By Jason Hovet and Gergely Szakacs
BUDAPEST, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Sanctions against Russia over nuclear energy would harm Hungary’s interests and should not be brought forward by the European Union, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday.
Hungary, which buys most of its energy from Russia, plans to expand its nuclear power plant in Paks, with Russia’s Rosatom building two VVER reactors with capacity of 1.2 gigawatts each, in addition to the currently working four reactors.
It has opposed including nuclear power in EU sanctions against Russia.
The bloc is close to a 10th sanctions package and EU governments hope to reach a deal on Wednesday if they can overcome differences about a ban on Russian rubber and diamond imports, EU diplomats have said.
The package would not include sanctioning Russia’s nuclear energy sector and putting Rosatom on the list, diplomats said, because several European countries, such as France, buy uranium from Russia for their reactors.
Hungary’s 12.5 billion euro ($13.29 billion) nuclear project, which has been significantly delayed, was awarded in 2014 without a tender to Rosatom, and Szijjarto said Hungary lobbied hard to prevent either the company or its officials being brought under EU sanctions.
“We had to act forcefully against the listing of Rosatom or Rosatom officials,” Szijjarto said. “Any sanctions on nuclear energy or Rosatom would harm Hungary’s fundamental national interests.”
Szijjarto said if completed, the two new reactors would lift Paks’ share in providing Hungary’s electricity demand to 70% from the current one-third, saying the project was a vital part of Hungary’s long-term energy security.
He reiterated his criticism of the German government, which he said blocked the co-operation of Siemens Energy and French nuclear company Framatome in supplying control systems for the new reactors over the resistance of two ministers.
At its annual shareholder meeting this month, Siemens Energy confirmed that the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control has not yet decided on its application for an export licence for the Hungarian delivery.
Germany’s Economy Ministry then declined to comment.
($1 = 0.9406 euros)
photo; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Peter Szijjarto. EPA-EFE/Darek Delmanowicz