- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 4, 2006

GODOLLO, Hungary — Andras Dinnyes is one of Hungary’s leading specialists on cloning. He has worked at prestigious research centers the world over, including the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, that developed Dolly, the first cloned sheep.

Any number of his many contacts and colleagues in Western Europe or the United States would be delighted to offer him a highly paid post tomorrow if he asked.

In short, he is precisely the kind of highly educated Eastern European the doomsayers warned would rush westward as soon as Hungary and seven other former Soviet bloc countries joined the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004.

But instead, Mr. Dinnyes has confounded the predictions and has opted to stay home.

Of course there is no denying that hundreds of thousands of people are leaving the European Union’s new member countries to seek their fortunes in the West.

In Britain for example, the latest official figures show that 232,000 Eastern Europeans have registered to work in the country since May 2004.

The figures for Ireland, which has a much smaller overall population, are even more impressive. There are 120,000 Eastern Europeans legally living there, accounting for about 5 percent of the total work force.

But what the case of Mr. Dinnyes — and thousands of top Eastern European researchers and scientists like him — shows is that not everyone is desperate to emigrate, and in many cases joining the EU has improved conditions at home for them.

Latvian quantum physicist Rusins Martins Freivalds is working to developing a computer that will process data a million times faster than computers do now.

Like Mr. Dinnyes, he’s doing it at home, in Latvia, which was hit by a brain drain at the end of World War II, then again in the 1990s following the collapse of the former Soviet bloc.

“Latvia is my home. I don’t feel cut off from the world of science here. Latvia is a good place for conducting theoretical research,” he said.

“We don’t provide only plumbers or mushroom pickers to the world,” he added, referring to the mythical Polish plumber and the Latvians who have gone in droves to Ireland to pick edible fungi.

Joining the European Union gave Latvian science a much-needed leg up, agreed Juris Ekmanis, head of the Latvian Academy of Sciences.

“Joining the EU was a great day for Latvian science … EU funds are available for our scientists, and last year parliament adopted a law which stipulates that funding for science will grow by 0.15 percent until it reaches at least 2 percent of GDP,” Mr. Ekmanis said.

The improving economic situation in many of the Union’s new member states, coupled with an overall quality of life comparable to that found in major Western European cities, is exerting a gravitational pull.

While home-country wages are generally meagre next to what new Europe’s high achievers could earn abroad, the cost of living often remains lower than in the West.

Mr. Dinnyes, 39, lives with his partner, Borbala, and their year-old daughter, Julia, in a comfortable, airy, late-19th-century house in the historic town of Godollo, a former summer retreat of the Hungarian royal family.

“When I was younger, I travelled a great deal,” he said, adding he had held several research posts in the United States and worked in Japan, New Zealand, China, Ireland, Belgium and France.

“But I always intended to come back to Hungary, and now that I have, I am still convinced I made the right choice,” he said.

Mr. Dinnyes acknowledged that things were not easy when he first returned.

“When you come back to Hungary with good scientific credentials, you can hit a brick wall. I know of people who have ended up leaving again because they just couldn’t make the transition,” he said.

But many other highly trained Eastern Europeans are ignoring the scare stories.

Svetlin Nakov, 25, a computer programmer based in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, says he has no plans to move, even if, as expected, Bulgaria joins the European Union in 2007.

“Both Microsoft and Google have offered me the chance to work abroad,” he said. “But I don’t want to do that. When you are abroad, you are always a foreigner. I want to stay at home and try to help my country,” he said.

When it comes to the question of Eastern Europeans moving westwards, the current data are limited. So far, only Britain, Ireland and Sweden have completely opened their labor markets to workers from the EU’s new members.

But despite the lack of information, some trends are emerging.

“The fact that people are entering a country does not necessarily mean they are settling there permanently,” said Jean-Christophe Dumont, a migration specialist at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“What we seem to be looking at more and more are migration flows rather than stocks of migrants building up in a particular country.”

In other words many people who do head West seem to be doing so as a short-term option before heading home to settle down.

As Judy Garland put it way back in 1939, as she prepared to catch the last pair of ruby slippers home from Oz, there is, after all, no place like home.

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