The EEA and Norway Grants seek to contribute in reducing economic and social disparities in Europe and strengthen bilateral relations between the donor countries, namely Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and the beneficiary countries. Hungary has received funding since they entered the EU and the EEA in 2004. The key areas of support in Hungary is strengthening civil society, increasing competitiveness of green enterprises, adapting to climate change and increasing share of renewable energy, protecting cultural heritage and contributing to human and social development in the fields of public health and capacity-building of public institutions and local authorities.
The first project we visited was in Ópusztaszer National Heritage Park. The project is located as a part of the heritage park, which is an open-air museum with different exhibitions, a visiting centre with a 3D-cinema and an ethnographic museum. The park is most famous for being the location of the “Feszty Panorama”, a circular painting by Árpád Feszty depicting the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 895 AD. The funding for the project has contributed to recreate an old monastery medical herb garden and build a house for the preparation and display of medicinal herbs. Visitors can learn more about the history of the region, the rural lifestyle, gardening and herbs. The new house also meets the requirements of the main goal of the project, which is for the new constructions to contribute to more visitors and the conservation of Hungarian cultural heritage. In addition to local visitors, there are also tourists as well as school trips and workshops that will be arranged so that visitors can learn in an interactive way. The project was completed in cooperation with the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO).
The second project we visited was at József Galamb Agricultural Secondary School in Makó, where the goal of the project was to improve the energy efficiency of the school. We were shown around by the principal and his team who told us how this had been done by replacing the radiators and windows, developing geothermal energy sources, as well as installing solar panels on the roof of the school and installing an electronic energy management system for the building. With these additions, the school now has an automatized heating system which optimizes the energy use of the school. In addition to reducing the energy use, another goal is that the project will contribute to increasing awareness around sustainable development for the pupils and employees of the school, as well as the general population in the town.
The last project we visited was in the city of Mórahalom. The local government here was given support for capacity building of the city's elderly care. Many of the elderly people in the city live alone at farms, often with long distances between each other. The main goal of the project was social inclusion and development of social services for the elderly population. The project helped to fund a gathering place where social meetings and activities can take place. Parts of the local government and employees in the public institutions have also been on a study trip to Norway to learn about Norwegian elderly care and ways they can improve their services. The project was completed in cooperation with SINTEF and Genardo.