Budapest, November 17 (MTI) – The European Commission has closed the infringement procedure it had launched against Hungary over public procurement rules in connection with the upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant, the government office chief said on Thursday.
János Lázár noted at his weekly press briefing that Thursday’s decision meant the commission neither disputes “Hungary’s right to enter into an agreement with Russia” on upgrading the plant nor the loan financing the project.
Lázár said those who had “said otherwise”, such as Dialogue Party MEP Benedek Jávor, had been dealt a “resounding defeat”.
Lázár said he believed it was realistic that the upgrade could begin in 2017-2018, adding that Hungary had undertaken to apply EU procurement norms on up to 55 percent of the investment value. Further, a study on the illegal state aid is about to be concluded and the government is expected to receive this documentation next week.
Jávor in response said that the commission’s “contentious” decision had not come as a surprise but was “bad news for the Hungarian taxpayer” and would entail further legal disputes. Based on a letter received from the commission in August, Javor said in a statement that the decision had been based on “the mistaken interpretation of law”.
Despite the EC’s decision, the dispute over Paks is “far from over”, Jávor said, arguing that scrutiny by Brussels over Hungarian state aid to the project was ongoing.
Jávor said he awaited a response from the commission explaining the decision in detail, adding that the document would then be released to the public.
Jávor insisted that the Paks upgrade would “seriously hurt” Hungary financially, as well as in terms of its foreign policy and energy affairs, adding that he would continue his efforts to “fend off risks it poses to Hungary”.
Opposition party LMP said that notwithstanding the commission’s decision, it remained a fact that “the Russian investor in the Paks 2 project was selected without calling a tender”.
The government’s method of selecting the Russian investor violates both Hungarian and EU rules in an effort to politically facilitate Hungarian-Russian relations, Péter Ungár, the party’s foreign policy expert, told MTI.