Critics of Hungary-Russia gas deal idle on energy diversification, minister says

Those slamming Hungary for cooperating with Russia on energy issues have themselves failed to act to diversify energy resources in the region, Peter Szijjarto, Hungary's minister of foreign affairs and trade, told the Budapest LNG Summit on Monday.

Hungary has a “responsible” energy policy, and often warned in recent years that European energy supplies were in danger, he said. The European Union’s policy has failed to prepare for and prevent an impending energy crisis, “they should have focused on pragmatic decisions rather than a dogmatic approach,” he said.

Despite “a few steps forward”, the EU’s energy policy has failed to radically change the situation in its most vulnerable region, Szijjarto said. EU energy policy is overly politicised, even though “statements will not heat homes,” he said. Meanwhile, the western European gas reservoirs were not filled to the necessary degree, and the EU neglected to provide a transitional period in the transition to green economy, he said.

“Nuclear energy is discriminated against,” he said.

Hungary, on the other hand, has always supported plans aiming to strengthen energy security, such as the construction of an LNG terminal in Croatia and interconnectors in neighbouring countries, Szijjarto said.

Although “it was common knowledge that Hungary’s contract with Russia would expire this year,” critics of the deal failed to ensure the investment, funding and infrastructure upgrades necessary for diversification, Szijjarto said. Thus, “Hungary had to enter a new contract with Gazprom, which, whether we like it or not, is a significant player in the region,” he said.

The contract ensures reliable and affordable energy security in Hungary, Szijjarto said.

Regarding further diversification, Szijjarto said Azerbaijan’s gas resources may contribute to a solution to the problem. While the Croatian LNG terminal is “historically important and contributed to keeping utility prices low in Hungary”, its capacity will not make a substantial difference in diversification, he said.

Energy diversification is an important issue, but Hungary’s government will continue to work on ensuring supply security in the country, he said.

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