In response to the Hungarian government’s national consultation, the Krétakör Foundation, as an organization addressing social issues, has launched an alternative consultation under the title #igazinemzetikonzultáció (#realnationalconsultation). Citizens were invited to articulate their genuine social concerns to replace the fake questions of the national consultation by writing their questions on a piece of paper and taking a selfie with it. Based on the selfies we have received, people seem to be most interested in the following subjects: corruption, energy politics, child poverty, employment, education and pensions. We have made a short video interview on each topic with an acknowledged expert of the field.
The Hungarian government initiated a consultation on six questions at the end of March. The consultation’s questionnaires were mailed to every Hungarian household and people can return their replies until the end of May. The questions of this questionnaire give a false impression of Brussels, the migrants and the civil organizations supported from abroad, therefore the European Commission refuted the Hungarian government’s claims in a detailed notice.
As a response to this consultation liable to mislead citizens, the Krétakör Foundation, an organization addressing social issues, has made a call for an alternative national consultation. In course of this #igazinemzetikonzultáció (#realnationalconsultation) we asked citizens to articulate their genuine social concerns in order to replace the government’s fake questions. People were invited to write their own questions in a very legible way on a piece of paper and take a selfie with it. We have received more than a hundred questions – several artists and public figures have also sent us their selfies –, which we have been posting on the Foundation’s Facebook page.
Most of the citizens’ questions related to corruption, energy policy, child poverty, employment, education or pension. In consequence, we have made short video interviews on these six subjects with well-known Hungarian experts.
The questions thus received seem to indicate that Hungarian people’s high priority concerns do not include civil organizations, refugees or the way to stop Brussels.
Instead, many of them were interested where EU funds disappear, why corruption is so high in Hungary and how poverty governs more and more people’s lives.
“May we have a consultation on how to use the several billions worth of EU support efficiently?”
Most of the questions we have received concern the use of EU funds and political corruption, which has become an everyday phenomenon. These are the central topics in one of our videos made with Sándor Léderer, the manager of K-monitor, the Hungarian organization monitoring corruption in Hungary. He observes that corruption has become more insolent than ever in the past few years, and along with that tendency, the government has also made it more difficult to access data of public interest, which is a difficulty both for the Hungarian media and for civil organizations:
“The Hungarian government has made it more difficult to request data, and you have to pay for it, for they say it was too much burden on their offices – their real aim must have simply been to block people from these data – whereas in the past few years the Czech Republic or Slovakia have installed central databases where all the contracts signed by the central or local governments must be uploaded. A contract does not enter into force before having been uploaded into the database.”
What is really shocking about the EU supports conjured away in flagstones or often squandered on unnecessary infrastructural developments, says Léderer, is that the country received all that money essentially to lay the foundation for the basis of the recent young generations’ future:
“This is a single chance, it won’t happen again that Hungary receives so much money, and this government has totally wasted this opportunity.”
We also got numerous questions on child poverty, which we forwarded to Ágota Scharle, the senior researcher of the Budapest Institute.
“Why are we the third on the list of EU countries which have the greatest number of children living in poverty?”
“Why does the mentor of a child living at a state children’s home has only 23 000 HUF to cover all the food, school contribution fees and transportation costs that the child needs?”
According to the researcher of poverty, the biggest problem is that the amount of family allowances has not been increased since 2008, although that kind of support could actually reach the poorest children’s parents, whereas family tax benefits offered generously by the government can only help well-to-do families. Thus it is precisely the poor and unemployed people whose families cannot benefit from the recent increases.
“In Hungary, 8% of the children live in extreme poverty. In their cases, disadvantages basically start as early as the embryonic phase, when their mothers do not feed on the quantity and quality of food they would need for the development of the embryo… So by the time the babies are 1-1,5 years old, these children are already quite likely to be disadvantaged. Then they cannot get into a day care or kindergarten offering suitable opportunities to develop them because there is none in their village. Most of the teachers are not armored by the professional methodologies that would allow them to compensate these children for their disadvantages. These children have a much bigger chance to get out of school without the basic skills… they are functionally illiterate, which is the direct way to unemployment or public work.”
Ágota Scharle suggests that the most important aim in the middle or long run would be to improve the quality of services and to make them available for everybody. It is essential that any child, even if born to the poorest family living in the smallest village, should be able to attend a good quality day care or kindergarten.
In the other four videos of the series, Katalin Törley, a leader of the “I’d Like to Teach” (“Tanítanék”) Movement spoke about the current situation of education in Hungary, and Ada Ámon, the President of Energy Club (Energiaklub) expounded the risks of the 4000 billion nuclear power plant investment in Paks. The President of the National Representative Body of Pensioners (Nyugdíjasok Országos Képviselete), György Földényi observed in his video on the position of elderly people that two third of the pensions received by Hungarian people does not reach even the average level of 120 000 HUF, while the social network taking care of aged people performs worse and worse all over the country. Kata Keveházi, the manager of the Well-Being Public Interest Foundation (Jól-lét Alapítvány) gave us an analysis of the recent employment situation in Hungary, with special attention to the frequent workplace discrimination against women and the difficulties of returning to work after bearing children.