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Parliament approves Paks nuclear deal

February 8th, 2014

The leading left-wing daily speculates that the Paks nuclear plant construction deal with Russia serves only the interests of Moscow and entrepreneurs allied to Fidesz. Pro-government pundits, on the other hand, consider the agreement beneficial for the country, and accuse left-wing politicians of having used the Paks nuclear plant in the past to finance their own party and private business.

On Thursday, the Hungarian Parliament approved the Paks nuclear power deal (see BudaPost through January 26). The details of the 10 billion EUR credit agreement with Russia are classified, but it was announced that the interest on the loan will be in the 3,9 to 4,9 per cent range. Government politicians said that the deal is beneficial for Hungary, and serves energy independence while providing cheap energy. The opposition parties sharply criticized a deal which, in their view, will not result in lower energy prices but will increase the country’s debt burden.

In a front page editorial Népszabadság asserts that the project will guarantee profits for Russia and the Orbán government’s entepreneurial hinterland. The leading left-wing daily finds it highly problematic that Parliament approved the deal without MPs knowing the exact details of the agreement, and through a hasty vote which was not preceded by a proper discussion. The Paks deal is a clear indication that the main concern of Fidesz is to establish a strong network of clients, Népszabadság believes.

Magyar Hírlap‘s Miklós Lázin suggests that if one does one’s arithmatic, it becomes inevitably clear that there is no affordable alternative to nuclear power in Hungary. Unless new blocks are built to replace those which have to be shut down between 2032 and 2037, Hungary will need to import electric power, but as of now, it cannot be predicted if and at what price energy will be available from abroad. He adds that because of Hungary’s geographical location, alternatives to nuclear energy including hydro, solar and wind energy would provide energy at a much higher price than nuclear power stations.

In Magyar Nemzet, György Pihál suspects that Socialist critics of the deal are more concerned for their own than for the country’s long term financial interests. He recalls that firms owned by or associated with Socialist politicians used to have lucrative agreements with the Paks nuclear station under previous, left-wing governments. Magyar Nemzet reported that Socialist MP István Józsa, a vocal critic of the current Paks deal, was involved in companies which were contracted by the Paks plant for a total of 6,5 billion Forints. Companies owned by other Socialist politicians including former PMs Péter Medgyessy and Ferenc Gyurcsány also had some minor contracts with the power plant.

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