders to be treasonous. I will not call them so as I was brought up more decently than to do that. What I do know and what I do say is that those in power at the moment have, in recent years, deliberately and with nefarious intent, built democracy in Hungary so that they could use its wealth, its values and its resources for their own personal enrichment. According to my values, this is theft from our common nation, and harm to our common country. To say this, to prove it and to confront the culprits is, according to my values, a patriotic duty. As a Hungarian, I do not represent the interests of the NER in the European Parliament, but the interests of hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who entrusted me with a position and with duties. Anyone who doubts this is not only despicable, but also infinitely ridiculous.
I began with an excerpt from Fidesz’s current European programme, and I will end my open letter today with one. The written commitments of the then opposition party read as follows: “(…) We must finally become a law-abiding, credible Member State, aligning our ambitions with the principles and objectives of the Union shared by all”. Well, that is what the European Parliament, democratically elected by hundreds of millions of European citizens, will be calling to account for the umpteenth time next week. One of Fidesz’s principled commitments. No more and no less. Let us all stick to that.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
11 September, 2022.



PZ__0180Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi expressed his doubts about the government’s negotiations on EU funds at an online press conference in Brussels, saying Brussels “is used to Orbán’s fighting tactics, they will not believe everything they hear”.
The MSZP MEP stressed that it is still not possible to know exactly what commitments the Hungarian government has made to the European Union in order to successfully draw down the funds, as the details are being kept secret. “This government can easily resort to foul play and submit a proposal which the European Union takes note of with satisfaction, then nothing is implemented, perhaps it is watered down, and no real steps are taken to combat corruption and rebuild the rule of law,” the Social Democrat MEP said, arguing in support of his reservations.
Ujhelyi said that in the current situation, Hungary and Hungarian society need every single cent of aid “like a loaf of bread”. He added that the Orbán regime has so far spent EU funds mostly on enriching its own oligarchic circles, and therefore it is in the best interest of society that EU funds are spent in the future on what the EU actually gives them for. According to Ujhelyi, the government’s public commitment to set up an independent anti-corruption authority is in fact a clear and unequivocal admission that “it is not Soros or the prevention of sex-change operations” but the extent of state corruption that has been holding back the money we are owed. The Socialist MEP questioned the independence of the anti-corruption body to be set up, saying that the president of the republic, the constitutional court, the prosecutor general or the media council are “only on paper” independent of the current administration.
“Even if the rule of law procedure is eventually suspended, or even if the content of the partnership agreement for the next seven-year budget is adopted, it is certain that there will be some withheld resources. And if Hungary loses a single euro cent because of government corruption, someone will have to be held responsible. And it is not the European Union that is shedding light on the crimes, but the one who created this system. Viktor Orbán created its rules and he and his entourage are its biggest beneficiaries”, said István Ujhelyi, adding that in order for Hungary to finally receive every single euro of funding, the “system” must change, and for this to happen, he said, Tibor Navracsics’ series of negotiations or Judit Varga’s “sabre-rattling” are not enough.

Brussels/Budapest – 7/9/2022

Yet Another Fidesz Scam: Government Barely Intends to Spend EU Funds on Housing Modernisation!


pexels-koolshooters-6495711Fidesz 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.