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EU scrutinizing Russia-Hungary nuclear project routine procedure — Hungarian official

February 24, 2015, 9:06 UTC+3 BUDAPEST

The European Commission did not voice any objections to the Russian-Hungarian agreement for construction of two new power generating units at the Paks nuclear power in 2013

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© AP Photo/MTI, Tibor Illyes

BUDAPEST, February 24. /TASS/. Russian-Hungarian agreement for construction of two new power generating units at the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary was coordinated with the European Commission back in 2013, which did not voice any objections to it then, Attila Aszodi, the Hungarian government’s commissioner for the Paks project told reporters.

He said it in a comment on media allegations that EU agencies might block the Hungarian government’s agreement with the Russian State Nuclear Corporation Rosatom.

As it was reported earlier, Russia and Hungary signed documents on construction of new power-generating units on the compound of this country’s only nuclear plant that had been built by Soviet specialists.

Along with it, Rosatom said it did not rule out a possibility of building two additional units on the Paks compound should the Hungarian government pass an appropriate decision on the issue.

"This procedure was launched in 2013 and it didn’t cause any remarks then and a Russian-Hungarian inter-governmental agreement on the Paks 2 project was signed in January 2014," Aszodi said. "The demand (on the part of the European Commission) on a bidding contest can be applied at the stage of selection of subcontractors."

He recalled that that Euroatom’s paragraph No. 41 on investments in nuclear plants demanded that precisely that body be notified on nuclear plant construction projects.

"Hungary fulfilled all of its obligations last summer," Aszodi said. "Since that time Euroatom has been asking supplementary questions quite in line with its regular practice and the Hungarian side has been answering them."

"We received new questions and held personal consultations," he went on. "Notification concerns most the issues related to energy and the affairs related to nuclear safety, the activity of other agencies, and nature conservation," Aszodi said.

"In this situation, the case in hand is a routine procedure, not a special inquiry," he said.

Aszodi also said Paragraph No. 103 of the agreement on Euroatom says the EU member-states had the right to sign contracts with third parties upon consent of the European Commission. As he spoke about the procedures of project endorsement, he also mentioned various endorsements at the national level which were also very successful in Rosatom’s case.

"The third routine procedure helps clear out whether or not the project will get state support," Aszodi said. "If a state says it will support one or another investment to achieve some specified goal, it may initiate a verification procedure in Brussels."

"There was a case of this kind fairly recently at a nuclear plant in Britain and then Brussels gave consent to setting the price for the electricity produced there at a certain level," he said.

Aszodi indicated that Hungary did not ask for such verifications, as its government believed the Paks 2 project was not linked to a warranted purchasing price of electric power or any other elements of support but nonetheless consultations between Hungarian and EU officials were held to ward off EU apprehensions, should the latter get any.

TASS said earlier that the EU services were scrutinizing the Hungarian-Russian contract for the designing and construction of two new power units at Paks at the moment.

European Commission and the Hungarian authorities are discussing all the problems related to this project, Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, the Commission’s representative for energy issues said.

Itkonen said the scrutiny was in the extremely preliminary phase yet and that is why the commission could not draw any conclusions on conformity of the project to the regulations for inter-state contracts and government assistance.

The Financial Times said earlier Hungary’s decision to sign contracts with Russia in the field of nuclear energy was facing "a growing threat from EU regulators who have the power to block the project."

"A veto or prohibitive fine from Brussels would be a bruising setback for Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister," the newspaper said.

"Opponents of the deal say it both carries financial risks and deepens Hungary’s energy dependence on Russia," it said. "The country already relies on Russia for 80 per cent of its oil and 60 per cent of its gas imports.".

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