Viktor Orbán and the European Energy Union

After Jean-Claude Juncker was elected president of the European Commission he proposed an ambitious program for 2015. He defined ten priorities around which he wants to build closer cooperation among the member states. One of these was “a resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy.” According to Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Commissioner 
Miguel Arias Cañete,

The Energy Union means making energy more secure, affordable and sustainable. It will allow a free flow of energy across borders and a secure supply in every EU country, for every citizen. New technologies and renewed infrastructure will cut household bills and create new jobs and skills, as companies expand exports and boost growth. It will lead to a sustainable, low carbon and environmentally friendly economy, putting Europe at the forefront of renewable energy production and the fight against global warming.

Šefčovič voiced his disapproval of the separate negotiations between Russia and Hungary by saying that “ideally the commission should be part of the negotiating team.” One of the key elements of the Energy Union is that member states’ energy deals with non-EU countries should be approved by the European Commission. Viktor Orbán’s reaction was immediate and predictably negative. At a press conference on February 18 he said that he “will have a major problem [with Brussels],” adding that he is “expecting an escalating conflict.” Any kind of European Energy Union is unacceptable to Hungary because it infringes on the country’s sovereignty. At the same press conference he talked about his insistence on making energy a “nonprofit” commodity, an idea no other country supports.

It seems that the European Commission was not impressed with Orbán’s threat of an escalating conflict. On February 27 the Commission approved the proposals of the Department of Energy that had as their goal a common energy market for the 28 member states. The idea is to provide energy security that is sustainable, competitive and affordable for all citizens of the EU. The Commission would like to create a situation in which each country would have at least three different sources of energy. Brussels also wants greater transparency when it comes to energy deals with non-member states. That means the EU overseeing Orbán’s negotiations with the Russians and energy prices in general. Juncker also declared that the EU will require, “if necessary by legal means,” the separation of the ownership of the infrastructure from the energy providers. At present the Hungarian energy situation is a far cry from the desired aims of the European Union.

On March 19-20 leaders of the 28 member states gathered to discuss, among other things, the creation of a single European Energy Union, the one Viktor Orbán vehemently opposed a month ago. The European Council broadly approved the proposals set forth by the Commission, although admittedly they left some of the more problematic details out of the final communiqué issued after the summit. Specifically, the demand that

ensuring full compliance with EU law of all agreements related to the buying of gas from external suppliers, notably by reinforcing transparency of such agreements and compatibility with EU energy security provisions. As regards commercial gas supply contracts, the confidentiality of commercially sensitive information needs to be guaranteed

Experts on energy matters think that “the Commission didn’t need a ringing endorsement of its Energy Union proposals from the European Council at this stage. All it required was a gentle nod from the heads of state and a quiet signal to get back to work. Tonight they received a green light to proceed.”

That gentle nod also came from the earlier blustery Viktor Orbán. In his press conference for Hungarian reporters he said nothing about his demand for energy’s non-profit status. He said only that “for Hungary the most important consideration is the price of energy.” According to him, this concern “received considerable weight” in the final document. This “considerable weight” was the following sentence: it “will provide affordable energy to households and industry.” As for the sticky question of energy deals with non-member states, Orbán found it comforting that he will “only have to inform Brussels if such a contract is signed.” There is no question of approval or demand, he continued, because “this would be unacceptable for Hungary.” But it doesn’t matter how Orbán tries to explain himself away, the fact is that the European Energy Union will force Hungary, just like all other member countries, to follow the rules and regulations of the Union. Hungarian sovereignty, which is so important for Orbán, will be further curtailed.

Viktor Orbán was less popular than one of his colleagues in the background

Viktor Orbán was less popular than one of his colleagues in the background

He briefly talked about Paks and Euratom’s veto of the Russian fuel supply. Here he made a statement that deserves some scrutiny. The Hungarian government thought that their contract was “acceptable, but it left itself room for maneuver.” Many commentators interpret this sentence as an admission that the Orbán government knew all along that signing a contract which includes a provision that the Russian-built power plant will also receive Russian fuel rods is illegal, but that they might be able to argue that if the Finns can have this arrangement in their Fennoveima plant Hungary should be allowed the same in the case of Paks.

But there is a crucial difference. Fennoveima received the nod before August 14, 2014, when a new law was introduced that mandated the diversification of the fuel supply and included other provisions on diversification. Didn’t the Hungarian government notice the change in the legislation or did they just hope that the question of the source of the fuel supply would come up only years later and that perhaps nothing would happen until the plant was practically built? Hard to know.

In any case, on the issue of Paks Orbán managed to get himself in a bind. Yes, for the time being Paks is stalled, blocked, if you prefer. And by Friday the government spokesman was no longer so sure about suing The Financial Times, as originally planned. Dropping the whole issue would be a wise decision although, I must admit, lately Viktor Orbán seems to be incapable of wise decisions.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Szabolcs
Guest
There are many differences between the Finnish and the Hungarian case. The Finnish case makes clear business sense. The Hungarian – based on the information we know already – certainly does not. The Finnish project is a private project, without state assistance. Paks 2 will have to be subsidized by Hungarian taxpayers since it is inconceivable that consumers will accept that their energy bill increases 3-4-fold (based on current budget estimates, which are bound to increase further, in fact after a few months the budget increased by 20% to 12bn euros). The Finns had a proper tender. Paks 2 was awarded to Russia in secret without any competition pursuant to secret legal agreements and secret political deals. I’m not entirely certain, but I assume that the Finns had a proper debate whether they at all need the project, whether it is safe from an environmental point of view, whether they can safely deposit the spent fuel rods etc. In Hungary there was nothing whatsoever, no debate, no research, no business planning, no public debate, just an “ukaz” from Orban: Paks 2 will be built and that’s that. We have no idea what we will do with all that electricity which… Read more »
Member

I think it is simple. The Orban family got 10 million Euros in a Cayman account and the Russians expunged all the communist informant files on the Orban family members (Orban, his dad, his father-in-law, who knows who else).

Hal
Guest

If only 10 million…

Max
Guest

Mutt: some insiders here in Budapest talk about a USD 2 billion kickback tag.

It seems realistic and would explain the dear leader’s sudden interest in visiting frequently Switzerland (not only Lausanne where Ráchel is studying but Zürich as well) and his aggressive behaviour whenever Paks is being discussed.

Della
Guest
Let’s recap some things. For many years it was said that the Hungarian contribution to Paks 2 could be 30% given the lack of indigenous Hungarian technology. Hungary would supply concrete and some construction related services. For example in the Czech Republic the local input could be much higher because of the local expertise and relevant up to date know-how. Nobody disputed the Hungarian figure, the Hungarian industry just isn’t on the level of the Czech industry. When eventually Paks 2 was announced it was advertised that the local input of the then 10bn EUR price tag was suddenly 40%. What was the basis of the increase of 1bn euros? Nobody said anything. Now, since the initial announcement the price tag was increased to 12bn euros without even starting planning the project on paper. Thus we talk about at least 3bn euros the basis of which is very disputable. I think it is realistic that 2bn euros could be the kick-back, but since the project is open-ended and the costs will increase the amount to be stolen will be much higher. Orban probably set up companies with reliable fronts (Strohmanner), including the family of his son in law (husband of… Read more »
petofi
Guest

….”non-profit” my @ss.

I’d like Victor to explain why the price of oil worldwide has dropped 70% but the gasoline price in Hungary has only dropped about 15%….

PWT
Guest

Mutt wrote: “…and the Russians expunged all the communist informant files on the Orban family members …”

If you actually believe that the Russians would delete anything potentially useful, then there’s a bridge in Budapest I’d like to sell you! It should be obviously that there is no way a promise to expunge could ever be verified as carried out, which is the real charm of blackmail for the Russians here: it can be repeated as often and for as long as they like!

petofi
Guest

Yes, Muff, consider this: do you think that Orban runs the Russians or that the Russians
run Orban?
Not a tuff question…

Member

I agree. Plus now the payment itself is a potential blackmail. Corruption is a risky business …

petofi
Guest

Anyway, 10 million is peanuts…probably not a fraction of what the axe-swinger went for…

tappanch
Guest

The Fidesz authorities let the chairman of Quaestor, who is very close to Fidesz, to move outside the country without arresting him. His posh house is owned by a company registered in Liechtenstein.

Tarsoly’s company cannot account for some 200 billion forints of investors’ money.

One of his companies fraudulently (without permit) issued company bonds – the depositors thought it was guaranteed by the state.

http://www.blikk.hu/blikk_aktualis/a-quaestor-vezer-tarsoly-csaba-eltunt-a-luxusvillajabol-elkoltozott-a-milliardos-2340313

Taxis Gyuszi
Guest

tappanch, sorry to break the news but there is nobody, and I repeat nobody among the Hungarian oligarchs who lives in a piece of real estate registered in his/her name.

Tarsoly Csaba will at best spend a year in house arrest and then he will essentially walk free. And then Fidesz can blame the communists elements within the judiciary. I’m sure that the submissions on the side of the prosecution will be written so that the courts can’t convict Tarsoly, he knows way too much about fideszniks and Fidesz, way too much.

By the way does anyone remember Istvan Kocsis’ (from his cv a real silovik who supposedly helped broker Paks 2) case in connection with the looting of MVM?

tappanch
Guest

Related news:
Orban’s bodyguard army TEK will protect chief prosecutor Polt from now on.

http://www.vasarnapihirek.hu/fokusz/testorkeringo_adertol_poltig

Guest

If Polt thinks that he needs protection, he is beginning to realize something.

petofi
Guest

Teka is not to protect anyone. It’s a force used as a threat to all legitimate forces that Orban is watching them all…and that they should mind their P’s and Q’s…

Haven’t you people cottoned on to the Hungarian/Roma way of thinking yet?

Webber
Guest

“Haven’t you people cottoned on to the Hungarian/Roma way of thinking yet?” That looks like another anti-Gypsy statement.

googly
Guest

Yes, petofi, I agree with the cowardly false accuser who doesn’t respond to requests to support his accusations with quotes (Webber) – there is no reason to denigrate the Roma by associating them en masse with the master criminal Orbán. They have suffered enough, and all of the so-called “gypsy crime” in Hungary doesn’t begin to add up to a small fraction of what Orbán and his gang have stolen.

petofi
Guest

And whatever gives you the idea that the Victor is not Roma?

googly
Guest

If you have proof that he’s descended from Roma, I’d be interested in seeing it.

Other than that, it’s obviously meant as a slur, which is racist. He doesn’t claim to be Roma, he doesn’t speak like a stereotypical Roma person, and he doesn’t look like one, either (not that there aren’t plenty of Roma who don’t look like the stereotype). If he does have Roma ancestry, then those people are the ones who you say “become successful, leave the group (never to return) and their outsider ways”. Therefore they are non-Roma, even in your eyes.

Stop pretending to be sincere about this whole topic and admit that you are just falling into the old trap of trying to smear anyone you don’t like with whatever you think might stick, regardless of whether it’s true or not, or even if you believe it to be true. That’s exactly the kind of behaviour that Fidesz and Jobbik engage in, and if we are no better than them, how can we present ourselves as the better alternative?

Albrecht Neumerker
Guest

I get the point, but the race issue is unnecessary.

petofi
Guest
Oh my, one says something unpopular–politically incorrect–and the anti-racist brigade spin into action. If something is true, is it still racism? My standard example for this is/was the Jamaican/Canadians’ involvement in the drug trade in the Jane/Finch corridor of Toronto. When continued criminal acts in the area where reported as concerning Jamaicans (almost exclusively), the political correctness aficionados rolled into action: priests and human rights orgs marched and demanded that criminal actions should not be referenced as to the criminal’s origins. This took hold. There were as many, if not more, criminal actions in the area but the reporting took on a bland, non-descriptive form. Csalk up another one for the intimidation brigade of immigrants. Same thing in Hungary: the great majority of Roma are OUTSIDERS–they mock common norms and practices, and do everything to thwart them. Their culture was ever thus. Those few Roma who become successful, leave the group (never to return) and their outsider ways. This doesn’t mean that I advocate the beating or killing of gypsies–of course, I do not. But I do advocate some very stringent oversight over moneys given to Roma organizations. I should also require that Roma getting new homes be required to… Read more »
Member

Orban is Jewish. Everybody knows that …

petofi
Guest

If he were, I’d lobby the rabbinical institute to have his zizit and yarmulka rights
removed….

Webber
Guest
“If something is true, is it still racism?” No, but what does that have to do with your earlier comments? Anyway, the knee-jerk reaction of making denigrating comments about an entire ethnic group in response to issues that have nothing to do with them is a bit weird. Incidentally, calling Orban gypsy is what some neo-fascist Hungarians do on the logic “We hate Orban and we hate Gypsies”, + “Orban steals, Gypsies steal” therefore “Orban is a Gypsy.” It would be quite interesting if Orban were a Gypsy. He’s not, of course. This is just an ugly attempt to discredit him (as if that needed doing), just as the claim “Orban is a Jew” and “Zsidesz” is an attempt to discredit him and Fidesz among anti-Semites (obviously not in Mutt’s comment, which was just silly, but among anti-Semites). Gypsies have been murdered in Hungary in the very recent past just for being Gypsies. One of them was a very small boy, shot in the back with a shotgun in the night as he and his father were trying to flee their burning house. Do you want to contribute to this hatred? Do you really want to join the group shouting… Read more »
Member

I would love to vote your comment up!

Webber
Guest

“Those few Roma who become successful, leave the group (never to return).”
Here is a list of famous Gypsies that includes many from Hungary who have not abandoned their Gypsy identity. Some of them have worked very hard for Roma rights:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Romani_people
And here’s Yul Brynner singing a song from his childhood with another famous Roma:

Wei
Guest

“Those few Roma who become successful, leave the group (never to return).”

This is The issue.

Romas are expected by the majority to assimilate (or what would be tantamount to assimilation) and behave like white Hungarians. If they do that, most problems are “solved”, they become rendes (orderly) cigány.

Of course if they would be too successful (like jews) then simple assimilation would not be enough, but one of the majority’s issues with romas is that romas fiercly resist assimilation. Do they have a right to that?

Do they have a right in Europe (enlightenment, modernity) to live outside history and modernity and state? (Marry children away at 13, not participating in formal education, not respecting/accepting modern institutions etc.)

The very fact that romas are still here, while countless ethnic groups assimilated and disappeared in Hungary (jászok, kúnok, palócok, or even ethnic Romanians, Slovaks, Germans etc.) shows that their group identity is extremely strong and it is this resistance which is the main feature of their identity.

Most Hungarians would want them to behave like any average Hungarian which they don’t want to do. That’s an issue.

Webber
Guest

Quite a lot of the negative things that are said about Roma in Hungary have been said in America about Italian immigrants, Irish immigrants, and Black Americans: Loud, disorderly, lazy, sly, shifty, smelly (garlic!), violent, inherently criminal (mafia!), unable and unwilling to act normally or assimilate, etc.

googly
Guest

You have some good points, but they don’t have to “assimilate” in order to respect and accept laws and government institutions. There are still ethnic minorities or other groups in Hungary which are outside of mainstream Hungarian culture but are just as law-abiding and respectful of government as any other identifiable group, such as Germans, Croats, Serbs, Slovaks, Romanians, Jews, Chinese, Vietnamese, even Greeks! I’m not even including expatriates who are not citizens of Hungary.

googly
Guest
Your example is incorrect, and yes, if something is “true” about a few members of a group, but you play up the fact that they are members of that group, then it is racism. I’m sure that the vast majority of Jamaicans in Toronto, even in that area that you mentioned, are not involved in the drug trade, even if all drugs traded in that area are traded by Jamaicans (though I doubt that). By pointing out that they are Jamaican, those who might think they are just stating facts are actually creating or adding to bias against Jamaicans in general. If Jamaicans acquire a reputation as drug-traders, even the honest, law-abiding, hard-working majority are less likely to be able to get housing and employment outside of their own community, and so are going to be pushed into crime and ghettoization, simply because of a few bad apples in their group and racists like you. When that happens, you and the other racists will feel vindicated, because so many Jamaicans are becoming criminals. It’s called a vicious cycle, and it has been going on in Hungary for hundreds of years. Try to imagine what life would be like for you… Read more »
Guest
Member

Disregard my distaste for self pity of the former Hungarian liberal EP-MP Ms. Herczog makes a number of valid legal arguments in her recent op-ed (in Hungarian): http://nol.hu/velemeny/ezt-a-csatat-is-elbukta-orban-1523183 /in part supporting @Szabolcs’ contribution) More hurdles for energy mix, Paks-II and rough ride ahead. But probably only after 2020! Are we heading towards another Bos-Nagymaros?

Two short notes:
1. In my understanding the known construction costs are made up of the € 10 bn. Russian loan and a 2 bn. Hungarian contribution (taxpayer’s money). The sum of 12 bn was floated by Putin at his Budapest press conference (otherwise we would still calculate with 10 bn loan (?) under unknown conditions).
2. Unless we wanted our own centrifuges and more (?) the only real advantage of having a Russian made power plant was that the burned fuel rod disposal would be taken care of by Russia. It seems to be in limbo. http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20150311_Paks_2_A_Mecsekbe_vinnek_a_kiegett_futoel#utm_source=hirkereso&utm_medium=listing&utm_campaign=hirkereso&utm_content=default
If true this would add to the pile and raise costs tremendously (refer to the US problems with this issue).

Here is another interesting analysis on the renewable “obligations”:
http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/03/five-charts-showing-the-eus-surprising-progress-on-renewable-energy

wpDiscuz