Nuclear energy for gas

It is quite awkward that Viktor Orbán did not have any signed contract relating to the purchase of the company managing the Hungarian natural gas wholesale when he shook hands with Putin. Probably, it was not planned so when his trip was organized. The prime minister tried to hide the mistake by speaking about the purchase of E.ON in past tense already in Moscow. It was really an adequate, Russian-like approach to the sales transaction: we have already agreed upon the essence of the deal, there are only a few minor details still to discuss but they are the task of lawyers. This must be at worst annoying but does not change the essence: we cannot have any special doubt that this deal will be established.

But, is it good value for us that the state pays nearly HUF 300 billion for a gas wholesale and storage company? This company has a special strategic value for the prime minister: it is the main holder of the trade contract determining the Hungarian gas prices fundamentally and for the long run. Orbán has always regarded the supervision of this, and thereby that of the gas price and the domestic gas trade as a strategic issue. And, for this particular reason, he regarded the situation detrimental where the Hungarian government has no "official" insight into this contract, and consequently, has no direct influence on its terms and conditions.

He is of the opinion that, as long as this document is not in the prime minister's drawer and he is not the one who carries on negotiations on its basis with the Russian president and the CEO of Gazprom, he, as well as the country, is exposed to the Russian-German bargain. And within this bargain, the Hungarian contract is just a card in the pack; what is more, it is not the most important one for E.ON. Contrary to Orbán who is the prime minister in a country where gas price is treated by the politics as a primary issue.

However, the country will not benefit by the fact alone that, from this time on, the Hungarian prime minister will carry on negotiations about gas purchase with the Russians. It is an advantage that for him, the "real" question is the Hungarian gas quota, but this is also a disadvantage because he is not as large a customer as E.ON in bargaining with the Russians. Negotiating from its own customer position and knowing Germany's weight behind it, the German giant is, theoretically, able to achieve more favourable conditions at Gazprom than a single Viktor Orbán. On the other hand, it is both a question and a risk, how much Gazprom wants to allow from this preferential treatment to Hungary and particularly: how much in terms of prices and not from its own profit.

The other version seeming to be attained is that Viktor Orbán will be the one who negotiates the Hungarian gas price. Albeit, this is a matter of "life and death" for him, but he is not considered to be a really big customer for Gazprom. However, Russians will not give a good price to him just for a kiss. He needs to offer them something more, which they are interested in. This something more is Paks. The renovation and extension of the Hungarian nuclear power plant. This is such a big bite that Putin will also be interested in. But not only will he be. Without nuclear energy, they only give a smile to Orbán, but with nuclear energy he can be even taken seriously. Hungary's energy independence also declared by Orbán can be achieved in this way. With Russian gas and Russian nuclear energy.

Levente Tóth; Népszabadság