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Hungarian Government, European Commission Clash Over Paks Upgrade

Tamás Székely 2015.11.20.

Hungary is ready to hold coordination talks with Brussels in the next two months over the 12 billion euro project to upgrade the Paks nuclear power plant but will take the issue to court if necessary, the government office chief János Lázár said in connection with the European Commission’s decision to launch an infringement procedure over related public procurement rules.

Brussels does not have the right to prohibit commercial agreements with non-European Union countries such as Russia, China or Arab countries, János Lázár told a weekly press briefing on Thursday, commenting on the European Commission’s decision to launch the procedure over the deal in which Russian energy giant Rosatom won the main contract. “It is only natural that there is a lot of pushing and shoving when it comes to a 12 billion euro deal,” Lázár said, adding that the issue at hand is a trade dispute and whether EU member states have access to the money.

Hungary guarantees that Hungarian and other EU businesses can participate in up to 60% of the project, he said, adding that no other nuclear energy development in the EU had been subject to a public tender. The dispute with the EU will not affect Russia’s end of the deal. “We will honour our agreement with Russia,” he insisted. Lázár said Hungary had notified the EC of its intention to sign a deal with Russia back in November 2013, but the body only decided to launch an infringement procedure 24 months later. He noted that during this time the EC approved Hungary and Russia’s contract on the delivery of fuel for the power plant, the technical parameters of the upgrade and in January 2014 it approved the bilateral agreement, which the government office chief said indicated that the EU was not against the investment itself.

Brussels yesterday announced that it launched an infringement procedure against Hungary for failing to comply with EU public procurement rules regarding the upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant. “The Hungarian government has directly awarded the construction of two new reactors and the refurbishment of two additional reactors of the Paks II nuclear power plant without a transparent procedure,” the EC said on its website. “The Commission considers that the direct award of the Paks II nuclear power plant project does not comply with EU legislation on public procurement … [in terms of] transparency, non-discrimination, and equal treatment.”

The EC asked Hungary for information on the issue in a “letter of formal notice”, the first stage of an infringement procedure. Brussels said it had already had exchanges with the Hungarian authorities in connection with the contract awarded to Russian energy giant Rosatom but still has “concerns regarding the compatibility of the project with EU public procurement rules”. Asked about a possible suspension of the Paks project, EC spokesperson Lucia Caudet said the EC was ready to assist the Hungarian authorities when taking the appropriate steps to bring the situation into line with EU law.

Meanwhile Hungarian opposition parties demand the government suspend preparations for the upgrade.

via hungarymatters.hu and MTI


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