Sunday

11th Apr 2021

Hungary denies EU blocked Russian nuclear deal

  • The project is seen as dangerous for EU solidarity on the Ukraine conflict (Photo: Viktor Orban Facebook page)

Hungary denied on Thursday night (12 March) a Financial Times report that the EU has, in effect, blocked its €12 billion nuclear deal with Russia.

The FT said the EU strangled the project when the European Commission last week decided to back Euratom in its refusal to approve Hungary’s plan to import nuclear fuel exclusively from Russia.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • EU concerns may decrease if other companies are allowed to join in (Photo: Viktor Orban Facebook page)

All nuclear fuel supply contracts signed by EU member states must be approved by the European Atomic Energy Community.

Hungary appealed against the decision, but according to the FT, the commission last week rejected its case.

Hungary will now have to negotiate a new fuel contract or pursue legal action against the commission, the newspaper said.

But Budapest has said no problems were found with the deal.

"These inter-governmental agreements were presented to the relevant EU authorities who, after due and careful survey of the material provided, put forward no objections," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban concluded the deal in January 2014 in Moscow to have Russian state owned firm Rosatom build two 1,200 megawatt reactors at Hungary’s Paks facility, which provides 40 percent of the country’s electricity.

Besides building the reactors, Moscow is also to provide Hungary with a €10 billion loan to finance the project. Construction is set to start in 2018.

“This is a very favorable deal for Hungary,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said during his recent visit to Budapest.

Moscow relations

The project has been seen as yet another example of Orban cozying up to Putin, raising concerns on EU solidarity in the face of the Ukraine conflict and the bloc’s Russia sanctions.

It also comes as the latest in a series of disagreements between Brussels and Budapest, on energy, civil liberties, and good governance, and has the potential to enflame relations.

"It’s not true that the EU has blocked Paks II construction," Andras Giro-Szasz, the spokesman for the prime minister's office, told the MTI newswire on Wednesday, adding that he has asked the FT to issue a correction.

Despite the denials, Hungary’s own EU commissioner, Tibor Navracsics told the Index.hu news website that the decision was in fact taken by the college last week in a written format.

Navracsics noted that the commission asked Hungary if it agrees to make Euratom’s report public, but Budapest has not replied so far.

Monopoly?

The actual contracts of the Paks project have been classified by Hungary as a state secret, making it difficult to know what it says on fuel supplies.

If the Russian signatories made it a condition that only they can sell it, then the commission is in its rights to question the deal.

But if there is room for other companies to join in, this might offset EU concerns.

Hungarian media recently reported that the government is in talks with a US firm, Westinghouse, to supply fuel to the new reactors.

But other aspects of the deal have also raised eyebrows in Brussels.

The European Commission is looking into how Hungary awarded the contract to Rosatom in the first place (there was no public tender) and whether the financing arrangements constitute state aid.

Orban gives Putin warm welcome

Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban on Tuesday became the first EU leader to receive Russian president Vladimir Putin for a bilateral visit since last June.

Political failure inflames eastern EU's uranium problem

Attempts by eastern EU states to deal with the devastating legacy of Soviet-era uranium mining are undermined by a toxic mix of domestic disorganisation, international apathy and lack of funds. Second part of our investigation

EU struggles with cost of nuclear clean-up

Member states will need to spend €253 billion by 2050 to clean up their old reactors. They have so far put aside only half of that figure, according to an EU report.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us