22/03/2022 09:14

Russian Contracts of Debrecen Vaccine Plant Must Be Cancelled!

Russian Contracts of Debrecen Vaccine Plant Must Be Cancelled!
Only a few days before the launch of the deadly Russian military aggression, Viktor Orbán visited Moscow yet again and although he described the visit as a kind of peace mission, we can clearly see that he achieved nothing in this area. In fact, precisely because of the unilateral Russian aggression that has taken place since then, the outcome of the economic and cooperation agreements that were formulated after the meeting has become highly questionable.

One such announcement at the Moscow briefing of Orbán and his ally Vladimir Putin was that Russia would make the technology for the production of the Sputnik V vaccine available to the vaccine plant being built in Debrecen, so that mass production of the Russian vaccine in the Hajdúság region could soon begin. Orbán was so thrilled about this that he subsequently boasted on state radio that the demand for Sputnik in the world was so great that the Russians could no longer meet the orders, so the production line in Debrecen was not at all a bad business investment, either.

However, the fact of the matter is that since the Russians have been unable to obtain European approval for the Sputnik V vaccine due to their failure to submit the required documentation, demand for the vaccine has not been outstanding at all; perhaps it is enough to recall that even the Hungarian government has not ordered any supplies in addition to the original shipment, since, with the mass supply of European vaccines around, Hungarians would not have it at all.

Since then, the spread of Putin's aggression in Ukraine, the escalation of the Russian military intervention and the ever-growing range of Western sanctions have only made matters worse: without any particular foresight or analytical routine, it can be predicted that there will be even lower demand for a vaccine that is not licensed in Europe and is offered by the Russian state, hallmarked by Putin, and that it will only 'burn the hand' of whoever holds it. The best thing the Hungarian Government could do in this situation would be to terminate its cooperation with the Putin-led government on Russian vaccines in line with European sanctions and use the capacities of the vaccine production plant under construction in Debrecen to produce Western-type vaccines authorised by the EMA.

Nothing explains this kind of bigoted insistence on the Russian vaccine, its production in Hungary and its distribution by us, except the fact that Fidesz's top leaders have a private interest in the project. This investment and vaccine production contract with the Russians in this situation only benefits those who have a vested interest in the business.

And make no mistake: Fidesz has already proven that it can profiteer shamelessly even on an epidemic that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarians: it is worth remembering how a prominent member of the governing party in the capital city of Hungary raked in billions on the state delivery of COVID-tests, only to sell the company after taking the commission to a teenager registered in a dead end village in Borsod county. There is no way that some Fidesz leaders did not benefit from this deal, or at least would not have known about it, since without government backing this Fidesz politician's company could not have received the billion-forint order for state procurement.

This is why the vaccine production plant project in Hajdúság is also suspicious. The vaccine plant in Debrecen is not only under the dark shadow of Putin, but also smell of corruption. We already know that billions of public money have been reallocated to set up the facility, the final bill for which is expected to be somewhere over 50 billion. I have previously submitted a public interest request to several government ministries to find out the details of the investment, the exact background to the funding (e.g. whether EU money will be used to set it up, and what institutional control the plant will have), but I also wanted to know exactly what the contracts with Chinese and Russian partners for the production of vaccines contain. Most of the ministries I contacted refused to comment, and the responsible Ministry of Innovation told me that the information I had requested was classified and therefore not subject to public disclosure. Typical Fidesz sneakiness.

I demand that the government immediately cancel its contract with the Russian state for the production of Sputnik V vaccines. I demand that the government use the production capacity planned for Debrecen for the production of vaccines licensed by the European Medicines Agency! I demand that the government put an end to the unjustified and massively suspicious secrecy surrounding the investment in the national vaccine production plant: make public the documents and contracts concluded in connection with the project, and account for the public money spent on it so far!

If the Orbán government really cares about peace and the unity of the European Community, it should review these contracts and, acting on common sense, terminate the agreements as quickly as possible.

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 regime's crimes. For the 341st time, I am ringing the bells of alarm, because it still seems necessary. And because, as a radical European democrat, it is my duty to do so.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
20 March, 2022.