Hungary, as a partner of Iran, is now in the nuclear business

As is customary in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, the Hungarian public learned that Iran and Hungary are on the verge of signing an agreement to expand nuclear cooperation from The Tehran Times, the English-language voice of the Islamic Revolution. The short notice announcing the arrival of Deputy Foreign Minister Zsolt Semjén said that “following the lifting of international sanctions on Iran, Tehran has strived to fully utilize economic and scientific opportunities, including the pursuit of peaceful nuclear activities.” The paper, quoting the English-language Russian publication Sputnik, noted that last week President Hassan Rouhani and Vladimir Putin “decided to sign a memorandum on the development of peaceful nuclear cooperation.” Amerikai Magyar Népszava believes that Putin “blackmailed” Orbán into participating in a nuclear deal with Iran. I’m not sure that Viktor Orbán needed too much prodding. I suspect that the prospect of partnering with Iran in a project to build small nuclear reactors to sell in Africa and Asia boosted the ego of Hungary’s prime minister.

Since having closer economic relations with Iran fits in with Orbán’s “Eastern Opening,” his state visit to Tehran in late November 2015, where the two partners signed a number of bilateral agreements, wasn’t considered extraordinary. What was more telling was a Reuters report from Budapest on February 18, 2016 that Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, had proposed a project to design and develop a small, 25 megawatt nuclear reactor. It would be followed a second project to develop a reactor perhaps as large as 100 megawatts. This proposal was well received by the Hungarian government. As Népszabadság put it, the reactor was offered on a “Persian rug.” It may have been a coincidence, but Salehi’s offer coincided with Viktor Orbán’s visit to Moscow. In any case, Russia is extremely active in the development of Iranian nuclear energy. In the coming years eight power plants will be built with Russian help.

In the months following the Iranian proposal there were frequent visits back and forth between Budapest and Tehran. László Kövér, president of the Hungarian parliament, spent almost a whole week in Tehran in November 2016, where he was warmly received. President Hassan Rouhani, after meeting with Kövér, said that Iran’s “expansive capabilities in the area of technical and engineering services and the implementation of infrastructure projects as well as Hungary’s competence in the field of industry and agriculture have created proper bases for the expansion of Tehran-Budapest ties.” Kövér assured the Iranians that “Budapest was prepared to cooperate with Tehran in the fight against terrorism.”

On February 8 the English-language section of the Hungarian government’s website announced that “several agreements had already been concluded at the first session of the Hungarian-Iranian Joint Economic Committee,” one of which was that “Eximbank has established an 85 million euro credit line to facilitate cooperation between Hungarian and Iranian businesses, and to finance export-import transactions and the founding of joint ventures.” The Hungarian media didn’t pick up this news item, but the Iranian press, including the Iranian Financial Tribune, reported it.

These were the preliminaries to the news on April 5, 2017, which stunned a lot of people in Hungary, that Iran and Hungary plan to sign an agreement on April 8 to expand nuclear cooperation between the two countries. As is clear from the diplomatic traffic between Hungary and Iran, at least since November 2015, this news shouldn’t have surprised anyone–and most likely didn’t outside of Hungary. But in Hungary there were no follow-up reports about this nuclear deal after February 18, 2016, when Ali Akbar Salehi made his initial offer. In fact, the Hungarian media was completely unaware of Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén’s presence in Tehran until two days after Iran’s Financial Tribune reported it. According to the Iranian paper, Semjén arrived with a delegation of five ministers and about 100 businessmen. Semjén apparently assured the Iranians of Hungary’s “profound respect for President Rouhani’s policies” and stressed that Hungary has “always been against sanctions, as [it] tried to hold talks with Iran even before JCPOA’s conclusion.” Semjén is referring here to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by China, France, Germany, the European Union, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén and Vice President Hossein Ali Amiri

Once it sank in that Hungary and Iran are indeed in the “nuclear business,” the independent media was up in arms. Népszava found the idea “absurd.” After all, it was only in 2016 that sanctions against Iran because of its alleged development of nuclear weapons were lifted. It is also an absurdity that the Orbán government, which is so keen on Christian virtues, decided to do business with Iran, number six on the list of Muslim countries with anti-Christian legislation on the books. 24.hu found the timing most unfortunate: “Quite a week for Hungary’s turning away from the West. On Tuesday Parliament votes on amendments that make the functioning of the largest and best American university in Central Europe impossible. On Saturday Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén will sign an agreement on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy.” Zsolt Kerner of 24.hu predicted that this agreement with Iran will further tarnish Hungary’s not so “shiny relations” with the United States.

LMP, Hungary’s green party, was naturally outraged. The co-chair of LMP, Bernadett Szél, has been battling against the expansion of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant ever since it was first proposed. The party published the following statement: “The Hungarian public learned today that Hungary will sign an agreement on nuclear cooperation with Iran. With Iran, a country about which we cannot exclude the possibility that it is developing nuclear weapons. In addition, it is a well-known fact that Iran is a major sponsor of terrorism.”

More than two months before this news broke, on February 1, 2017, George Lázár wrote an article which appeared in The Hungarian Free Press. Lázár spotted a photo taken at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington where Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi can be seen in the company of Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn and her husband. Marsha Blackburn is apparently quite close to Ivanka Trump, and Lázár suspects that Szemerkényi’s courting of Blackburn was an attempt to get closer to the White House in order to wangle an invitation for Viktor Orbán. However, says Lázár, Blackburn was known to be a strong critic of President Obama’s nuclear deal. She released a statement in 2015 which said in part: “Iranians were chanting ‘Down with America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ as they celebrated Al-Quds day. How can we possibly trust them to act in good faith?” Lázár pointed out that “Prime Minister Orbán is not only a casual friend of Iran but also supports nuclear cooperation with them.” His conclusion was that perhaps Szemerkényi didn’t do her homework before she picked Marsha Blackburn as an emissary between Orbán’s Hungary and the Trump White House.

We know by now that President Michael Ignatieff of Central European University did get to the White House by contacting Fiona Hill, who recently joined the National Security Council as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian Affairs. In addition to being the author of an excellent book on Putin, she has written extensively on energy issues. We already know that Mr. Ignatieff has been assured that the U.S. State Department is sending people to Budapest next week. While they are at it, they might inquire about Hungary’s growing friendship with Iran as well.

April 7, 2017
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petofi
Guest

Those Americans are so devious and devilish. Imagine putting Iran on the short list of terrorist sponsors. Well, thank heavens for that genius-of-many-fields, Kover, who has put both his feet (covered in mukluks) into his sizeable mouth and offered to help Iran’s fight against terrorists(!!)

What a diplomatic genius!

Hungarians.
What would the cosmic television networks do without them?

HAJRA MAGYAROK!!!!

Guest

“I suspect that the prospect of partnering with Iran in a project to build small nuclear reactors to sell in Africa and Asia boosted the ego of Hungary’s prime minister.”

The project is a sure money looser. Gruesome kickbacks will be needed to convince African and Asian leaders to prefer Hungarian made pocket nuclear reactors to Chinese photovoltaic solar panels.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-china-is-dominating-the-solar-industry/

Nwo
Guest

So now VP Pence expresses support for CEU (CEU has a partnership w/ Purdue from Pence’s home state). Then, Gorka refuses to be drawn on CEU, and regardless probably on borrowed time in White House. Now the Iran developments.
Basically, Orban’s Trump/America rapprochement is dead

Vilmos
Guest
What Amerikai Magyar Népszava writes is utterly ridiculous. It think even the idea that Hungary was somehow ‘blackmailed’ into dealing with Iran is absurd. It shows a total lack of understanding of Orban’s foreign policy and Orban’s thinking. 1. Many countries from France to Germany openly court and do business with Iran, eg, we know that Siemens supplied software and hardware to the enrichment process which was penetrated by Stuxnet. Orban just thinks Hungary too has a right to do so. The Russians, being major sponsors of Iran, were only helping Orban with that. 2. Perhaps more importantly though, acting as any smart dictator would do who thinks about his own future, Orban wants to entrench Paks2 and the Russia’s influence in Hungary as deeply as possible. It’s one thing to have a national consensus about terminating Paks2 (if it becomes obvious that is a way to rip off Hungary by the Orban crime family) but the Hungarian nuclear establishment will fight tooth and nail for keeping the Iranian projects. The nuclear establishment/lobby is anyway deeply pro-Russian and in their heads they already spent those monies they are hoping to make in Iran. Needless to say if Paks2 is terminated… Read more »
Guest

Nuclear energy is history. “The nuclear lobby” is an anachronism. Bright engineering students will not study an obsolete technology.

What is needed is some economists who can explain the Pax economic disaster to the Hungarians and prevent further bottomless holes to be dug. Maybe CEU has already educated a few who can do he job. If so the opposition should hire them or recruit them.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘Orban would do anything that entrenches the influence of the nuclear establishment because Russia’s continued support and ideological influence in Hungary is a key long-term element for him to stay in power’

I think it’s fascinating and in a way psychologically apt that VO’s economic/technical wants and needs for his country centralizes around nuclear power. At this point while ‘Isotope Vik’ is helping to split atoms he’s also slowly splitting the country off from a more practical universe… Europe and the West.

Magyarorszag is remarkable in its interest in working with ‘modern’ countries that have had dead empires. Perhaps it is Magyarorszag’s infatuation with seeing the ‘great’ rising again and ruling once again with extensive power With the Iranian/ Achaemenidian nuclear endeavor they arguably have now become an aiding satrapy. Add that to the bond with Russia and we have an ancient triumvirate ready and set to go to ‘push buttons’ against a West akin to Pericles’ Greece. The Persian Wars were won long ago. But it could be coming back again to Europe in the 21st.

pappp
Guest

The government operated internet site about the ongoing “national consultation” contains Russian coding.

https://444.hu/2017/04/08/orosz-kod-fut-a-kormany-nemzeti-konzultacios-weboldalan

petofi
Guest

Jean P,

The problem is that Orban has throughout his reign been continuously mocking Hungarian governance.
The cherry on his cake will be to put Hungary in hock for 50 years to come. What gypsy will deny him fame
and the designation as informal king of the gypsies
after that?

Istvan
Guest
It merits pointing out that the nuclear power industry, especially building and design aspects of that industry for new plants is a fiscally losing proposition currently. This is evident by Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S. nuclear unit of Japan’s Toshiba Corp., bankruptcy filing in just March. The filing raises issues about the completion of a number of billion-dollar nuclear projects under construction, including two in the US. Toshiba as recently as June of 2016 had as its goal the construction of 45 nuclear reactors around the world, including two in the UK, six in India, and possibly two more in Georgia in the USA, all using Westinghouse’s design, the AP-1000. Future Westinghouse reactors will either be built by some other company or not at all. Toshiba, is an 80 year old Japanese electronics firm that generated in 2016 about $54 billion in revenue, and it appears to be going bankrupt because of its purchase of Westinghouse. The entire GDP of Hungary in 2016 was $265.037 billion and really is only five times the size of Toshiba, yet Hungary wants to walk into the nuclear power business partnering with Iran that is fraught with fiscal mine fields? Iran is what is… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

‘….what will be left of Hungary’s deal?

Good question. Btw, really when was the last time the country has made a ‘good’ decision?’ They have put so many shots into their foot that it is a wonder they are still standing.

petofi
Guest

At some point, people will have to awake to the fact that Orban intends no ‘good decision’for Hungary…

Member

“The entire GDP of Hungary in 2016 was $265.037 billion ” – much less !!

GDP at current prices was 35 005 439 million HUF,
USD/HUF yearly average (by IRS) was 293.083 in 2016,

therefore the Hungarian GDP in 2016 was around $119.4387 billion

Sources:
https://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xstadat/xstadat_evkozi/e_qpt002b.html
https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/yearly-average-currency-exchange-rates

Member

The average reduced (“Maastricht”) gross debt of the total government (central+local+social security) was 25.96758 trillion, so the “Maastricht” debt/GDP ratio was 74.18%

http://akk.hu/hu/statisztika/allamadossag-finanszirozas/az-allamhaztartas-maastrichti-adossaga

Istvan
Guest

I believe I drew my data from Fitch rating service. Your data tappanch makes it even more absurd that the Orban government believes it has the kind of capitalization necessary to be a player in nuclear power industry even for the small plants envisioned as part of the Iran deal.

Member

Hungary is between DC (35th in the US) and Nebraska (36th) by the size of the GDP.

Three US states hover around 9.9 million inhabitants like Hungary.

Georgia (GDP: $501.2 billion)
Michigan (GDP: $468.0 billion)
North Carolina (GDP: 509.7 billion in 2015)

In the list of countries, Hungary is between Kuwait and Morocco by total GDP.

In GDP per capita, Hungary is between the Seychelles and Malaysia.

Observer
Guest

Istvan

I wouldn’t use any of the rating cos stats where I suspect inherent bias. Try Eurostat, OECD or even KSZH.

pappp
Guest

OT. Of course Orban is not giving the Olympics up.

The government’s commissioner for constructing sports sites in Hungary (Balazs Fürjes) says that Hungary will apply to host the Athletic World Championship in 2023 and anyway will go ahead constructing all necessary buildings for an Olympics.

Orban decided that Budapest will host the Olympics and nobody will stop him least of all urban liberals.

https://444.hu/2017/04/08/a-2023-as-atletikai-vilagbajnoksagot-palyazna-meg-budapest-az-olimpia-helyett

Member

I don`t know… did you hear the news?
Budapest hates Orban and he and his lapdogs ran so fast when a group of *liberal* slackers decided to organise a referendum about holding the Olympics in Bpest.
Why was that, do you think?
What were the fascists frightened of?

pappp
Guest

If Budapest hates Orban and Orban knows this is the case, Orban will even be more determined to defeat them and do things they don’t like. He will never allow his adversaries to be happy for a second.

Orban will just construct the stadiums and other facilities. And then when everything is ready he will apply again. Nobody can stop him form constructing new stadiums. He will continue to build them.

This year, the swimming championship, then the wrestling or whatever games and then the Athletic and so on.

Moreover, the Orban family has a direct investment in construction business so they love construction anyway.

Member

“If Budapest hates Orban and Orban knows this is the case, Orban will even be more determined to defeat them and do things they don’t like. ”

Bring it on. Seriously, bring it on.

You don`t live in Bpest do you?
If you did, you would know that he know the depth of hatred the vast majority of people feel against him.
If he (God Willing) ever ends up swinging from a lamp post, like Mussolini strung up by his fellow countrymen, it will be in the capital.
I hope I live to see the day.

pappp
Guest

I live in Bp, but he will just build new stadiums one after the other like he’s building the museums just so he could move to the Castle, which is also under construction at several places.

For example the Puskas stadium is under construction but there will be an Olympic Stadium too which architects are already working on. You can’t stop that. It will be part of the annual budget and anyway the government (meaning him) can spend HUF 1000bn in a day.

OS will even be bigger than Puskas (which already has a price tag of 200bn HUF even though the actual construction hasn’t even started, only the old building was demolished so far). And so on. Don’t underestimate Orban. He is absolutely hell-bent on proving his detractors wrong and he constantly thinking about making changes which cannot possibly be undone.

He hates Budapest and wants to leave historic monuments of his tenure.

András B. Göllner
Guest
Excellent reminder of why Donald Trump should watch his backside, when Viktor Orbán comes knocking at the White House. Here is another, and it pertains to Imre Kerényi, who is still a senior advisor of the Hungarian PM, and an old associate of Sebastian Gorka. Kerényi was a former Communist Party member who quickly remodeled himself into an anti-American pro-Russian, pro-Iranian advocate during the time Gorka associated with him in Hungary. This is what Kerényi has to say about America, Iran, and Putin’s Russia. “We are on the threshold a World War III, which the USA will lose…The American high-tech will be destroyed by a white powder.” (Imre Kerényi Médiaegyensúly. Budapest. Kairosz Publishers. 2003. pg. 263.Translation by this author.) In the 2006 Hungarian national election campaign, Mr. Kerényi spoke the following unforgettable words as he campaigned on behalf of his leader, Mr Orbán: “I can reassure all, that pretty soon, there will be a little mound where today, the White House stands in Washington, and on this mound, goats will be grazing peacefully” (ibid.,) While Gorka worked in Kerényi’s circle, the latter declared publicly, that “The USA is the world’s most despicable country, and even Hungary’s former overlords, the Russians… Read more »
pappp
Guest
Just one point re construction. It is a well-known fact that Market Zrt., a major construction company, used to be owned by Wallis, an investment firm. At one point after 2010 Orban’s people went to Wallis and said that they wanted to purchase the company (which had relatively good expertise in constructing buildings, as opposed to roads or tunnels). According to rumors Orban of course didn’t pay with cash. Wallis or someone designated by Wallis was granted an EU project and could compensate itself from that project. Basically Orban got Market for free (and also using the prosecution which was investigating the privatisation by Wallis of the former Postal HQ at Széll Kálmán (Moszkva) tér but of course that matter went nowhere after the deal). CEU decided that it wanted to build a new campus and reconstruct the old buildings in downtown Budapest. They needed a general contractor. You guessed it, CEU chose Market. Since everybody knows in the business that Market is owned by Orban (via fronts), CEU also had to know it. Yet I guess CEU was hoping that awarding the business to Orban himself would create goodwill with Orban. What CEU and no foreigner can understand no… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Pappp

Yes, westerners dont quite understand the sly gypsy mentality, where cheating the other is considered a good point to be proud of; witness the “peacock dance”, the denigrating rhetorics about the West and the foolish confidence of Orban’s foreign affairs fiascos.

Observer
Guest

And, yes, appeasement doesn’t work, as opposed to a political deal i.e. compromise with such regimes, which understand only force, in Orban’s Freudian slip of tongue.

There is no “fair enough” expression in Hungarian.

Observer
Guest

I have no idea what are the diplomatic geniuses Semjén, Kövér, Szijjártó counting on with their antics. Surely they don’t hope to endear the Orban regime to the Trump administration (otherwise they would be complete idiots). And I doubt the Saudis/Gulf States will be receiving any Hungarians soon.

Orban has “profound respect for President Rouhani’s (and Azerbaijan’s Aliev’s) policies” for the after becoming friends and “allies” with Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran and Russia, which clearly points to the nature of the regime.

The next megalomanic idea – the nuclear power will be another costly failure in the “opening to the east” fiasco.

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