Hungary Denies Europe Blocks Nuclear Deal with Russia

Hungary disputes reports that European regulators are blocking a nuclear fuel supply deal.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin in Budapest, February 17
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin in Budapest, February 17 (Facebook/Viktor Orbán)

Hungary on Friday denied reports that European regulators were blocking its nuclear deal with Russia. “These intergovernmental agreements were presented to the relevant EU authorities who, after due and careful survey of the material provided, put forward no objections,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s office said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Bloomberg reported that the Euratom Supply Agency had turned down Hungary’s plans to import nuclear fuel exclusively from Russia, a possible violation of the bloc’s competition rules.

The European Atomic Energy Community must approve all nuclear supply contracts European Union member states enter into.

The agency’s refusal to greenlight the agreement Orbán signed with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow last year would not affect Russia’s construction of two new nuclear reactors in Hungary. The plants are supposed to provide up to 40 percent of the country’s electricity.

Hungary’s parliament last week classified information relating to the nuclear deal for thirty years. Opposition parties were furious and suspected a cover-up. 60 percent of Hungarians now oppose the agreement, a Median poll published by Greenpeace last month showed.

Besides building the reactors, Russia has also agreed to give Hungary a €10 billion loan to finance the project. Construction is scheduled to start in 2018.

According to Bloomberg, the nuclear agreement has become a symbol of warming relations between Hungary and Russia at a time when Putin has grown increasingly isolated from the West.

Orbán, a self-declared “illiberal democrat” whose authoritarian tendencies mirror Putin’s, last year refused to pull out of Russia’s South Stream natural gas pipeline project when the whole of Europe was sanctioning businesses with close ties to the Kremlin over the country’s aggression in Ukraine.

Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March and has since supported a separatist uprising in the former Soviet republic’s southeastern Donbas region.

Russia later canceled South Stream anyway.

Orbán, whose Central European country was subjugated to Soviet Russia during the Cold War, received Putin in Budapest last month for a visit.

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