“Filter Out the Scoundrels!” – Medical Technology Companies Call for Professional Chamber

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Képernyőfotó 2023-01-28 - 19.50.45The debt of hospitals is increasing by more than 100 million forints every day, and this debt will only continue to increase this year, said Secretary General of the Medical Technology Association László Rásky in an online conversation with MEP István Ujhelyi.

In this week’s episode of the interview series “Weekly Duo with Ujhelyi”, the Hungarian member of the European Parliament’s Public Health Committee asked the expert about the situation and opportunities of healthcare security in Hungary. During the interview, László Rásky said, among other things, that hospitals’ debts are expected to grow further and more rapidly than in the past because some of the institutions are only now beginning to feel the effects of the rise in energy prices, as many of them have just reached the end of their one-year energy contracts.
The Secretary General also pointed out that a significant part of the recurring debt of hospitals is owed precisely to those companies that manufacture medical equipment, as they are usually at the “back of the queue”. In the online discussion, László Rásky also pointed out that 10 years ago, salaries accounted for barely 60-70% of the budget of healthcare institutions, but now it is over 80%, and there are hospitals that cannot even cover their salaries with the state subsidies they receive.
In this context, MEP István Ujhelyi noted that even in the light of the new budget, it can be said that the fair operation of public healthcare is impossible to finance, as the health budget line will increase by only 9% in 2023, while inflation is at least 15%. “The Hungarian health system simply cannot be expected to provide a better quality of service, while we are lagging behind the EU Member States in terms of Community spending,” Ujhelyi added.
In the online discussion, the Secretary General of the Medical Technology Association also pointed out that under the current public procurement rules it is possible to tender for equipment in the healthcare sector with the most important evaluation criterion being low price. This, he pointed out, has a significant impact on quality, and the use of lower quality equipment clearly compromises patient care.
László Rásky said that they had long been calling for the establishment of a professional chamber or a system to guarantee compliance with quality assurance criteria for companies manufacturing and importing/distributing medical devices, but had not yet achieved any significant results. This would, according to the Secretary General, filter out the “scoundrels” who import or distribute poor quality products without a transparent and real professional background, causing significant harm not only to patients but to the profession as a whole. In this context, Ujhelyi recalled that during the covid epidemic, the government spent billions of forints of public money on obscure equipment purchases, involving rapidly formed companies with a suspicious political background.
During the discussion, it was also mentioned that more and more medical devices have become a scarce commodity on the market. In this context, László Rásky said that one of the biggest problems in the sector is that a price cap of almost 20 years has meant that some products are simply no longer worth distributing in Hungary. “If someone wants to buy adult diapers, for example, they will find that there are none. And it’s not because it’s not available on the market, but because shopkeepers can only buy it for more than they can sell it for. Last year, we drew the government’s attention to the fact that a number of devices are no longer available on the international market at the official Hungarian price. There has been some correction, but according to monitoring by our partner distributors’ association, 900 of the 3,400 products on the subsidy list for assistive devices can still be sold at a loss. We have a big problem ahead of us, or rather we are already in it,” said László Rásky, adding that the Hungarian state is clearly not spending enough money and is not paying enough attention to the most deprived sections of society. The Secretary General stressed that the Hungarian state’s duty is to ensure a decent life for its citizens, but this right is clearly being violated in the health sector.
In the course of the discussion, István Ujhelyi reiterated that the broader implementation of the European Health Union, which he had partly initiated, would bring about an improvement in Hungarian public health care as soon as possible. As he said, there is a need for a single set of quality standards in public health at EU level, which would set minimum standards of care and which all Member States would be obliged to meet, both in terms of quality of care and patient safety.

The full discussion can be accessed at the following link (in Hungarian language): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAMh4wPnEDc

Budapest/Brussels – 28/01/2023

Why Does Improving Healthcare Violate Government Sovereignty?

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192094535_10159288346341093_4026199670300633605_nI really don’t understand Fidesz. I cannot fathom why it is an affront to the sovereignty of the current government to want better healthcare in Hungary. This is what is happening: the government’s attitude to the European Health Union programme has so far been one of outright rejection, or at least reflexive knee-jerk reaction, when it comes to the possible extension of EU competence in the field of health. “No way should we let the EU tell us what to do” – that’s the extent of the government’s arguments.
But let’s zoom out first. Unfortunately, not many people know that the European Union operates in a way that in some areas it has exclusive competence (there are fewer of these, such as the customs union and competition rules for the single market), in others it has shared competence (for example, environment, transport, energy, migration) and finally, in others it has a minimal role, whereby it can only advise, propose, support and complement, but national governments have full authority.
These are areas of national competence that the Fidesz government will defend by the skin of its teeth to prevent anyone else from interfering. Because they know better what needs to be done there, what the people of Hungary need, and, besides, we are not a colony of Brussels, are we? Such areas include culture, tourism, education and civil protection.
You do not need any expertise in current affairs policy to see exactly what the government has achieved in the last twelve years with its unrestrained exercise of power in areas where it has had and still has full freedom of action. Culture has been taken over, cultural institutions, with very few real exceptions, have been filled with controversial and previously doomed to failure figures, and critical voices have been constantly squeezed out on ideological grounds.
There is no need to say much about tourism, either – which is, moreover, my European policy area – as everyone can see and knows exactly how almost every corner of the sector has been robbed and occupied, and how the profits that are no longer considered public money are being pumped in and out of it. Nor does the case of education need much explaining: competency measures are plummeting, teachers and students are protesting together for reform and recognition; twelve years of unbridled power have simply destroyed a national strategic area that represents the future of our children. Just for a moment, let’s toy with the idea that if Viktor Orbán and his entourage had given education the attention and support they have given football over the last decade, where our shared homeland would be. In Finland they would probably be showing documentaries about the Hungarian model.
The area of healthcare is an equally exclusive national competence. This means that everything that happens with public healthcare is the sole and exclusive responsibility, achievement or failure of the Hungarian government. The European Union, for the time being, could not, even if it wanted to, improve the quality of public healthcare directly and substantially, because EU rules – and, of course, the Hungarian Government – do not permit it.
The EU is doing what it can: one after another, we are launching comprehensive European strategic programmes, most recently the cancer strategy to fight tumour related diseases, or the mental health programme, which I also partly initiated. Health is also receiving more and more attention in Europe, but what and how much of this is perceived by the Hungarian public depends mainly on the Hungarian Government. The EU is really doing what it can: for example, it has now (thanks to a lot of work by many of us) opened up a budget of almost two thousand billion forints, from which the health organizations and institutions in the Member States can draw down funds in the coming years.
It is a matter of ensuring that Hungarian stakeholders can draw down as much of this money as possible and as efficiently as possible – to this end, I have invited health professional and advocacy organizations to a joint round table on 20 February.
However, it must be admitted that thick walls still need to be knocked down in order to implement the European Health Union, which I partly initiated, as widely as possible. An orange one, for example. The Fidesz government does not want to hear a word about the creation of a minimum set of quality requirements that all Member States would be obliged to meet, thus ensuring a uniform and high-quality level of public healthcare. The government is obstructing this, despite the fact that the parliamentary resolutions on this have been voted through by the Fidesz MEPs, but their own government is still opposed to this initiative.
In response to a written question from me, the former health government said point-blank that the expansion of the European Health Union and the introduction of quality standards in healthcare would be an intrusion into national sovereignty. Yes, you understand that correctly. Fidesz thinks that it is an infringement of the national sovereignty of the Hungarian people if someone wants to force them to have higher quality and guaranteed standards of public healthcare. But I think it is an affront to Hungarian sovereignty and pride that the Hungarian Government wants to spend less in real terms on healthcare than before, even in the recently submitted, rewritten budget. It really does seem that there is money for everything – from bomb posters to mobile phone company takeovers – but not for better protecting and restoring people’s health. If anything, this certainly cannot be called national governance.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
22/01/2023

“Your Money AND Your Life!”

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drugs-gca7c211c1_1920735,788,071 euros, or nearly 300 billion forints, can be drawn down this year alone from the total EU budget of around two thousand billion forints available to fund health development and procurement programmes in European Member States over the next seven years. The only question is how much of this amount Hungary and Hungarian health institutions and professional health organisations will be able to successfully draw down. The good news is that this financial envelope is not affected by the freezes imposed by the Orbán government’s criminal activities and that interested parties can apply for existing funds directly, bypassing the government.
Your money AND your life! – the sour twisting of the famous roadside threat could be one of the mottos for the most successful lobbying possible, as both are essential for the tragic state of Hungarian public health. Life, i.e. a better chance of survival, a better chance for healthy life, and money, i.e. finally adequate public funding! Health is a national competence in the European Union, which means that the EU can only help, propose, request and indicate indirectly; everything from funding to operation is the sole responsibility of the respective Member State government. It is clear that the Hungarian Government, so concerned about its competences and sovereignty, has gone to great lengths where it has exclusive competence: in addition to health, such areas include education.
Thanks to the hard work of many of us, in the current seven-year budget there is now a substantial budget available for health improvements: in fact, twelve times the amount spent in the previous term. The €5.1 billion or roughly two thousand billion forints for the EU4Health programme aims to help the European Community better tackle future health crises by strengthening national health systems and providing better care, and by making affordable medicines and medical equipment more accessible. Around a quarter of the programme’s budget will be spent on health promotion and prevention programmes over the next seven years, with a particular focus on supporting the fight against cancer.
As one of the initiators and mentors of the European Health Union programme and a Hungarian member of the European Parliament’s Public Health Committee, it is of paramount importance to me that Hungary can make the most successful use of the resources available under the EU4Health programme, especially by providing stakeholders with the right amount and quality of information. To this end, I am in permanent contact with the European Commission and have recently held talks with the heads of the EU agency responsible for implementing the programme, who will, at my request, provide information on the details of the programme in person at a round table meeting I am organising in Budapest in a few weeks’ time. It is important to know that in 2023 alone, for example, more than €300 million will be available to support improvements in health crisis management, followed by €200 million for cancer programmes, nearly €20 million for preventive work on non-communicable diseases (such as mental health), and a further €400 million for operational costs, for example for health professional organisations.
So, by more than doubling the amount of money we can spend on health, we have created a real opportunity for improvement and to address inequalities in care systems. The question now is what we do with this opportunity. This is why, as a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament, I am inviting health professional organisations and representatives of the sector concerned to a round table on 20 February to find the best solution together. I will do my share.

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 send an open letter every week to warn the public of the crimes of the system that has been established. For the 389th time, I am ringing the bells of alarm and will do so for as long as it is necessary. Because we must give revival and our shared homeland a chance.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
15/01/2023

Orban’s Secretary of State Debunks Fake National Consultation

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fake I still maintain that the referendum on sex-change operations in kindergartens was the most disgusting demagogue lie of the Orbán regime, but there is no doubt that this sanctions questionnaire is also a front-runner. Which, moreover, was debunked in a written reply by a Secretary of State in the Prime Minister’s Office himself. But let’s start at the beginning. First, the national consultation genre is indeed a substantive innovation that is a useful tool for channelling the opinions of voters when done in a timely and appropriate manner. It is a pity that we have not yet found out how it would actually work, because it has never been used for this purpose. The fact is that this formula is used by the current administration exclusively to support its own policies, to strengthen its electoral base and to spread its propaganda, mostly based on lies of greater or lesser magnitude. In doing so, it is reducing the credibility of a truly valuable tool to zero. The fact of the matter is that the Hungarian Government, refusing to accept responsibility for its own economic policy, its senseless spending of public money and its mismanagement of the crisis, has once again resorted to the usual method: finding someone or something to point to and blame for the misery of the people. Sometimes they find this in a distant speculator, sometimes in refugees, sometimes in EU decision-makers, sometimes in people who live differently, and now in the EU’s sanctions policy. The government spin-doctor’s workshop works routinely, and the choice of the current bogeyman seems logical in a way: once again, something that is utterly incomprehensible to the common man, something that cannot protest against lies, but something that can be easily simplified, drawn on a poster and something that otherwise exists stably. The agitation against the sanctions policy even works despite the fact that the Hungarian government has supported all the EU sanctions packages, and Viktor Orbán himself said in a state television interview that he would support any sanctions on which the EU was united. In contrast, to ‘consult’ on the sanctions being bad, not working, not harming the Russian aggressor, and saying it is the only reason the price of cheese has doubled in Hungarian supermarkets is outrageous in the least. But it also happens to be a downright lie.
A few weeks ago, at the time of the launch of the consultation, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Fidesz asking a single question: what was his rationale for supporting all the EU sanctions against Russia so far?! Viktor Orbán must be an extremely busy or an extremely cautious man, because it took him nearly three whole months to answer – although you would think it was not a difficult question – and this time it was not him who answered, but the Secretary of State in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office responsible for propaganda. Csaba Dömötör is a talented politician, and I have had the pleasure of debating with him in public on several occasions: he is one of the few Fidesz members who, beyond the obligatory unstylish manner of going personal, usually has real arguments and a well-prepared knowledge of what he is talking about. That is why, this time too, I have ignored the obviously obligatory parts of his letter where he covertly talks of treason, routinely refers to Péter Márki-Zay and cleverly fudges the facts. Of course, the government’s response letter continues to claim that energy prices have soared solely because of sanctions against the Russians (what Secretary of State Dömötör forgets is that the government had already put price caps on fuel and a narrow range of basic foodstuffs before the war broke out because of runaway inflation caused by their misguided economic policies) and EU policymakers, as the letter puts it, although had promised not to impose sanctions on the energy sector, did. This reference, from a representative of the very government that promised that there would be no austerity and that the cuts would be guaranteed as long as Viktor Orbán was prime minister, is funny at the very least. Or maybe Orbán has already resigned, and we just didn’t notice. However, the most important sentence in a letter full of substantive assertions is the one that perfectly debunks the basic premises of the recently completed national consultation. In his response, Csaba Dömötör wrote on behalf of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that “contrary to your statement, the Prime Minister has fought for Hungary’s exemption from sanctions that could cause economic damage.” I see, thank you. So the ‘Brussels sanctions’ do not cause economic damage, thanks to Viktor Orbán. Hallelujah. But then the Hungarian government’s publicly funded propaganda campaign that “Brussels sanctions are ruining us” is not true. So it’s all a lie. I get it, thank you. Sorry, gentlemen, but even in your systemically bent reality, this is highly contradictory.
The conclusion of all this is clear and unambiguous: the Fidesz government is trying to justify its own policies with half-truths, with pious misrepresentations or even with vicious, vile lies, as it has been doing for twelve years. Whatever the situation calls for. Even in times of serious crises such as the covid epidemic or now the bloody Putin aggression. After twelve years of unlimited power, they could really finally tell the truth to the electorate. And treat their own voters as grown-up, thinking people. Because those who really put Hungary first do not hide behind cowardly lies.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
18/12/2022

InPUT: European Action Programme to Help Restart Tourism in Ukraine

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inputkerThe European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, which has been awarded to individuals and groups who have defended human and fundamental rights since 1988, was presented this year to the courageous people of Ukraine. The award was handed over today to representatives of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian civil society at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg.
The launch of the EU-Ukraine initiative InPUT was also timed to coincide with the event, announced Vice-Chair of the EP Committee on Transport and Tourism and initiator of the InPUT action programme MEP István Ujhelyi in Strasbourg. The programme “InPUT – Industry of Peace for Ukrainian Tourism” is a joint effort of European tourism organizations to support the Ukrainian tourism sector. “Tourism is an industry of peace. In war there is no tourism, no peace and no stability. Tourism in peacetime brings people together, builds strong bridges between different cultures, but also means economic and intellectual development that goes beyond the boundaries of the sector. Ukraine needs help to start reconstruction as quickly and efficiently as possible after the war is over and rebuild the transport and tourism infrastructure that has been destroyed. Ukraine must also be put back on the map of popular and valuable tourism destinations as soon as possible after the end of the war. The InPUT action programme is gathering professional supporters for this purpose”, said István Ujhelyi.
The MEP said that InPUT was launched in cooperation with Mariana Oleskiv, head of the Ukrainian State Tourism Agency, and that more than 80 tourism and tourism-related professional organizations have already been invited to join the initiative, including the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

Strasbourg – 14/12/2022

UJHELYI: NOW’ S THE CHANCE FOR KATALIN NOVÁK TO PROVE HER INDEPENDENCE!

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Do not sign the amendment to the Health Act, but send it back for consideration so that it can be discussed with professional organizations – this is what Hungarian Member of the European Parliament’s Public Health Committee István Ujhelyi asked of President of the Republic Katalin Novák. The Social Democrat politician added that, if need be, he felt ready to act as a moderator to facilitate dialogue between the government and professional organizations on the issue.
In a video broadcast on his social media page Ujhelyi said that if the unity of the nation and the everyday life of Hungarian families (such as the quality of their healthcare) was truly important to Katalin Novák, she should not sign the healthcare bill in this form. The founder of the Community of Chance recalled that when the head of state was inaugurated, he was one of the few opposition politicians who gave Katalin Novák taking office the benefit of the doubt and while this openness was diminished when she signed the social law “without a word”, he still hoped that Novák would now take the chance to prove her independence and finally act as a true head of state.
The Socialist MEP reminded the President of the Republic that the proposals of professional organizations and the opposition were not taken into account in the drafting of the Health Law amendment, which was adopted hastily on Wednesday by only the governing party MPs, and that this was just after the Hungarian government had given a commitment to the European Commission to end fast-track legislation and to provide adequate time and space for public consultation on significant amendments. “This is sanction legislation that is incompatible with the rule of law. This is a sanctioning health system change that is incompatible with the interests of the Hungarian population”, the MEP added, referring the current government narrative with a twist.
István Ujhelyi said that if the Head of State sends the package back for consideration, the opportunity will open up for substantive dialogue between professional interest groups and the government; as a member of the EP’s Public Health Committee, the politician said he was ready to take on a moderating role in this dialogue if the need arose. Ujhelyi also stressed that Hungary could receive significant EU funds for the development of healthcare in the coming years if an agreement with the European Commission were finally reached. He pointed out that in the framework of the newly opened EU4Health programme alone, some €5.3 billion in funding is available for the next seven years and that it was in Hungary’s vital interest to be the ones to draw down the most funding from this framework in the coming period. Ujhelyi added that this required a meaningful action plan, in the development of which professional organizations should also be involved as soon as possible. The MEP offered his support in coordinating this dialogue, too.

Brussels/Budapest – 10/12/2022

Hungarian Interest: Fewer Frozen Resources, More NERlessness!

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7oXcBP68NTyu10sfGsFor those who love their country not only in words and Facebook posts, it is without a doubt a patriotic act to prevent the EU subsidies due to our shared nation from being stuffed into the pockets of the state’s plastic aristocrats as a courtesy of themselves. After all, it is not in the interests of the country for an elite of bumpkins to skim off the money from the European Union, but for it to serve the prosperity of the people of Hungary, the expansion of their businesses and the improvement of their living conditions.
For a true patriot, therefore, there is no question that the subsidies due to our shared homeland must be protected and that appropriate safeguards must be demanded for their fair use. The European Union can and should be criticised for many things (and I am not afraid to do this myself) but in this case, it is clearly protecting the interests of European taxpayers, including Hungarians.
Contrary to all the disingenuous fake explanations from Fidesz, the call for a freeze on resources and reform in the rule of law procedure is to protect EU public funds and has nothing to do with the debates on migration or the government’s position on gender issues. The Hungarian interest in this case is therefore to keep as few (preferably zero) funds frozen as possible and to make the Orbán government carry out as many comprehensive reforms as possible, and we are in a very good position now to achieve this.
As a Hungarian politician and MEP, I have three priorities in the rule of law process: one, that our country does not lose a single euro cent of the funds it is entitled to; two, that they always reach the end-user; and three, that we are as effective as possible in removing the NER (Orbán’s so-called National Cooperation System) from the Republic of Hungary, in other words, that we undo the criminal destruction that the corrupt Fidesz has deliberately carried out over the past twelve years the best we can.
During more than a decade of Fidesz’s plundering, the European Union has been looking for a handhold on Orbán’s mafia politics, and has often taken it like a loser that they made a fool of it. Now, as a result of a complicated procedure, the European Commission has proposed freezing some three thousand billion forints of funds, which is one third of the cohesion money we are entitled to for the period of 2021-2027. This is a serious amount, even if it is conceivable that the Council’s decision may not necessarily result in that much money being frozen in the end; at the same time, even one single euro cent that we may lose in the process due to the Fidesz government’s immorality will clearly be the fault and responsibility of Orbán and his gang.
I think there is a very good chance that the Council’s decision will eventually lower this amount, because it must be taken into account that the Hungarian Government has already taken certain steps and, although it’s as if they are pulling their teeth, they are trying to at least appear to be meeting expectations. In other words, as a Hungarian MEP, I will be delighted if a decision is made at the end of this year that reduces the amount of frozen funds in any way, as it is in our interest to have access to all the aid eventually.
However, I share and sympathise with those opinions that would like to see a much more radical punishment for the Orbán government that has desecrated European values; as a Hungarian MEP, however, I try to approach this from the perspective of the most successful NER removal possible. Few people take the trouble to read back the Hungarian government’s recent statements, although they are endlessly instructive and self-revealing. You can see perfectly well how the NER elite is slowly moving from an arrogant bravado to a whining bow; for the public at home can of course they still do the muscle flexing, but in Brussels they have long been standing on the edge of the carpet with their heads bowed.
At first they were talking about a fight for freedom and the rule of law as a non-existent and intangible concept, and then there was a moment two years ago when Viktor Orbán – after the failed budget veto threats – announced outright that he had won and stopped the rule of law mechanism. We see just how well.
Since then, they have tried to blame everything on the process: funds being frozen because Brussels rejects the government’s position on migration, then coming up with gender-switching kindergartners and violent gay activists directed from Brussels as the real reason for the freezing of funds (probably the lowest yet of the government’s lunacy); and finally, today, simplifying it to the primitive response that in Brussels they just hate Hungarians. It’s time for everyone to realise that Fidesz power has been backed into a corner and forced to take steps it was previously unwilling to take. Is it too little? Maybe, but far more than anything achieved before.
We tend not to see in all the political noise – or even in the inertia of the two-thirds disgrace – that there is a serious NER-demolition going on these weeks. It can be argued that many government measures are window dressing (the EU is well aware of this, and not coincidentally distrustful of the watering down of government action; they have not even proposed to stop the process), but there are also some serious achievements in the rule of law package.
It is enough to point out that the National Recovery Plan, which is now being celebrated by Fidesz propaganda as rated best by the European Commission within the EU, is a spending plan that Fidesz had to completely rewrite precisely because of our pressure, in line with EU expectations. Instead of fake goals and fake spending, stuffing public foundations with Fidesz money, it now includes serious goals such as environmental sustainability, or, for example, the co-financing of the much-vaunted teacher pay rise, which was not even mentioned in the Orbán and his government’ original spending plans. Now they have been forced to include it.
An equally serious achievement is the package of demands on the independence of the judiciary, which, if the government fails to deliver by March, will surely leave the money frozen. The commitments to strengthen the National Council of the Judiciary, for example, are substantive changes to the intentions and interests of the NER. Too little? Maybe, but far more than anything before. Obviously, the most effective way would be to press the Hungarian government to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, but even so, the reforms now underway should not be written off and considered worthless.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about what decision the Council will make on the Commission’s proposal, and we are still not clear whether the agreement on the Recovery Fund will be signed by the end of the year; if the ink does not dry on the latter in time, we will have already said goodbye to 70 per cent of the €5.8 billion. And that is a lot of money. As a Hungarian MEP, I support any solution that will help Hungary to draw down the funds it is entitled to as quickly and as fully as possible. And as a patriot, I agree with any European action that guarantees that Hungary can once again operate, at least in part, within the framework of the rule of law and that the European public funds due to our country serve the genuine prosperity of our country and not merely the extravagance of orange brats.
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 system that had been established. For the 384th time, I am ringing the bells of alarm and will do so for as long as it is necessary. Because we must give revival and our shared homeland a chance.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
4/12/2022

FIDESZ MEP ATTEMPTS TO MAKE SECRET AUDIO RECORDING OF TEACHER-STUDENT DELEGATION’S MEETING IN BRUSSELS!

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sspyWell, this really is the lowest of the low! Since the Pegasus scandal, we are well-aware that Fidesz likes to monitor and eavesdrop on public figures and civilians critical of it, but this attempt has really gone beyond all limits. In the past two days, an important delegation has arrived in Brussels at the invitation of Klára Dobrev, organized by the S&D group, including teachers’ union leaders and several teachers and students who have been active in standing up and protesting for their rights in recent times. The group also met key representatives of the European Parliament, in addition to relevant decision-makers from the European Commission, and I and my colleagues in Brussels played our part in organizing the programme, too. Yesterday, we organized a meeting for them in the European Parliament, which was advertised in the Parliamentary public sphere, where they shared their experiences and feelings with MEPs and EP experts about the problems of public education in Hungary, the untenable situation of teachers and the intimidating and intolerable actions of Fidesz in response to their actions. In fear of the continuation of domestic retaliation, the students explicitly asked that, although the content of their discussion was open to the press, what they said should not be recorded, photographed or otherwise filmed in the room; This has been made clear several times. (How infinitely sad, by the way, that young people felt the need to do this in order to protect themselves from the excesses of power, but as it soon became apparent: not without reason). During the meeting, it was discovered by chance that one of Andrea Bocskor’s colleagues, hiding in the audience – evidently following the instructions of her superior – was secretly recording what was said despite the students’ request and taking detailed notes of who shared what by the group members during the Brussels discussion. After the Fidesz staff member was caught, the organizers asked her to delete the illegally made audio recording on the spot, which she then complied with.
The Fidesz member of staff did not introduce herself at the event and did not say a word to anyone about her intention to make an audio recording of the event. Not only was this immoral and unprecedented, but the unauthorized, secret audio recording was, in this case, also illegal. It is obvious that the intention of the Fidesz staff member’s superiors was to use the audio recordings later, even by manipulating them, against teachers and students critical of the Fidesz government, and possibly to punish them with further retaliation and media harassment. At the very least, Fidesz MEP Andrea Bocskor and head of the Fidesz delegation Tamás Deutsch should publicly apologize for what happened; apologize to Hungarian students and teachers and reassuringly clarify just how regular and common practice it is for Fidesz MEPs and staff to produce secret audio recordings of events critical of the government, despite the express request of the people concerned.

MEP István Ujhelyi 
(S&D Group Hungarian delegation)
Brussels – 30/11/2022

Orbán Not Only Losing Fight, But Face!

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EP-085506A_TRAN_TourismOne, especially if one happens to be a politician, is happy and proud to be proved right, or at least when it turns out to be true what he has already predicted well ahead of others. Yet for me, this time around, it is no joy at all to have been proved right and to have warned in vain weeks ago that there would be trouble. Two weeks ago to the day, in my open letter, I wrote that I was aware that, contrary to all the government’s propaganda of success, the European Commission is dissatisfied with the Hungarian commitments and the watered down deliverables, and that this could result in a substantial loss of money. Unfortunately, it has.
On the basis of current information, the European Commission will present in three days’ time its assessment of the measures implemented by the Hungarian Government under the so-called conditionality mechanism, and everything points in the direction of dissatisfaction in Brussels with certain reform commitments and their implementation. For this reason, the European Commission is expected to stick to its original and very strict proposal, i.e. to freeze a total of around EUR 7.5 million, or more than HUF 3 000 billion, from three operational programmes. It is likely that the Council will not go against the Commission’s proposal, i.e. it will leave this sanction against the Fidesz government in place, especially considering that only a qualified majority in the Council is needed to confirm it, and this majority is clearly present against the Orbán government. Just one telling fact: Germany, traditionally a compromise-seeking and compromise-building country, has made it clear in institutional and Member State circles that it shares the Commission’s dissatisfaction.
The only good news is that the European Commission is expected to approve the Hungarian plan for spending recovery funds at its meeting this Wednesday; after some 560 days. The fact that this negotiation is finally coming to a substantive conclusion is largely credited to Tibor Navracsics. At the same time, despite the exaggerated government propaganda, the adoption of the Hungarian recovery programme is far from a complete success. It only means that there is an agreement before 31 December, so we will not automatically lose more than two thirds of the money under the rules, but it does not mean that we will receive the money that exists on paper. Fidesz is reluctant to talk about this, but the government will only be able to draw down these funds on a quarterly basis, after meeting strictly defined milestones, so, for example, as soon as in the first quarter, it will have to implement 27 different massive reforms, most of which will affect the functioning of the Hungarian justice system. If it does not, there will be no transfer.
So Orbán has not only lost a fight, he may soon lose face. Big time. The Fidesz president, used to roadside political blackmail, apparently thinks that his revolver policy, which has often worked, will continue to work, but it is increasingly clear that the weapon is now turning against him. Brussels has learned to handle his flip-flopping. The Council of Finance Ministers will meet in the first week of December to formally approve the agreement on the Recovery Fund. However, the ministerial summit’s agenda will also include EU proposals that the Hungarian government has so far blocked – as a tool in the fight or just for bluff blackmail – such as the global minimum tax and the €18 billion loan package for Ukraine.
The negotiating table of the financiers will be a rather peculiar poker table: it is almost certain that the Hungarian side will be presented with a fait accompli; you can choose to continue to play gangsters, but if you say no, we can say no, too. Of course, in the case of the global minimum tax, there is an alternative implementation option without the support of the Hungarian government, so there will be room for manoeuvre in the poker game, but it can be pretty confidently stated regarding the outcome that if Orbán wants the Recovery Funds, he will not only have to lose the battle, but also lose face.
Especially that we are also about to sign the Partnership Agreement on seven-year budgetary resources, which 24 Member States have already signed. Orbán has always played a good game of chess, but now, although his knights performed well, the options for moves have narrowed. The interests of Hungarian families and the European Community have won, and the Prime Minister of Fidesz has lost. And he is not used to that.
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 system that had been established. I am ringing the bells of alarm for the 383rd time and will do so for as long as it is necessary. Because we must give revival and our shared homeland a chance.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
27/11/2022

Is Protecting Values from Thieves Treason?

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hazaarulasIt is difficult today to be patriotic, European and democratic at the same time, because these concepts are now clashing through no fault of our own, Gábor Bojár, a renowned entrepreneur and public thinker, explained to me in an interview I had with him the other day. Unfortunately, he is very right. As a proud Hungarian, a committed and proud European, a fierce social democrat and a father of six, I have recently been struggling with a serious dilemma that has not yet been fully resolved. When is it right for an elected representative to take a stand on the freezing and accessibility of EU funds? It is a more difficult question than it seems.
Of course, those who are under the spell of the Fidesz narrative, or perhaps live off the gravy train they keep running, never have any serious dilemmas, because they are fed what they are supposed to think: well-cooked ideological custard, does not even need to be chewed, does not taste bitter, goes down quickly, here comes the aeroplane, nasty Brussels is the cause of all evil, yummy, isn’t it delicious, let’s wipe your little mouth. Obviously, it is much more comfortable to navigate the world without having to examine all the circumstances and possibilities, weighing up the consequences and impacts, because the Hungarian interest is always what Fidesz says, period. And anyone who does not represent it is not a decent Hungarian, and “that’s it”. What an insanely schizoid situation, that the very political community which otherwise proclaims the unity of the nation and the sanctity of a cohesive Hungarian nation as its credo, should call anyone a traitor with unabashed ease from the common nation. If this lunacy did not tear apart human relationships and families, it might even be simply laughable.
The dilemma surrounding the freezing of EU funds also revolves around this: when do you represent the interests of the country better? When you argue in favour of withholding funds until the rule of law is guaranteed and state-controlled corruption is eliminated, or when you say: I understand that these plastic aristocrats will steal everything, but at least a little would fall off the table for others if there were at least a little left over. I think we can agree that the starting point is clear: anyone who steals the country’s wealth, anyone who reaches into the public purse elbow deep, is not acting in the interests of their country. They take away from the nation and harming the shared homeland. EU funds are being withheld because the current government has stolen a significant proportion of the money due to the country, has reached into the public purse elbow deep and is trying to legitimize and maintain this by destroying the rule of law. It is therefore beyond dispute that EU funds are not being received because of the criminal actions of the current government; if the Fidesz government had remained honest and European, none of this would be happening.
So if this is the case – and it is – then the question that needs to be answered is one that was asked earlier: what is in the best interests of the country? A true patriot cannot argue that anything should be taken away from Hungary (there was already an example of this when Orbán, then in opposition, called for the withdrawal of funds due to us as a punishment against the then left-wing government at the 2006 EPP parliamentary group meeting), but neither can a true patriot allow EU funds due to the Hungarian people to be used for the benefit of the nation to go into the pockets of Fidesz public money barons. As a patriot, I want Hungary to get the money it is owed as soon as possible; as a European, I want these funds to be used properly; and as a democrat, I want the rule of law guarantees that make this possible to be restored. It is a difficult matrix.
Of course, the simplest solution is precisely in the hands of Fidesz: if it joined the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, if it stopped its unnecessary and damaging lies about reality, if it stopped its counterproductive warfare with the European Union and stopped corruption at state level, everything would fall into place. If the Fidesz government corrected all the wrongs they have done over the last twelve years – that’s right, not someone else, but themselves – then everything would be solved. All the responsibility and all the opportunities are in their hands.
As a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament and a proud patriot, it is my job to resolve this dilemma and the difficult matrix by choosing the best possible solution – the one that best serves the interests of our shared homeland. I would argue that the European Commission has already forced the Hungarian government to make a number of, in fact historic, corrections, which is an important success. It is our success. At the same time, I share the view of a substantial majority in the European Parliament, and one that is clearly evident from the feedback from Hungarian voters, that no blank cheque should be given to Orbán and his mates. Nice words must be accompanied by real action and results. Next week, the “Hungarian case”; and the evaluation of the government’s commitments will be on the agenda again at the EP plenary session.
I will support the Parliament’s resolution because it includes, among other things, the “protection of final beneficiaries”; as a priority point, which I initiated in the previous EP cycle to make part of the rule of law procedure. This guarantees that, if sanctions are ultimately applied against Hungary, the final beneficiaries (NGOs, local authorities, small businesses, etc.), for whom these funds are essentially intended, will not be deprived of the funds.
The current draft of the resolution also calls on the Commission to find ways of distributing EU funds through local authorities and NGOs if the government does not cooperate in implementing rule of law measures. This is therefore an important guarantee and protection against the government in the interests of the Hungarian people. This is certainly not in the interest of Fidesz. But neither is Fidesz’s interest equal to the interest of Hungary and our common nation. To confuse the two is both foolish and infinitely mean-spirited. The former can still be excused, but conscious vileness will never be a thing of the past.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance
19/11/2022