It’s well known that keeping records is one of the greatest weapons of a journalist. Given the billion-forint agreement that Prime Minister Victor Orbán and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin negotiated over the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant, we looked back in our archives to see what Orbán has said about nuclear power and Hungarian-Russian relations.
In negotiating the Paks deal, Orbán has been accused by the opposition and media critical of his government of disregarding Parliament (key words: plenary debate) and the voters (key words: referendum), and on the other hand of ignoring current economic practice (key words: public call for tenders).
According to the opposition the deal is a secret pact that Orbán concluded single-handedly behind the backs of the Hungarian people. The facts: according to the agreement between the two leaders Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom will construct two new reactor blocks. For that purpose Russia will provide a loan of HUF 3,000 billion.
First of all we will cite a few comments that Orbán made on the program 180 óra (180 hours) of right-leaning public broadcaster M1 Kossuth Rádió, only three days after the Paks nuclear deal was concluded. Here he explained that it is in the interest of the country, over the long term, for the Paks nuclear plant to supply between 40 and 45 per cent of Hungary’s power consumption.
As he put it, the cooperation agreement on nuclear energy between Hungary and the former Soviet Union must be maintained. Orbán stressed that without the Paks nuclear plant there would be “no Hungarian economy”. Without the plant, the national economy would become “poor” and “uncompetitive”. In this regard he set down as a priority of his government to give Hungary the cheapest power in Europe within the next four to five years.
Orbán 2003: the only safe nuclear power plant is one that’s shut down
In stark contrast, Orban said in 2003 while in opposition that nuclear power plants are only safe after they have been put out of commission (cited in left-leaning paper Népszava). In 2007 he warned in conservative weekly Magyar Demokrata that Hungary could become the “happiest shack of Gazprom” (Gazprom, whose largest shareholder is the Russian state, is the world’s largest natural gas company; under the communist regime Hungary was referred to as the “happiest shack in the Eastern bloc”).
At the end of 2007 Orbán wrote on his website Orbanviktor.hu that Hungary had nothing to look for in the East but only in the West. Also at the end of 2007 he told the then-liberal (now-conservative) paper Magyar Hírlap that Hungary is not a bridge between East and West but rather “an unshakeable part of the West”. Yet again, speaking on private broadcaster Lánchíd Rádió, Orbán drew attention to the spread of Putin’s lapdogs in Europe, alluding to the good relations between then-prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and the Russian President.
Finally, in 2008 Orbán said in the south Slovakian city of Lucenec: “Something is happening in Hungary that should be a memorable lesson for us all. Without venturing too far into foreign policy, I would like to draw your attention to a coup that is now taking place in Hungary. The Hungarian government is committing a coup, not only against the Hungarian Parliament but against the Hungarian people. The government has concluded a secret long-term treaty with Russia that will determine the life of the entire Hungarian people within the Carpathian Basin in energy matters for the 21st century.”
Orbán was referring to a secret treaty that the Gyurcsány government (2004-2009) had concluded with Russia.