The Hungarian government is in talks with the European Commission on the Paks nuclear upgrade after the body raised concerns over its supply contract, Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár said. Hungary seeks a solution which would guarantee a safe supply of fuel for the country, Lázár asserted in the wake of a report by the Financial Times that the EU had blocked the 12-billion-euro expansion deal.
The European Atomic Energy Community had earlier rejected the Paks deal on grounds that Russia should not be the sole supplier of fuel rods to Hungary. Hungary appealed but the Commission sided with Euratom, the British business daily said.
Lázár told public radio that it is not in the EU’s interest to block the Paks project because Hungary needs nuclear energy for cheap electricity and to curb pollution. He said Euratom only partially disapproved of the contract, for instance it would like to see other fuel suppliers besides Russia.
During recent talks with Euratom, it seemed there was a “good chance” for clearing up the issues, he said. A government spokesman called the Financial Times report “false and completely misleading”. A European Commission spokesperson said Brussels was not blocking the expansion but was rather dealing with the contract on the supply of fuel only.
Opposition parties have called on the government to drop the Paks nuclear upgrade project in the wake of the reports. The upgrade is “unviable and unnecessary”, the opposition LMP party said. Bernadett Szél, LMP’s co-leader, said the government is not in a position to negotiate “like a peddler”, and it should not be thinking about going through with the project even with different companies or altered conditions.
Szél said a responsible government in this situation would instead rethink its whole energy strategy, giving preference to renewables to reduce the country’s vulnerability and create crisis-proof jobs.
The opposition Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party said community law cannot be sidestepped when carrying out the Paks project. Benedek Jávor, the party’s MEP, said the EU had “vetoed” the Paks contract because it did not include any alternative fuel supply routes. He noted that now the project was encumbered on several counts: by an EU competition probe for illegal state subsidy, an internal markets probe on failure to call an international tender on the project and by a cartel procedure.
Jávor said these concerns were well founded and the conclusion can be drawn that Paks cannot be implemented under its current contract.
The leftist opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) said the content of the Paks upgrade contract should be made public. A spokesman also criticised the government for knowing about the EU decision to block the project for a week but not coming forward.
The Együtt (Together) party also called on the government to drop the project and make all related information public. Zsuzsanna Szelényi, a party official, called the project “disaster incarnate” in terms of finances, foreign policy and energy policy.
Liberal Party leader Gábor Fodor said the government should drop the “whole mistaken Paks project” and with it lift a huge political and economic burden off the country.
The Socialist party also called on the Paks contracts to be made public. Bertalan Tóth, the party’s deputy leader, said the EU decision is proof that no “dirty pacts” can be made with the Russians behind the back of the EU