Eight members of the ELEEP Network met with staff from the Atlantic Council of the United States and Ecologic Institutefor a study tour in Budapest, Hungary from 27 – 29 June 2012. European elements of ELEEP to this point had focused primarily on Western European countries and perspectives. This study tour broadened the scope of ELEEP activities in Europe to include reflections on the current state of affairs in Budapest, a Central European capital, and particular perspectives on energy and environmental policy to be encountered there.
The participants explored firsthand the changing transportation landscape (including the construction of a new subway line and the building of a network of bike lanes) with a bike tour of the city given by Zsolt Kilian, a traffic engineer and bicycle and transportation advocate. The group visited with MOL, the Hungarian oil and gas conglomerate, to discuss the current situation and future plans. A civil society perspective was gained through a discussion with Marta Szigeti Bonifert, the Director of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe.
The final day took a look at water issues. The group began the day with a visit to Gellért Hill Water Reservoir, one of the many reservoirs providing fresh water to the city. Built in the 1970s to help supply water to an overstretched system that often experienced shortages, the reservoir now serves as backup capacity after Hungary moved from subsidized to market prices for water, which reduced water demand by over half. Lastly, the group met with Organica, a wastewater technology provider, offering innovative solutions to the problems of urban waste water. The group was able to visit Organica’s first facility in the town of Telki near Budapest as well as take a tour of the company’s R&D facility there. Michael Labelle, ELEEP member and Associate Professor at the Central European University’s Business School, provided space for the tour meetings and helped put the tour together.