Hungary, highly dependent on Russian energy, said on Monday (September 26th) that it strongly opposes European Union sanctions against Russia’s nuclear industry, following EU discussions on the issue this weekend.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a Vienna meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that “some entities of the European Union…continually try to put obstacles and obstacles in (the) way of nuclear investments”.
“I want to make it very clear here that we consider all actions taken…to put obstacles in the way of the construction of our nuclear power plants as attacks on our sovereignty.”
The landlocked central European country is exempt from the EU’s partial embargo on Russian oil and rejects calls for further sanctions against Russia’s energy industry, even indirect ones in areas such as construction, engineering or computer science.
Sanctions on nuclear investments were a “red line” for Hungary and would be “a violation of European regulations”, Szijjarto told the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
“We would never support…sanctions that jeopardize our secure energy supply,” he said.
Hungary seeks EU green light for nuclear reactors
Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has sought close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years and has frequently spoken out against EU sanctions on the Kremlin, saying they hurt Europe more than in Moscow.
Hungary will soon start the construction of two new nuclear reactors with the Russian conglomerate Rosatom in its Paks nuclear power plant. They will complement the four existing Hungarian atomic reactors, which run on Russian fuel and provide about half of the country’s electricity.
Hungary has also asked the EU for approval to extend the life of its current reactors, Szijjarto said Monday in a video posted on his Facebook page.
EU member states in favor of strong sanctions against Russia are pushing to end nuclear cooperation with Moscow. They include the Baltic States, Ireland and Poland.
But there is no consensus on the issue among the bloc’s 27 members, a European diplomatic source told AFP.
Bulgaria, which lost access to Russian gas supplies because the previous centrist government refused to pay in roubles, is also concerned about talks of expanding the energy embargo.
Its one and only nuclear power plant provides around a third of the country’s electricity.
‘Europe is shooting itself in the foot’: Orbán
On Monday, Orbán again criticized the EU strategy.
“Europe is shooting itself in the foot,” he told parliament in Budapest. “A dwarf imposes sanctions on a giant when sanctions can only work if it’s the other way around.”
At the same time, Orbán urged Brussels to release EU funds for energy investments, which are currently blocked by Brussels for rule of law reasons.
“If the Brussels bureaucrats don’t give us this money, which Hungary is eligible for, then we will get the necessary funds from other financial sources,” Orbán said. “We have launched these talks with the European Union and other international partners.”
The Hungarian government has revised its long-term energy strategy and is planning a series of huge investments in the energy sector for which it is eligible for EU funding.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]