World
Pyotr Iskenderov
January 17, 2014
© Photo: Public domain

The first EU-Serbia intergovernmental conference coming up in January is supposed to demonstrate the progress of Serbia's application to join the European Union. «Serbia must continue the reforms it has begun, the results of which will be a key indicator in assessing the integration process», stated the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. At the same time, in a discussion on Serbia's European prospects, members of the European Parliament hailed the local elections held in Kosovo in late 2013 as «a big step forward on the path to democracy». 

The politicization of Serbia's application to join the EU is obvious. This refers to the socioeconomic requirements being made of Belgrade and recommendations to revise the parameters of cooperation with Russia in the energy field, as they do not conform to the spirit of the European Union, the Energy Charter and the Third Energy Package. 

However, how can one talk about «nonconformity» if within the EU itself the approaches of individual countries to choosing an energy policy are increasingly different? The European Union is not a monolith. A number of its member countries have already made it clear that they do not plan to uncomplainingly follow the directives of Brussels in the energy field, although they do not call their EU membership into question (at least, not yet). At the very moment when the European Parliament members in Strasbourg were starting their discussions at their winter session, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived in Moscow for a working visit… 

Over the past two decades, relations between Russia and Hungary have seen complicated periods. There have been both actions of the Hungarian government against Russian oil and gas companies (mainly against Surgutneftegaz) and attempts by Budapest to play a «double game» on the energy field. However, in the last few years relations have been improving. Viktor Orban's working visit to Moscow in January 2013 was a momentous occasion. At that time, during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the head of the Hungarian government suggested that Russia participate in the modernization of Hungary's energy system. And now these plans are beginning to be implemented. 

According to Sergei Kirienko, the head of the state corporation Rosatom, nuclear energy is becoming an important area of bilateral Russian-Hungarian cooperation. «Negotiations with Hungary are in the active stage», stated Kirienko. This refers to Russia's participation in building two new power producing units at Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant (in addition to the existing four which were built with the help of the USSR) with a total output of 2500-3400 MW. The contract is valued at 10 billion dollars. «Over 40 percent of the work volume», according to V. Putin, «is to be done by the Hungarian side. This means that approximately three billion dollars will be allocated for supporting jobs in Hungary, and tax revenues alone will come to over a billion dollars.» 

And if one adds the agreements reached by Moscow and Budapest in late 2013 on strict adherence, regardless of possible complications, to the previously agreed-upon schedule for the construction of the Hungarian part of the South Stream gas pipeline and the start of Russian gas deliveries to Hungary in early 2017, one must acknowledge that cooperation between Russia and Hungary in the energy field is becoming a strategic partnership.

There are two main reasons for the progressive development of relations between Russia and Hungary. The first is connected with tension in the relations between Budapest and Brussels. Pressure from EU leadership on Hungary has become increasingly overt over the past few years, touching on both the state sovereignty of Hungary and the sentiments of its people. It is sufficient to recall the improvisations of German politicians with regard to the need to send paramilitary units to Hungary or the proposal discussed in the European Commission to impose sanctions on Budapest for peculiarities of Hungarian national legislation which did not please Brussels. 

In the eyes of Hungarians, all of this has significantly reduced the attractiveness, to put it mildly, of the European Commission's recommendations in other areas as well, including energy. Furthermore, why not follow the example of German business in this matter? In recent years it has been conducting an independent policy of cooperating with Russia in the energy field. This refers, in particular, to the recent withdrawal of the German energy holding RWE from the Nabucco project.

Furthermore, Russian-Hungarian cooperation has a good financial and economic basis. Russian proposals are simply more profitable, well-planned and serious than similar proposals from Western companies. This is proven by a simple fact: today Russia supplies 80% of oil and 75% of natural gas consumed in Hungary. 

As the Hungarian press acknowledges, among all the candidates for the contract, only Rosatom is prepared to provide appropriate preliminary financing for the project to develop the Paks nuclear power plant. At first the French company Areva and the Japanese-American company Westinghouse planned to take part in the tender, but Hungary never received any concrete proposals from them. The Russian corporation, on the other hand, proposed terms which serve the interests of the Hungarian side.

It must be said that Hungary's interest in developing atomic energy does not exactly suit the priorities of the European Union, where many are dreaming of a «shale revolution», which would bring Europe no less, but rather more, of an ecological threat than a nuclear plant. 

The Hungarian government's stake on the development of nuclear energy, observing, of course, all safety requirements, is an important step on a Europe-wide scale. As shown by Russia's cooperation with other countries, in particular Iran, Russian proposals fully meet safety requirements. So the energy alliance of Moscow and Budapest may serve as an example for other European countries.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
Viktor Orban in Moscow

The first EU-Serbia intergovernmental conference coming up in January is supposed to demonstrate the progress of Serbia's application to join the European Union. «Serbia must continue the reforms it has begun, the results of which will be a key indicator in assessing the integration process», stated the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. At the same time, in a discussion on Serbia's European prospects, members of the European Parliament hailed the local elections held in Kosovo in late 2013 as «a big step forward on the path to democracy». 

The politicization of Serbia's application to join the EU is obvious. This refers to the socioeconomic requirements being made of Belgrade and recommendations to revise the parameters of cooperation with Russia in the energy field, as they do not conform to the spirit of the European Union, the Energy Charter and the Third Energy Package. 

However, how can one talk about «nonconformity» if within the EU itself the approaches of individual countries to choosing an energy policy are increasingly different? The European Union is not a monolith. A number of its member countries have already made it clear that they do not plan to uncomplainingly follow the directives of Brussels in the energy field, although they do not call their EU membership into question (at least, not yet). At the very moment when the European Parliament members in Strasbourg were starting their discussions at their winter session, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived in Moscow for a working visit… 

Over the past two decades, relations between Russia and Hungary have seen complicated periods. There have been both actions of the Hungarian government against Russian oil and gas companies (mainly against Surgutneftegaz) and attempts by Budapest to play a «double game» on the energy field. However, in the last few years relations have been improving. Viktor Orban's working visit to Moscow in January 2013 was a momentous occasion. At that time, during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the head of the Hungarian government suggested that Russia participate in the modernization of Hungary's energy system. And now these plans are beginning to be implemented. 

According to Sergei Kirienko, the head of the state corporation Rosatom, nuclear energy is becoming an important area of bilateral Russian-Hungarian cooperation. «Negotiations with Hungary are in the active stage», stated Kirienko. This refers to Russia's participation in building two new power producing units at Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant (in addition to the existing four which were built with the help of the USSR) with a total output of 2500-3400 MW. The contract is valued at 10 billion dollars. «Over 40 percent of the work volume», according to V. Putin, «is to be done by the Hungarian side. This means that approximately three billion dollars will be allocated for supporting jobs in Hungary, and tax revenues alone will come to over a billion dollars.» 

And if one adds the agreements reached by Moscow and Budapest in late 2013 on strict adherence, regardless of possible complications, to the previously agreed-upon schedule for the construction of the Hungarian part of the South Stream gas pipeline and the start of Russian gas deliveries to Hungary in early 2017, one must acknowledge that cooperation between Russia and Hungary in the energy field is becoming a strategic partnership.

There are two main reasons for the progressive development of relations between Russia and Hungary. The first is connected with tension in the relations between Budapest and Brussels. Pressure from EU leadership on Hungary has become increasingly overt over the past few years, touching on both the state sovereignty of Hungary and the sentiments of its people. It is sufficient to recall the improvisations of German politicians with regard to the need to send paramilitary units to Hungary or the proposal discussed in the European Commission to impose sanctions on Budapest for peculiarities of Hungarian national legislation which did not please Brussels. 

In the eyes of Hungarians, all of this has significantly reduced the attractiveness, to put it mildly, of the European Commission's recommendations in other areas as well, including energy. Furthermore, why not follow the example of German business in this matter? In recent years it has been conducting an independent policy of cooperating with Russia in the energy field. This refers, in particular, to the recent withdrawal of the German energy holding RWE from the Nabucco project.

Furthermore, Russian-Hungarian cooperation has a good financial and economic basis. Russian proposals are simply more profitable, well-planned and serious than similar proposals from Western companies. This is proven by a simple fact: today Russia supplies 80% of oil and 75% of natural gas consumed in Hungary. 

As the Hungarian press acknowledges, among all the candidates for the contract, only Rosatom is prepared to provide appropriate preliminary financing for the project to develop the Paks nuclear power plant. At first the French company Areva and the Japanese-American company Westinghouse planned to take part in the tender, but Hungary never received any concrete proposals from them. The Russian corporation, on the other hand, proposed terms which serve the interests of the Hungarian side.

It must be said that Hungary's interest in developing atomic energy does not exactly suit the priorities of the European Union, where many are dreaming of a «shale revolution», which would bring Europe no less, but rather more, of an ecological threat than a nuclear plant. 

The Hungarian government's stake on the development of nuclear energy, observing, of course, all safety requirements, is an important step on a Europe-wide scale. As shown by Russia's cooperation with other countries, in particular Iran, Russian proposals fully meet safety requirements. So the energy alliance of Moscow and Budapest may serve as an example for other European countries.