Hungary will be looking for ways of delivering Azeri gas to the west through Central Europe, the state secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of external relations said on Saturday during Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s visit to Azerbaijan. Speaking in the capital Baku, Péter Szijjártó said Orbán believes Hungary and Europe must diversify their energy supplies.
Hungary currently imports 80 per cent of its natural gas, most of it from Russia, and wishes to reduce dependence on a single source by procuring natural gas from as many sources as possible. Orbán told the Crans Montana Forum in Baku that the EU should develop closer ties with the Caspian region, and Azerbaijan in particular, to secure the bloc’s energy supplies.
He also called for north-south delivery systems to complement the already existing east-west pipelines built during the communist era. The only operating pipeline running south is the one between Szeged and Arad in Romania. However, the pipeline only supplies Romania with natural gas and would need modifications on the Romanian side for gas to be pumped in the opposite direction.
Szijjártó used the planned Nabucco pipeline as an example, a project that has been a major topic for the last ten years. Nabucco West would run from Turkey through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and end in Austria. An agreement to push the project forward has been signed by the leaders of the five countries. However, it is not expected to be completed before 2017.
During the early months of 2012 there were fresh doubts over the Nabucco project due to perceived changes in the political stability of the region. However, last week Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II consortium, led by British Petroleum and Norway’s Statoil, announced it has selected the Nabucco pipeline as one of two potential routes to deliver Caspian gas to Western Europe. This was seen as a major boost, and potentially a life saver, for the project.
Back in 2007 Russian state energy firm Gazprom announced its rival South Stream pipeline project, and Hungary is one of several transit countries to have since signed up. The pipeline would enable Russia to export natural gas to southern Europe, bypassing its troublesome intermediary Ukraine. Construction of the pipeline is expected to begin in December.