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New head of Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority cannot be replaced until 2030

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With effect from 1 January 2022, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán appointed Ms Andrea Beatrix Kádár as President of the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority. The appointment was necessary due to the new legal status of the HAEA, which took effect on 1 January.

-reads a announcement from the Hungarian nuclear energy agency issued on January 3.

Kádár’s appointment to head HAEA was not exactly a surprise. At the end of September, she had already been made the new Secretary General of the agency while the HAEA was being reorganized.

However, the press release omits to mention that the Prime Minister nominated Andrea Kadar to the position for nine years, or until the end of 2030. And with the organization’s “new legal status,” she has been given a failsafe position from which the next government will not be able to remove her under normal circumstances.

Against this background, the HAEA is currently doing the most important work in its thirty-year history: the state office is weighing a request that could pave the way for the construction of two new units at the Paks nuclear power plant. The HAEA was supposed to have issued a new permit for Paks last fall, but in the end, after an extended licensing procedure, it asked for extra information.

Investigative outlet Direkt36 revealed that the procedure caused major disputes between the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority and Paks II Zrt., which falls under the supervision of Minister János Süli. While the licensing process is a sensitive foreign policy issue between Hungary and Russia, which is building the new units, differences of interest within the Hungarian government were presumably the cause of the disagreements.

While the proceedings were taking place, it was announced that the Hungarian government would completely restructure the HAEA. The main element of this restructuring is that HAEA would be removed from government oversight and be accountable to Parliament. The government claimed that this move would strengthen the HAEA’s independence, but the change will deprive future governments of the same amount of influence and oversight over the agency as the current government now has.

In its new legal structure, the HAEA will be governed by President Andrea Kádár, who was appointed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for nine years. Minister Gergely Gulyás claimed that the agency’s independence was guaranteed by the fact that it would be run by a professional instead of a government bureaucrat.

However, Andrea Kádár has spent significant time in high-level government positions. Between 2012-2014, she headed the National Security Office, which coordinates intelligence reports as a part of the Prime Minister’s Office. And from 2014 until her appointment to HAEA, she was Deputy State Secretary for Energy Policy at the Ministry of Innovation and Technology.

Moreover, under normal circumstances she cannot be replaced even if a new government comes into power. Her replacement is only possible through an egregious breach of conduct, such as being convicted of a crime or failing to perform her duties over an extended period of time.

Kádár’s appointment fits into a recent pattern by the government. At the end of last year, new leaders, including former members of the government and Fidesz members, were appointed to head several institutions for extended periods of time. These included the following measures:

  • The governing parties approved a law requiring a two-thirds majority in Parliament to replace Prosecutor General Péter Polt instead of a simple majority.
  • András Koltay, Rector of the National University of Public Administration, was appointed President of the National Media and Communications Authority’s Media Council until 2030. This occurred after the resignation of the previous head of the council, Mónika Karas, who received severance pay of net 41 million Ft. (US $127,400).
  • Former state secretary Marcell Biró was appointed to head the newly-established Supervisory Authority of Regulated Activities, and likewise cannot be replaced for the next nine years. In this role, he will oversee the tobacco trade, the gambling market, enforcement of court decisions, the register of company liquidations, and providing concession activities.
  • Finally, Hungarian universities were placed under the control of foundation-based “curatoriums,” with government-friendly staff in charge. According to Telex, Viktor Orbán has publicly admitted that political considerations played a role in this decision.

[Telex]

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