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András Deák Captured by Power: The Expansion of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant Prior to discussing the expansion plans of the nuclear reactor facilities in Paks, it would not hurt right at the start to identify the issues under debate. At the beginning of January 2014, the agreement signed by Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Moscow elicited considerable public debate. This debate, however, was quite fragmented. It was not so much the cacophony of genres, or the cavalcade of domestic, foreign, or energy policy arguments, or the ideological or visceral viewpoints that were most striking, but rather the unstructured nature of the debate, and the divergent nature of the questions asked by those debating the subject. Two basic questions should be separated at the outset: First, what kind of energy policy options are there, and how well-founded is the Paks expansion plan in a technical sense? Is there a need for it? Second, what aspects guided the government, and within that the premier and his inner circle, in making this decision? It appears quite likely that the answers to both questions, though they overlap each other, are almost certainly dissimilar. But even if a wellintentioned policy conviction led the Orbán cabinet to Moscow, the timing requires an explanation; namely, why it was done three months before the national election, and in the final stages of the campaign, when one would think that their strategic objective would be instead to avoid risks? The conservative base of the electorate has formed the Russian-skeptic pole of the Hungarian political spectrum for the past twenty-five years and has been one of the most militant representatives of a critical attitude in i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 323 2016.12.07. 15:47 324 TWENTY-FIVE SIDES OF A POST-COMMUNIST MAFIA STATE this regard. By comparison, the nuclear agreement was a bolt of lightning out of the clear blue sky, without any kind of communication to prepare for it. In the fierce competition that exists between parties, a political force can certainly not venture such a risk prior to an election. Nor is it clear why Fidesz, which until then had consistently avoided tackling long-term megaprojects that only offer benefits in the long run, suddenly committed itself to the largest investment project possible, and about which the media would only report in terms of corruption scandals, problems, and, potentially, its termination. If the party starts to decline in the next few years, it is virtually guaranteed that the project will be a gigantic burden around Fidesz’s neck. The question is worth examining not only in its narrow policy dimension, but also in terms of political power. However, this requires an overview of both issues: energy policy options and political considerations . As will be shown in the present study, the answers to both of these questions are neither black nor white. In terms of energy policy, there are strong arguments for maintaining the nuclear option as well as not ruling it out completely. The most that can be argued against unconditional support for the decision is that either the nuclear option is being considered without any alternative, or that it has been placed far into the top ranking in the order of priorities, which also makes it inconsistent with the government’s public strategy of having a diversified atomic/ coal/green energy program. Although it is very likely that serious deals were made in the background, it can be difficult in a political sense to prove the operating logic of the “mafia state” in a useful way in such cases. To do this, one would have to be able to prove that those in the Fidesz inner circle consciously asserted their own private self-interests through a state-level agreement that they also consider bad for society. Although the presence of self-interest is almost guaranteed in a project of this size, in truth it seems much more likely that there is a background deal that is also beneficial for the country on a macroeconomic level, or at least one that partially offsets the possible negative consequences of the Paks expansion, and which will soon become evident. In so doing, this helps the regime, among other things, maintain itself and increase its reproduction in a political sense for the 2014 elections and beyond, while the negative risks that emanate from the agreement will manifest themselves only much later. i6 Maffia II 00...


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MARC Record
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