The real story of the ELI Laser Center in Szeged

Talking about Viktor Orbán’s stamina. After the grueling five-day trip to Beijing and a busy last week and weekend, today Orbán went to the city of Szeged to open the ELI Laser Center.

What is ELI? It stands for Extreme Light Infrastructure, which is a new research infrastructure of pan-European interest. It is a laser project that aims to host the most intense beamline system in the world. The ELI project will be located in four sites. One will be in Dolní Břežany, near Prague. It will focus on the development of short-pulse secondary sources of radiation and particles. ELI-ALPS (Attosecond Light Pulse Source) will be in Szeged, which will be “a unique facility which provides light sources within an extremely broad frequency range in the form of ultrashort pulses with high repetition rate.” In Măgurele, Romania, the ELI-NP (Nuclear Physics) facility will focus on laser-based nuclear physics. The fourth facility’s location is still undecided.

It was on October 1, 2009 that the EU decided to give these three former communist countries a mandate to proceed with the construction of ELI facilities. Being a pan-European project, 85% of all costs would be covered from the European Regional Development Fund. There was only one caveat: these governments didn’t receive extra resources from the European Union for these facilities. They had to use a small portion of their seven-year budget that came from the European Union. It was Gordon Bajnai’s government that signed the agreement, but the whole project, including the decision to construct the center in Szeged, began in 2006 during the second Gyurcsány government.

With this timetable in mind, let’s turn to Viktor Orbán’s speech at the ribbon cutting. First, he made sure that his audience understands that “this facility is not a gift” from the European Union. It was paid partly from the country’s own resources and partly from monies Hungary received from the European Union. And since, in his opinion, Hungary is entitled to the money it receives from the European Union, Orbán considers the money coming from Brussels to be part of the country’s own resources, which could be used in any way he wants. It was a hard decision, he said, because 70-80 billion forints for a single project is a lot. Yet “in 2011 we decided, I believe correctly, to build the largest scientific institution in Hungary’s modern history.” (The Ferenc Puskás Stadium will cost Hungarian taxpayers 200 billion forints, and the cost of the World Aquatic Games has reached 100 billion and counting.)

What happened between October 1, 2009, when the Bajnai government gave its blessing to the project, and 2012, when the Orbán government decided to build the facility? Well, one obvious event was the May 2010 national election when Viktor Orbán again became prime minister of Hungary. Without dwelling on this three-year gap, Orbán said that “today at the time of success, it is unnecessary to recall disputes at the time, but it was seriously debated whether to concentrate on one large investment or not.” The truth is that the Orbán government refused to honor the Bajnai government’s offer of 200 million euros for its construction. Shortly after the election, it withheld one billion forints promised earlier for the planning stage of the project.

Before the municipal elections in October 2010, Lajos Kósa, vice chairman of Fidesz, and the Fidesz candidate for the mayoralty in Szeged held a joint press conference during which they accused the socialist mayor, László Botka, of misleading the people of Szeged. They claimed that no money whatsoever will be coming from the European Union. But, they added, the Orbán government is all in favor of the project and is trying to find the necessary funds, which is not easy under the present financial circumstances.

Of course, all this was just a charade to mislead the people of Szeged, who were naturally keen to have this prestigious project built in their city. The government wanted to use the EU monies for something else, and behind the scenes they were trying to convince the European Union to allow them to abandon the project. As late as August 2012 there was still no decision. László Botka, in an interview at the time, expressed his fear that the project would be cancelled. “Some people are convinced that Orbán is reluctant to spend 10 billion forints on Szeged. Apparently he is thinking of spending this amount of money on Fidesz-led cities. For example, he could divide the amount among 3,000 bakers,” he said sarcastically, since apparently the government was thinking of subsidizing small- and medium-size businesses from the money.

But canceling the undertaking in Szeged would have endangered the ELI enterprise in the Czech Republic and in Romania as well. The decision in 2006 to place the ELI facilities in former Soviet-bloc countries which had joined the Union only two years earlier was a sign of trust in these countries’ ability to create and run first-rate research facilities that were important for the European Union as a whole. So, finally in December 2012—not in 2011 as Orbán claims—the government came to the conclusion that forcing through their original plan and abandoning the project would cast Hungary in a very bad light. It would prove that the former communist countries cannot, after all, be trusted with an important pan-European project of extreme scientific importance. So, they reluctantly gave their blessing.

Orbán now talks about the Laser Center as being of “tremendous value” and proudly claimed in his speech that the very existence of the ELI center is proof of Fidesz’s even-handedness. Too bad that some people have a good memory.

May 23, 2017
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Guest

Just another example of O speaking “with two tongues”?
Or was the whole thing aimed at Szeged and its “Communist” mayor Botka?
Of course in his eyes every institution (whether city, university or company …) has to be punished if it dares to be “anti-Hungarian” i e anti-Fidesz or just not totally pro-Fidesz.
Just like in good old Kádár times – only the weapons have changed, instead of tanks it’s money …
All of these activities serve as examples to the Hungarian population:
If you are not for us, then you are against us – and you will be punished!

aida
Guest

Kadar is credited with starting a form of reconciliation by announcing ” if you are not against us you are with us”. The Rakosi version was the one you attribute to Kadar(mistakenly) and to Orban (maybe correctly). However Hungary and Poland are both basket cases and whilst they do not represent existential danger to the civilised world they are both a serious nuisance and will continue to damage and obstruct our progress to a free, liberal and prosperous united Europe. In my view this is a reverse case of the RBJ doctrine: “rather inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in”. They are both inside the tent and pissing on those there.

aida
Guest

Apologies: LBJ

jopa
Guest

OV is right, you dumb#

Guest

Jopa, you mean, OV is “extreme right wing”, don’t you?

Guest

What is a beamline? A meeting place for experimental physicists.

http://www.esrf.eu/about/synchrotron-science/beamline

wrfree
Guest

If Einstein was around I’d think he’d be singing to heaven with the ELI project as in its own way in nuclear physics/energy studies it would perhaps shine some light on whether God ‘plays dice with the universe’. Perhaps another equation along the lines of E = m c squared can come out of it.

Too bad VO wasn’t an ELI scientist. Recent estimates of the number of galaxies that existed in the universe came to about two trillion over its 13.8 billion history. So he’d have plenty of work to keep him ELI research-busy for quite a while as he takes to science rather than to politics. And besides the EU wouldn’t have to worry so much that money would go to ‘bakers’ when one guy is trying to maybe learn more about the interaction of light and matter..;-)…

Observer
Guest

ELI Laser research/science on one side and a gypsy horse trader on the other.

wrfree
Guest

And let’s not forget the master plan to jump start the MFP…’.Magyar Foci Premiership’. Oh they had the talent way way back. But like Bob Dylan in deep reverie they ‘threw it all away’. Tough for VO to see what a great Brit loss has turned itself into.

Member

May 24, 2017 | 10:15 AM EDT
Statement from [NY] Governor Andrew M. Cuomo:

“The Government of Hungary has recently adopted legislation that would force the closure of CEU. This legislation directly contradicts the 2004 Joint Declaration with the State of New York, which supported CEU’s goal of achieving Hungarian accreditation while maintaining its status as an accredited American institution.

The Government of Hungary has stated publicly that it can only discuss the future of CEU in Hungary with relevant US authorities, which in this case is the State of New York. The Governor welcomes the opportunity to resolve this matter and to initiate discussions with the Hungarian government without delay.”

http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/statement-governor-andrew-m-cuomo-137

Guest

Poor Fidesz!

Now they have to deal with Cuomo, one of those dreaded Liberals, fan of same sex marriage, enemy of gun owners etc …

Might get interesting.

Member

Bet you dollars to doughnuts that the Orbanites will accept no less than the Narcissist in Chief himself.

What would happen if Orban actually visited the White House? The Oval Office is a pretty small place – there’s only room for one Kong-sized ego.

wrfree
Guest

Speaking of Kong sized ‘ego’..

Saw this attributed to Albert..
Looks to be the narcissist equation..😎

Ego = _1_
Knowledge

A: More the knowledge the less the ego
B: Lesser the knowledge more the ego..

VO is probably off the charts on B.
Stick Donny in there too. These guys are omnicient. As for POTUS it’s a wonder he didn’t have the Pope genuflect to him.

Member

Probably would have, but Trump didn’t know what “genuflect” meant.

Istvan
Guest

I see the hand of former Governor Pataki behind Governor Cuomo’s offer. Orban is being offered an exit strategy from this mess.

Member

You might be right. The question is – does he want one?

wrfree
Guest

If Cuomo will meet with the apparently educationally unenlightened hopefully he won’t meet with the contempt that State gets regardless what they do nowadays when engaging in ‘dialogue’.
Hope Cuomo is up to the challenge in a highly critical showdown with a budding nemesus.

wrfree
Guest

Sorry .. nemes-i-s