Paks plant bill submitted; left reacts at rally

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On Friday, National Economy Minister Mihály Varga submitted a bill to parliament calling for the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant based on the interstate agreement concluded with Russia during Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s official visit in mid-January. 

At that time, Hungary and Russia signed an inter-state agreement for Russian state-owned company Rosatom to construct two new reactors at the Paks plant with up to €12 billion in central government financing. 

Discussion and debate on the bill will begin in today’s session.

Left-wing parties in anti-Paks deal rally
Összefogás, the newly-formed left-wing opposition coalition for the upcoming parliamentary elections, held its first rally as a unified front on Sunday. An estimated 500 attended to hear a number of speeches teeing off on the government’s prospective deal to work with a Russian government-owned company and bank in extending the Paks nuclear power plant.

Particularly vocal was former prime minister/Democratic Coalition party co-president Ferenc Gyurcsány, who called current Prime Minister Viktor Orbán a “liar” and “traitor” regarding the incipient deal; it should be noted that as PM from 2004-2009, Gyurcsány over passage of the law requiring an upgrade to the Paks plant and stated then that he favored Russian interests to do the job.

Meanwhile, fellow former PM/E14-PM party president Gordon Bajnai summed up the party line with “the monument to this government is a power plant, which symbolizes all the reasons why they have to go.” Bajnai stated in mid-January that “Viktor Orbán’s regime is equally under threat by the joint list of the alliance to overthrow the government and by all the dirty laundry that has been made public in connection with the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant.”

In advance of the new bill regarding the Paks plant extension to be introduced to Parliament today, the Összefogás parties had appealed to the National Election Office (NVI) to instead make the matter a public referendum. Naturally, this claim was rejected.

Poll: Majority back Paks nuclear plant extension
And here’s an item said left-wing coalition may want to note: Though those concerned about environmental issues and/or squeamish about high-level dealings with the Russian government are loudly up in arms over the prospective deal involving Rosatom providing the Paks plant extension, newly-released results from a Nézőpont survey show that some 52% of citizens believe the government-mandated upgrade is necessary.

One-quarter of those polled were opposed to any such extension.

Conducted on January 20-25, the Nézőpont opinion poll surveyed a total of 1,000 Hungarian citizens.

Orbán: EU must rebuild ties with Russia
The European Union must rebuild its ties with Russia in a pragmatic manner, because the EU needs energy for its sustainable economic development,” news agency AFP quoted Orbán as saying at Friday’s National Bank of Hungary (MNB) Lamfalussy Conference in Budapest.

Orbán went on to recall his youthful days, stating that “As you know I am an old anti-communist, but if Europe fails to do its utmost to secure Russian energy, I am not sure how will supply its economy.” AFP reminded that as an activist, the current PM “made a famous speech in 1989 before the fall of communism later that year and who has since warned about too much influence from Moscow…”

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