Infrastructures and state-building: Comparing the energy politics of the European Commission with the governments of Hungary and Poland
Energy is the lifeblood of a state’s economy, which leads energy infrastructures to form intricate relations with state-building. We assess how state-building and energy infrastructures are intertwined and shape one-another. To explore this nexus, we have developed a novel framework that traces the ideology, the political economy, and the technopolitics in this relation. Through case studies focusing on the actions of the European Commission alongside those of the self-proclaimed illiberal governments of Hungary and Poland, we convey the variegated approaches embodied in the state-building – energy infrastructure relation. The Commission has sought to further an integrationist agenda predicated on its bid to create a single EU energy market. This stands in contrast to the paternalism embodied in the approach of the Hungarian and Polish governments to energy infrastructures. These emphasise nationalisation, state-control of key energy sector actors and infrastructures, as well as control over consumer prices. Hungary has also sought to position itself as a regional energy hub, while Poland has looked to maintain energy self-sufficiency, while struggling to meet EU climate goals. We find that the approaches of self-proclaimed illiberal EU countries frequently clash with the Commission’s visions. However, in many cases they are reconcilable, although on fundamentally different ideological, political economic, and technopolitical grounds.