EU funds to support redundant Tungsram workers available, but Orbán-government does not claim them

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 “Hungary is not going forward, it is going bankrupt”; said MEP István Ujhelyi in his online press conference on Wednesday. According to the MSZP politician, the government is helpless and insensitive as it watches the situation caused by the crises threaten the livelihood security of families and as the record-high euro exchange rate and inflation push the lowest income earners into a subsistence crisis. Ujhelyi pointed out that the government is also standing idly by as some 1,800 people are set to be made redundant from Tungsram’s Hungarian factories by the end of the year, with news of another 200 people being laid off in Újpest alone. At the press conference, the Social Democrat MEP said that in such cases, the “European Globalisation Adjustment Fund” could be used to provide substantial support for retraining, wage supplements or even to help the redundant workers start their own businesses, but that the government of the Member State concerned would have to apply for this and contribute around 15 per cent of the costs.
Ujhelyi said that the two-day plenary session of the European Parliament, which starts on Wednesday, will decide on two similar requests: the French government has asked for €20 million to help workers made redundant in the AirFrance group redundancies and the Greek government has asked for €2 million from the Globalisation Fund to provide temporary support for more than 200 workers made redundant in an electrical industry plant. The MSZP MEP stressed that in the last twelve years, the Hungarian government has never once called on EU aid from this fund, which amounts to hundreds of millions of euros. “The government is alibi-ing and fooling around with Tungsram and the trade unions, but it is not providing any real help: it is incomprehensible that they are not even asking for this particular EU money”; István Ujhelyi said. The left-wing MEP added that he had consulted with the relevant experts of the European Commission, who confirmed that only the Hungarian government can submit an application for support, which is expected in Brussels, as the Tungsram case fits perfectly into the framework of the fund. Ujhelyi also said that he and MP Imre Komjáthi had previously written to the Ministry of Technology and Industry concerned about the use of the EU fund, but had not yet received any reply. “It seems that the government is more interested in getting orders for the oligarchs around NER (Orbán’s so-called National Cooperation System) and exempting them from extra burdens than in ensuring the health and security of the Hungarian people”; the MSZP politician said.

Brussels/Budapest – 22/06/2022

Fidesz two-thirds about to adopt mendacious and anti-European resolution

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parlThere seems to be no emergency brake on the pro-government bandwagon of lies, or at least there is no one left of the one time pro-European, respectable young democrats to pull it while the illiberal train is running wild. László Kövér and Máté Kocsis of Fidesz, and Zsolt Semjén and István Simicskó of KDNP are the signatories of a newly tabled parliamentary resolution, which formulates the Hungarian position as a result of a series of conferences on the transformation of the European Union. It does this by presenting its own anti-European, purely party-political theses, formulated along the lines of Fidesz power interests that further strain the European community and hinder its functioning, as the unified and well-developed position of the Hungarian nation. This is a blatant lie.
As is known, the European Commission set out as a priority in 2019 that it would gather the views of European citizens in a broad and lengthy public debate on the functioning of the EU and the directions of its planned reform. More than five million people have accessed the dedicated online platforms, nearly 17,000 individual ideas and proposals have been discussed and almost 7,000 events have been held across Europe as part of a comprehensive series of conferences, some of which took place in the plenary Chamber of the European Parliament. So it is a significant amount of work that has been done, with millions of people taking part and expressing their views, and the European Commission has been processing these ever since with a legislative initiative expected in the autumn. According to the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary resolution, “instead of being an open and democratic dialogue, by excluding the approval of a large part of the public, the conference series has become a servant of the political and ideological ambitions of forces interested in the erosion of the sovereignty of Member States and the increase of the power of the EU bureaucracy”. The Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary resolution also states that at the same time the Hungarian Parliament welcomes the fact that Hungarian citizens participated in the conference series with an activity far above the European average and that Parliament “stands by the opinion of the Hungarian people that the European Union must change because it is unprepared for the challenges of today”. The document also states that the “Hungarian position”; is that the EU treaties should be revised and the objective of “ever closer unity”; should be deleted from it. However, it should be included in it that European integration is based on Christian roots and culture, and that the European Commission should be politically and ideologically neutral. The governing majority also wants to state as part of the Hungarian position that the powers that can be exercised through the EU institutions should be reviewed and, for example, that it should be guaranteed at treaty level that each nation can decide for itself “with whom it wants to live”.
Fidesz-KDNP would include in the EU treaty a ban on further joint EU debt absorption (interestingly, they are now pushing for the call on the Recovery Funds that we would receive as a result of the first joint debt absorption), but they would also curb the rights of the European Parliament, and take the delegation of MEPs out of the hands of Hungarian citizens, so that in future they would not be able to directly elect their representatives, but national parliaments would send them to Brussels. Another radical change, according to the “Hungarian position”;, would be to allow national governments and national parliaments to initiate EU legislative procedures; a power that the European Parliament is also demanding for itself, but which Fidesz, of course, does not support. The proposed resolution that Fidesz-KDNP has now tabled and is seeking to adopt is extremely damaging and dishonest in several respects. On the one hand, the comprehensive series of conferences initiated by the European Commission was successful and meaningful and many Hungarian citizens and NGOs participated in it; but even representatives of the Hungarian Government, State Secretaries, mayors and Fidesz MEPs were present at major events, which means that it is a lie that they had no meaningful influence on the proceedings. Moreover, while the governing parties would enshrine the “Hungarian position”; in a parliamentary resolution, there is, in fact, no sign or evidence that Hungarian citizens agree with it, or even want it.
On the contrary, according to the summary published by the European Commission, which also includes a large number of opinions expressed by Hungarian citizens and NGOs, the majority of European citizens would give the electorate a greater say in the election of the President of the European Commission, for example, or even the European Parliament that they elect. There are indeed a number of points where possible changes to the EU Treaties and powers have been raised, but not in the way that Fidesz is now trying to squeeze into a parliamentary document, but quite the opposite: the majority of European citizens, including Hungarians, want more European influence and influence in, for example, equal access to quality education or in the creation of minimum quality standards for health care systems. There was also a general consensus as a result of the conference series that there is a need to move to qualified majority voting for all EU decisions, as the current system gives too much scope for blackmail to certain Member States, which thus block common European issues; but the same is true for sanctions for breaches of the rule of law, where European citizens, including Hungarians, are also calling for new rules. Fidesz-KDNP is therefore plotting another despicable stunt, only to strengthen the Prime Minister’s blackmailing positions at the forthcoming European Council summit. It is a political crime to adopt a parliamentary resolution containing such lies and clauses that deliberately weaken our European community. It is sad that there is apparently not a single European Hungarian left in Fidesz to protest against this. So let me hereby do it for them.

István Ujhelyi MEP
Brussels/Budapest – 22/06/2022

Social debate needed on four-day workweek!

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281712968_555162532635578_1884145042787631619_nThere is no doubt that the periods of pandemics and social changes of recent years have significantly rewritten our daily lives, especially our working routines and habits. The covid-period has proved the validity of the so-called “home-office”; practise and the effectiveness of more flexible working in certain sectors.
I am particularly pleased that in recent weeks more and more people have been paying attention to the possibility of introducing a four-day working week in Hungary, too, as I have been working on this issue more closely as a European policy-maker since the covid period, and the increasingly intense public interest has finally made it time to implement my old plan: to launch a social debate on the possibility of introducing a four-day working week in Hungary. A four-day working week system, which would provide more free time, a better work-life balance and more effective creative time, would not, of course, be an immediate and positive change for all employees, as in some sectors the programme is unfeasible and its general introduction could have
as of yet unknown effects. It is therefore to be applauded that many countries have already started to test the four-day working week, and in Hungary too there are already small and large companies that are testing the method and gathering experience. In Belgium, a shorter working week has been possible since February (although the number of hours per day is admittedly higher), in England a comprehensive test programme was launched in June, in Scotland there was a government commitment to investigate and support the introduction of a four-day working week, and in Iceland, a trial was carried out before the covid epidemic: what it is like for a worker to work 35 hours a week instead of 40, without losing a penny in pay, or in this case not a single Icelandic krona. The project was a success and the results showed that the workers were less stressed, their health improved, they had more personal time, which had a positive effect on their productivity and that the fewer hours they worked did not affect their productivity at all. A significant number of Icelanders who were able to do so because of their job have already switched to this system.
It cannot, of course, be said without substantive investigation and in-depth social dialogue that the introduction of a four-day working week would have a clearly positive effect in Hungary, but as a social democratic politician, I am of the firm personal opinion that if it is possible to increase workers; recreational time and to better balance work and private life without reducing wages, then we have a duty to address this possibility.
In recent weeks, I have been consulting with several international organizations, researchers and movements on the experiences of the four-day working week and the organization of pilot projects in Hungary. Most recently, we discussed the possibilities with two leaders of the 4DayWeekGlobal movement in the European Parliament, Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart, who were open to building more actively in Hungary. So the time has come to start a meaningful and real social debate on this issue as soon as possible, which I, as a European politician of the left, am committed to organizing and supporting: in the coming weeks I will hold the first programme of this at the joint headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament in Budapest, where, alongside former EU Commissioner László Andor, we will discuss the pros and cons of a four-day working week with sociological and mental health experts, trade union leaders and employer representatives. If Hungary is really going forward, we need to find ways to improve the living conditions and everyday lives of Hungarian people.

István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
19 June, 2022.

Emergency Funds: also to end up squandered?

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Ujhelyi-MSZPIt is increasingly difficult and costly to “protect families”, moreover the government wants to strengthen the defence forces, so it has recently set up a so-called “Overheads Protection Fund” and a “Defence Fund” to finance these tasks. The Prime Minister has announced a tax on so-called market extra profits and expects billions in contributions from banks, insurance companies, large retail chains, energy and trading companies, telecoms and airlines. As a social democrat, I naturally support the principle that the wealthy should take greater responsibility and do more to finance social measures and combat the crisis.
That would all be fine, but responsible and credible decision-making certainly does not stop here. Indeed, it raises serious questions (although we all know the answers already without giving it too much thought) as to why the government is only unilaterally involving targeted sectorial players in this major withdrawal of resources and why sectorial interests that have made considerable fortunes in the past are being spectacularly left out, without being asked to take their share of the joint responsibility. Just think of the casinos, for example, which, unlike retailers, have not even had to hook up their online cash registers to the tax authorities’ system, but despite the crisis still generate profits of more than ten billion a year for their owners, such as the Minister of Defence, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, and István Garancsi, who also has close ties with the government. And, if that were not enough, they have also received more than two hundred million in state wage subsidies in the past, precisely because of the crisis. In other words, when there is a crisis, the taxpayer bails them out, and when they would have to pay something back, the government forgets to involve them. But the same is true of almost all the oligarchic interests that thrive on the favours and help of the Fidesz government: in crises they mostly just cash in and show no solidarity whatsoever. It is equally important to look at what the government does with the money it collects, and how it does it. It is not enough to raise crisis funds in a fair way by taxing all those who are able to pay; it is also necessary to spend these funds fairly, transparently and in accordance with the real objectives. We, in fact, have very bad experiences in this regard. It is important to recall that two years ago, the Fidesz government set up a so-called Economy Protection Fund in response to the coronavirus epidemic, from which more than four thousand billion forints (!) were disbursed, yet only a quarter of this amount was spent on direct economic protection aid. In other words, more than three thousand billion forints (!) from this fund were spent on things that actually had very little to do with combatting covid, the eradication of the epidemic crisis, helping the poor and workers facing difficulties. It is hard to forget that billions of this budget for economy protection were spent on sports facilities, other billions on a church renovation programme, the reconstruction of the Buda Castle district (which happens to give home to the Prime Minister’s office) and stadium building, or that over a hundred billion forints of it went to “public foundations” full of government officials, and tens of billions to intellectual workshops not so secretly linked to Fidesz that openly serve government policy.
The best thing, however, is that from the Economy Protection Fund recapitalized in connection with the coronavirus, the hunting expo, which was of great importance to Fidesz-KDNP, received several billions of forints and contrary to all the previous propaganda, we know that it brought in only a fraction of the state forints spent on it. This is not crisis management, this is squandering money. Among the government’s crisis management measures, the creation of protection funds can actually be supported, since there is a real need for centralized solidarity revenues and their focused, targeted use. However, Fidesz is still no different in this respect than it was before: it does not dig into its own pockets, only into others’, and the money distributed as aid is mostly not for others: it effectively goes into its own pockets. The lowest point of this governmental practice was reached when certain governmental interests profited billions from the purchase of equipment combatting the deadly covid epidemic. If Fidesz wants to create real physical and financial security in this situation, it must also act with minimal decency and maximum transparency with regard to the newly created funds. And in the event that they want to achieve effective results in crisis management and not just symptomatic treatments, they will consider and incorporate into government decisions the concrete and well-developed proposals of MSZP’s ‘Security of Livelihood Package,’ as that gives a real chance for a crisis-proof everyday life.
After the Hungarian Prime Minister’s landmark 2014 speech in Tusványos, which proclaimed the illiberal state, I vowed that as a European MEP I would send an open letter every week to warn the public of the crimes of the system that has been established. I am ringing the bells of alarm for the 354th time and will continue to do so for as long as it is necessary. Because we must give a chance for revival and for a shared homeland.

dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
5 June, 2022.

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