The upgrade of Hungary’s sole nuclear power plant in Paks will begin early next year, Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, said on Monday.
“The real construction work will start in January and nothing will stop the investment from now on,” Szijjártó told reporters after talks between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who visited Hungary on the occasion of the World Judo Championships.
The two sides made no new decisions but reviewed the implementation of their previous agreements. They agreed that “their joint decisions made earlier have started to bear fruit”, Szijjártó said.
Orbán and Putin confirmed what János Süli, the Hungarian minister in charge of the upgrade project, and the president of Rosatom had agreed upon on Sunday, he said.
Accordingly, the upgrade will start in January next year “after a 22-month delay” while Brussels examined if the project complied with EU rules, Szijjártó said.
The project will cost altogether 12 billion dollars. As agreed previously, the contribution of Hungarian suppliers will account for 5 billion dollars, namely 40 percent, he said.
Hungary signed an agreement in Moscow in January 2014 on the construction of two blocks at the Paks nuclear power plant by Russia’s Rosatom.
As we wrote last week, Putin will get the honour in recognition of “the major role the Russian Federation and Hungary assign to the Debrecen University in the upgrade of the Paks nuclear plant”, the senate of the university said.
Szijjártó welcomed that after a long decline caused by EU sanctions and other global economic factors bilateral trade started to grow again this year, with a 34 percent rise registered until late May. Within that, Hungarian sales grew by 30 percent, mainly due to a 44 percent growth in pharmaceutical export and a 89 percent increase in grain sales.
Szijjártó noted that a direct flight had been launched between Budapest and Saint Petersburg. He said that in September 184 Russians will start studying in Hungarian universities, adding that the Russian health minister on Monday agreed to increase the state scholarships granted to Hungarian students to 100.
Putin confirmed that Russia was making efforts to supply natural gas via Turkey, Bulgaria and Serbia to Hungary and Austria, Szijjártó said.
The minister said that Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary would upgrade parts of their natural gas pipelines to allow the transport of up to 10 billion cubic metres of Russian gas by the end of 2019.
Asked about opposition activists protesting in the sports hall against Putin’s visit, Szijjártó said that “everybody has the right to express their opinion”.