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Opposition demands answers from Defense Minister over drone that passed through Hungary

picture of crashed drone

Opposition members of the Committee on Defense and Law Enforcement wrote an open letter to Minister of Defense Tibor Benkő regarding the military reconnaissance drone that flew over Hungary in early March and later crash-landed in Zagreb.

Ágnes Vadai, Tamás Harangozó, and László Lukács addressed their questions to the Defense Minister, as committee Chair Lajos Kósa “has still not convened the committee after he canceled a planned meeting less than 24 hours before it was supposed to start, nor has he answered our questions about the downed drone.”

“We are only asking you for as much time as the military reconnaissance drone spent in Hungarian airspace,” they write. During this 40 minutes, they would like Minister Benkő to answer the following questions:

  • Is it true that they were not able to identify the military drone that spent 40 minutes in Hungarian airspace?
  • What happened with the promised investigation into the “drone case?”

[444][Photo: site of military drone that crashed down in Zagreb, Croatia]

Orbán holds secretive meeting with parliamentary party heads before upcoming EU summit

picture of opposition press conference

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán consulted with the heads of the parliamentary parties prior to this week’s EU summit, but the opposition politicians in attendance are not permitted to talk about what was said at the closed session, and Orbán’s press chief is not talking either. The opposition leaders took the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister about a range of issues at the meeting: the war in Ukraine, inflation, Paks II, and EU funds.

Orbán discussed the Hungarian position that he intends to represent at the summit of European heads of state and government on March 24-25, which will also be attended by US President Joe Biden. But other issues of a domestic political nature were also brought up at the Prime Minister’s closed-door meeting with the heads of other parliamentary parties.

Because of the secretive nature of the meeting, opposition politicians who held a press conference after the meeting were not able, under threat of penalty by Speaker of Parliament László Kövér, to talk about what they had discussed with Orbán. But they were able to say that they took advantage of the opportunity of an open meeting with the Prime Minister to ask him about a number of issues, and shared what they asked him about.

While the war in Ukraine will be the chief topic among the issues to be discussed at the EU summit, the opposition asked Prime Minister Orbán about a range of domestic political issues.

Gergely Arató, the deputy leader of the Democratic Coalition parliamentary caucus, said that one of these was whether EU funds would be used to raise teachers’ salaries, as well as the status of the EU Rehabilitation Fund, which the government says is being delayed due to the “child protection” law. Brussels, however, claims the delay has more to do with concerns around corruption in Hungary.

Dialogue MP Tímea Szabó said they had pointed out to Viktor Orbán that “families, who allegedly Orbán and the government have been assisting for twelve years, are getting financially ruined because food prices are rising significantly while the government is not waging a ‘freedom fight’ against inflation.”

MSZP politician Zita Gurmai (pictured, speaking) said that their expectations were for Orbán to put his faith in European co-operation at the summit, for the European Council to “strengthen Ukraine’s capabilities for self-defense,” and for the Hungarian government to “end its smear campaign against the EU.”

Jobbik’s Brenner Koloman noted that Viktor Orbán had not gone to the extraordinary parliamentary session called by the opposition on March 10, which failed to reach decision-making quota because of the absence of Fidesz-KDNP MPs. At the private meeting with opposition leaders, the Hungarian Prime Minister was asked why he did not accompany the Czech, Polish, and Slovenian prime ministers on their joint visit to Kyiv last week.

Péter Ungár from LMP asked Fidesz to stop “its hideous lying that the Paks II nuclear power plant expansion project will affect energy prices, as it hasn’t even been built yet.”

HVG asked Bertalan Havasi, the Prime Minister’s press chief, about what was discussed at the meeting, but the news site did not receive an answer.

[HVG]

Opposition will raise teacher salaries and provide students with tablets if elected

picture of press conference

Higher salaries for teachers and requiring at least an intermediate-level foreign language exam for high school graduation were among the plans for eduction policy released by the united opposition coalition at a press conference on Thursday in advance of next year’s elections.

Ágnes Kunhalmi, co-chair of MSZP, emphasized that the future of education is also the country’s future, but modernization in this area has been lagging in the past 12 years. As a result, Hungary has “gone backwards and not forward,” she said.

The average age of teachers and the number of teachers leaving the country are high, and if there is no wage reform, there will soon be no teachers left, claimed Kunhalmi, who promised that a new government formed from the opposition coalition would provide teachers with a large one-off raise, followed by gradual pay adjustments and fair benefits.

Teacher pay is currently only 61% of the average salary earned by college graduates, which shows that the Orbán cabinet has not addressed the teacher situation in the past 12 years, said Endre Tóth, Momentum’s education expert. This cannot be allowed to continue, he added.

Koloman Brenner from Jobbik also spoke at the event, who promised to improve the quality of education and restore its autonomy. Brenner said that the opposition’s goals were to make education compulsory for students until the age of 18 and to require at least an intermediate level foreign language exam for graduating high school.

Opposition parties would also take back Hungarian universities from the control of Fidesz-run advisory boards and return the vast majority of universities to state control after they form a new government. In addition, they would also ensure that Hungarians can obtain their first university degree free of charge, which could also apply to master’s and doctoral programs “under certain conditions.”

One of the key promises made at the press conference was to reform the National Core Curriculum and provide a perspective shift in the way that a future Márki-Zay government will deal with teachers.

Instead of a dry and unacceptable amount of educational material that students have to absorb, Kunhalmi promised to strengthen teamwork and critical thinking in schools, as well as remove excessive administrative burdens from teachers and give them the freedom to choose textbooks.

We consider teachers to be free-thinking intellectual workers, not bureaucrats.

-said Endre Tóth of Momentum, who also stated that they would focus on strengthening students’ financial and digital skills. On the latter point, Tóth said that students would receive a free tablet computer, noting that children’s learning should not be determined by their parents’ financial situation.

[Magyar Hang][Photo: Magyar Socialista Párt / Facebook]

Opposition rolls out its health care policy plans for the election

picture of press conference

In its latest policy roll-out before the election, the united opposition presented its plans for health care if it is able to form a new government. They promise to increase wages, create a separate ministry for health care, and reduce waiting times.

The first thing the united opposition will have to do if it wins the elections is revoke the current employment status of health care workers, said Jobbik MP László György Lukács at a press conference on health care on Wednesday. Lukács promised to return freedom to doctors and nurses while retaining and even increasing their salaries.

He highlighted specialists as being in a particularly difficult position, and said that the coronavirus pandemic showed that a separate ministry for health care would be needed, which is one of the foundations of their platform.

Gábor Havasi, a health care expert in the Momentum Movement and a health adviser for the Budapest City Council, mentioned that all Hungarians have relatives or acquaintances who have been waiting months or even up to a year to see a specialist or have an operation.

For this reason, in addition to the national health insurance program (TB), Hungarians are spending more on private health care for more timely services. The opposition’s goal, Havasi said, is to reduce waiting times through higher efficiency and better organization, and increase the survival odds for cancer patients through prevention and early detection measures.

DK politician Zoltán Komáromi said that Fidesz had ruined Hungarian health care, which, he believes, only functions because of the dedication of those who work there. Shortages of doctors and nurses affects all areas, including private health care, he said. Komáromi promised that their results in this area would be visible within a few months of forming a new government.

On their long-term plans, Komáromi said that in the next four years they would raise spending in the health care sector proportionate to European standrads. Wages need to be raised to a level where no one in the sector would consider leaving the country for higher pay.

These policies appear more limited than what prime ministerial candidate for the opposition Péter Márki-Zay talked about during the primaries. At that time, Márki-Zay promised that those who do not receive treatment within the state-run system within a certain amount of time could be treated at a privately-run hospital at the state’s expense.

In the past few days, the opposition has also rolled out its economic and social plans for next year’s elections.

[HVG]

United opposition releases its social policy platform

picture of a press conference

The united opposition announced its social policy platform at a press conference Monday, stating that it would increase family benefits, launch a social rental housing program, and stop evicting homeowners who have foreign currency-backed mortgages.

“Viktor Orbán’s economic and social policy has failed,” said Máté Kanász-Nagy (pictured, left), co-chair of opposition party LMP and spokesman for social issues in Péter Márki-Zay’s shadow government, at a press conference on Monday. As he stated, inflation is sky-high, social inequality is out of control, and poverty continues to get more entrenched.

András Jámbor, the united opposition’s candidate in the Ferencváros district of Budapest (pictured, middle), also spoke at the press conference. Jámbor spoke of a housing crisis in the capital, but said that the government ended the only major housing project currently under consideration, Student City, and “in its place it wants to put a private Chinese university that is indebted to one country.”

Jámbor emphasized that 62% of those aged 18-34 live with their parents, and 70% of Hungarians aged 25-34 who live a parent work full-time, but are unable to live independently from them.

If the opposition can form a government in next year’s elections, Jámbor promised that they would support the renovation of municipal and social rental housing. The new government would also set up a housing subsidy system, provide aid for expanding the apartment benefit system, and relaunch the housing savings fund program, among other initiatives.

Following Jámbor, Lajos Kórozs (pictured, right) talked about their intentions of reinstituting crisis relief funds back with local governments. The Socialist MP promised that the new government would “raise the salaries of social workers by 50%, as well as increase the number of home health care hours and range of services.”

[HVG][Photo: András Jámbor / Facebook]

Márki-Zay: Novák is “completely unfit” for the role of head of state

picture of Péter Márki-Zay

After Viktor Orbán announced that Fidesz-KDNP would be nominating Katalin Novák, Minister without Portfolio for Family Affairs, as the next President of Hungary, Péter Márki-Zay (pictured) also expressed his thoughts on the matter.

The opposition’s candidate for prime minister wrote on social media that Viktor Orbán understands society has an expectation of more women in public leadership roles. However, he feels that:

Katalin Novák is not that person. She is even more unfit than [current President] János Áder to say no to Viktor Orbán. It’s a constitutional requirement for the head of state to be someone who stands above the parties, expresses national unity, and is held in public esteem. In contrast to this, Katalin Novák recently resigned as Vice-President of Fidesz. She wears a “Viktor Orbán” earring, is extremely loyal to the President of Fidesz, and is not supported by the majority of the country. She’s someone who thinks that women are worth less than men. She’s someone who talks about not wanting women to earn as much as men.

According to Márki-Zay, Katalin Novák “also bears personal responsibility for the dismantling of the rule of law, the division of the country, the organization of hate campaigns, and rampant corruption. She is completely unfit for the role of President of the Republic.”

[444]