Paks expansion: Orban trusted the new Austrian government in vain

Austria’s Ministry for Agriculture and Environment announced on Monday that Austria sues the European Commission for allowing Hungary to expand the Paks atomic plant, Die Presse reports.

“The European Commission is sending the wrong message in energy policy by backing the support Hungary gets for the expansion,”

the Ministry wrote. They ask the European Court of Justice to annul the Commission’s decision.

The European Commission started to investigate the state funding of the Paks expansion in November 2014, and approved the project, which is built with Russian loan, last autumn.

The topic might come up on January 30, when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is visiting Austria’s new chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Earlier Orban greeted Kurz’s victory.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto declared that international law is on Hungary’s side with relation to the Paks 2 nuclear power plant project. “The decisions of the European Commission, according to which Hungary has received all of the permits required to realise the project, are clear”, he said. “Within the European Union, the right to decide what energy sources a county wants to use falls within a national sphere of competence. In view of the fact that the decisions of the European Commission are based on international law, Hungary has nothing to worry about”, he added.

“In view of the fact that the legal foundations of the project are rock solid, we don’t have to worry about any kind of international procedure or about the project’s schedule running late”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade stressed.

The Hungarian government stands by the upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant, which aims to maintain the plant’s capacity, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Monday. In a statement, the PM’s Office said the upgrade project was being implemented with the oversight and authorisation of EU, Hungarian and international authorities.     The Austrian appeal has no impact on the EC’s approval of the upgrade and the project will go forward without interruption, the office said.

It said the Austrian government’s announcement was to be expected, noting that its opposition to nuclear power had already been made clear when it filed a lawsuit against the European Commission for its approval of the UK providing state aid to the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station project. The PM’s Office said Hungary would be backing the EC and the UK government in that lawsuit. The EC started a probe into state aid given to the Paks upgrade in November 2014 and approved the project, to be financed with Russian credit, in the spring of 2017.

Peter Ungar, a board member of green opposition LMP, reacted to Monday’s developments saying that the Hungarian government’s alliance with the new Austrian government had been short-lived. He added that since the Paks upgrade posed a danger to the Hungarian people, the project needed to be thwarted in Hungary.

Hungary Journal/Kormany.hu/MTI

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