Friday, March 13, 2015

13/3/15: South Stream Redux: Rejecting the Hungarian-Russian Nuclear Power Deal


A pretty nasty confirmation of the overall hostile approach by the EU toward national autonomy in dealing with the energy markets by the member states came in yesterday. As reported in the FT: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9a6467e2-c8c1-11e4-8617-00144feab7de.html#ixzz3UCYrZfix, the EU has blocked Hungarian deal with Russian Rosatom to develop and supply new nuclear energy facilities at Paks. The EUR12 billion, 1,200 MW facility was to be designed, built and maintained by Rosatom under a contract that is pretty bog-standard around the world and included (also standard) long term exclusive agreement to supply fuel. Paks current output accounts for 40% of total Hungarian electricity generation and the country effectively has no options other than either burn Russian gas, Polish and/or Ukrainian coal or using nuclear. Notably, Polish and/or Ukrainian coal is perhaps the dirtiest generation alternative available to Hungary.

As reported in the FT: "Many EU officials also expressed concerns that Moscow was using energy policy to divide Europe and undermine the bloc’s consensus on sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in eastern Ukraine."

Which simply means that the EU is now arbitrarily exceeding its own sanctions and is using trade as a conduit for political influence.

It is worth noting that long-term supply agreement for fuel is a necessary part of the agreement that is part-financed (EUR10 billion) by Russian credits. Recovery of these credits is built-into the fuel supply contract.

Another thing worth noting: the EU rejection is not based on the separate concern as to the nature of procurement contract involved. Russia is not liable for the procurement procedures deployed by the Hungarian authorities that might have been in breach of the EU procurement rules.

Net impact: the EU rejection of the contract not on the basis of procurement rules violation, but simply because the EU does not like long term contractual fuel supply arrangements with Russia represents a drastic departure from the EU rhetoric of supporting free trade. Just as in the case with Nord Stream and South Stream pipelines, the EU is currently cartelising energy procurement and development policy (see earlier note here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2015/02/5215-gazproms-nord-and-south-streams.html). In addition, the EU is now clearly erring on the side of becoming completely unreliable trading partner for Russia, as even the areas not impacted by sanctions are now openly being used as a tool for strengthen sanctions impact.

The twin effect of these exchanges should accelerate Russian pivot East and South away from Europe. This pivot is costly to Russia, but it is also costly to the EU, signalling in the longer run EU's dropping out of the Asia-Pacific, Central Asian and Russian trade and investment blocks. For you may or may not be a fan of Russia or Moscow's policies, but what you cannot escape in all of this is the simple fact: EU has now fully politicised its energy markets. And if so, then who is to say it won;t do so in other markets? The ones that might be important to, say, India or China or Asia Pacific or Latin America? Who is to say that the current trade flows are a permanent and protected feature of the world that EU inhabits? And who is to say that the risk of EU politicising another sector - aviation? transport? industrial machinery? - under the pretence of creating another 'Energy' Union is a risk that the non-EU world should ignore in dealing with Europe?

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