Hungary has passed a law to classify for 30 years all data and contracts related to the planned $14bn expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant by Russia.

It flies in the face of the European Commission’s announcement last week on its stated aim of working closely with member states to foster more transparency in such decisions.

The Commission has been in talks with the Hungarian government on the circumstances of the agreement including an intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Hungary on financing the lion’s share, €10 billion of the development.
Paks NPP Hungary
“We would like to push as much as possible for transparency of any long-term energy deals,” EU Energy Commissioner Maros Sefcovic told The Wall Street Journal in an interview late February.

Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said at the Energy Union announcement last week, “Our proposal is that the Commission should be part of the negotiating team when such important agreements are being signed. We also want to push it further and increase the transparency of contracts in the long term- I am convinced we can develop that mechanism while respecting commercial secrets. Without proper transparency on the European side it’s very difficult for us to negotiate with the dominant suppliers.”

The deal hasn’t been subject to public or EU scrutiny and opposition parties claim Hungarian taxpayers will eventually have to repay the sum; that the deal ignores competition rules, and gives Russia further dominance in Europe’s energy markets.

“This is not a game of secrecy. We will do our best to keep data open for public as much as possible,” Zoltan Kovacs, the government’s spokesman said Tuesday, reflecting on the claims. He noted however that such projects are kept a secret everywhere in the world.

Lucia Caudet, a spokeswoman for the European Commission covering the internal market and industry, said awarding the Paks nuclear power plant expansion project without a tender procedure has been brought to the attention of the Commission.

“Commission services are currently examining this issue and clarifying it with the Hungarian authorities,” she said, noting it is at a preliminary stage and it would be premature to draw any conclusions as to the compatibility of the project with EU public procurement law.

Hungary’s prime minister earlier this year signed a secret treaty with Russia on building two new 1,000 MW plants in Paksi Atomerömü, the power plant. The government says the expansion is needed to make up for energy production at a time when many of Hungary’s old plants would be shut down, in about 20 to 30 years’ time.

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