Opposition protests Russian atomic energy deal

February 3, 2014


Hungarian opposition leaders signing a banner outside parliament protesting Russian atomic energy deal.

A crowd of 1500 people gathered near Parliament on Sunday to protest the decision to award a EUR 12 billion no-bid contract to the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation to build two new 1200 mw reactors at the Paks nuclear power plant without first consulting the Hungarian people (or parliament for that matter).   The demonstration was organized by opposition alliance parties Together 2014-PM and the Democratic Coalition (DK).

Details about the Russian energy deal remain tantalizingly scarce. Contrary to earlier statements made by Fidesz MP and State Secretary Janos Lazar, the bill submitted on Friday by Minister for National Economy Mihaly Varga makes no mention of a EUR 10 billion Russian loan.  Nor does it specify that the capacity of the new reactors be 1200 megawatt each as previously stated. 

In a speech to the demonstrators DK chairman Ferenc Gyurcsany said, “I am not against the Russians, but we will not be subletters in our own homeland. We do not accept that the prime minister treats us like an overlord.” He continued, “Be brave and let it be known that we did not give Orban permission to decide our lives for the next 100 years. We cannot allow the most important issues which affect us to be decided without us.”

Gyurcsany also said that he is not against nuclear power, but that this type of decision warrants public dialogue. “Did [Orban] ask anyone whether they support his pact with the Russians or what kind of future for Hungary others would like? I’d like to live in a normal, peaceful world. Smart adults should debate the direction in which we proceed.” DK’s chairman believes Prime Minister Orban is a traitor for secretly binding Hungary’s future to Russians without even consulting the public on his decision.

In the public statement made just after the the demonstration started, Fidesz spokeswoman Gabriella Selmeczi said that opposition parties’ actions with regards to the  expansion of the Paks nuclear reactors are “without credibility and not serious” and that the expansion of the reactors is necessary to ensure the sustainability of government mandated energy cost cuts.

Also in attendance at the event was Together 2014 co-chairman Gordan Bajnai. During his speech he said that since the fall of communism Hungary’s road to the West has been long and hard, but that the country has made progress. He said the country wants its constitutional rule of law, its democracy, and its place in Europe, but now, after 25 years, Prime Minister Orban is solely responsible for steering the country off course.

Public Opinion Poll, Fidesz style

Earlier Nezopont Intezet, a pro-Fidesz public opinion researcher and consultancy, reported that a majority of Hungarians support the expansion of the Paks atomic energy plant as well as greater Hungarian-Russian economic cooperation.

Nezopoint reported that of 1000 people polled between January 20 and 25, 89 percent had heard about the agreement between Russia and Hungary.  52 percent supported the expansion of the nuclear power plant would be beneficial, 25 percent were opposed to it and 23 percent did not state their position on grounds of not knowing or not wanting to answer.

It should be noted that Nezopont did not specifically ask whether the individual in question approved of the manner in which the EUR 12 billion no-bid contract was awarded to the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation.  Nor did it ask people what they thought of the government’s decision to classify feasibility studies for ten years prior to submitting it to parliament for approval on Friday.

Nezopont reports that among Fidesz supporters two-thirds are in favor of the expansion of Paks and only 5 percent are opposed.  Among opposition alliance supporters 49 percent are against the expansion, with 19 percent of this group supporting it. 41 percent of the Jobbik supporters polled are in favor of the plans, 22 percent against it. 10 percent of LMP’s supporters showed support, versus the 40 percent who are against it.

According to the study 65 percent of Fidesz supporters favored stronger economic ties with Russia, as do 59 percent of Jobbik’s supporters, and 44 percent of LMP’s supporters.

Nezopont concludes by summarizing the results indicate a majority of Hungarians support both stronger ties between Russian and Hungary and also the expansion of the Paks nuclear reactors.   However, it is not clear how that translates into support for the decision to award a EUR 12 billion no bid contract to the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, or to classify the precise terms of the agreement for ten years.

The study was performed between January 20 and January 25, and polled 1,000 people.

Referenced in this article:

A Nézőpont Intézet szerint az emberek szeretik a paksi bővítés gondolatát, 444.hu; 1 February 2014

Tiltakozott az ellenzék Paks II. ellen, nepszava.hu; 3 February 2014

Gyurcsány: Orbán hazaáruló, Index.hu; 2 February 2013