Russia has accepted EU demands on Paks nuclear project claims Hungary

By bne IntelliNews November 10, 2016

Moscow has accepted unnamed demands from the EU on Hungary's deal with Russia to expand the Paks nuclear power plant, a senior official in Budapest claimed on November 10.

The commission has long questioned the fiscal wisdom and legality of the €12.5bn deal agreed in 2014 to expand Hungary's sole nuclear facility, and is still to announce whether it meets the bloc's rules following probes on public procurement and state aid. However, Budapest has suggested in recent months that Brussels is set to approve the project. It now says that could happen next week.

"The European Commission signalled its requests to the Russian party, which accepted these modifications,” Janos Lazar, leader of Hungary's Prime Minister’s Office told a press conference on November 10. However, he offered no detail at all about the requested changes.

Local press have suggested the European Commission expects Hungary to meet two conditions. It wants all issues related to Paks 2 to be clearly separated from the current power supervision system, it is reported, and all electricity generated by the the plant to be sold without the involvement of state-owned grid operator MVM.

It remains unclear, however, whether the EU has demanded the modification of the intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Hungary. The deal, which was signed at that level in order to evade rules insisting on a public tender, hands Moscow no little leverage over a nuclear facility inside the EU.

At the same time, it is unclear whether either of the parties to the deal is still quite so keen. Speculation arose earlier this year that Russia may be seeking to pull out of its agreement to lend Hungary €10bn towards the cost. due to Moscow's fiscal problems in its current economic difficulties.

Meanwhile, Lazar suggested in the summer that Budapest may now be eyeing lower borrowing costs than Moscow is offering after the sovereign escaped from "junk" earlier this year. Budapest has not confirmed it has any plan to look for alternatives to the Russian loan.

Lazar said on November 10 that the approval of Paks is on the commission's agenda for next week. The “approach of the commission is constructive,” he added.

The offficial also said Brussels has a similar attitude towards Budapest's deal with China on the construction of the Budapest-Belgrade railway. The commission has also set some conditions for the approval of that project, Lazar admits, but in this case the “development depends on the Chinese partner".

 

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