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Government rejects pressure on energy policy, minister says

Hungary's government rejects all attempts at political pressure on where it buys its energy, Peter Szijjarto, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said in Tokyo on Tuesday, adding that the government's energy policy would always be determined by national interests.

The three major crises faced by the world over the last five years all had a negative impact on energy markets, putting countries without a coastline or an abundance of gas or oil fields in an especially difficult situation, Szijjarto said at the Global Energy Security Talks conference, according to a ministry statement.

In his address, Szijjarto warned of mounting ideological and political pressure on energy markets, saying the recent period had demonstrated the importance of carrying out a responsible energy policy. He said this involved the government ensuring a country’s uninterrupted energy supply while also taking into consideration environmental protection aspects.

Szijjarto said this was only possible “if we get rid of the ideological approach and . if we get rid of hypocrisy”. Hungary, he added, stood by its position that energy supply was not a matter of ideology or politics, but one of physics and mathematics.

He noted that the sanctions imposed in response to the war in Ukraine had resulted in an energy crisis, while western Europeans “are proud of themselves that they got rid of Russian energy sources”. He added, however, that in reality, they were instead importing oil through third countries like India, and Russia also had the biggest share of western European LNG imports.

The minister also talked about the problem regarding the pressure to diversify energy sources when the European Union did not want to contribute to infrastructure developments, and spoke out against the discrimination against nuclear energy.

Szijjarto said the Hungarian government rejected all forms of political pressure on where it chooses to buy its energy from and would always choose the best solution according to national interests.

Decisions concerning the energy mix must remain a national competence in the EU, he said, adding that they should also take into consideration a member state’s circumstances.

Hungary, he said, viewed the green transition as a means to preserving the planet rather as a political ideology or a monopoly. He added that Hungary was one of 21 countries that had managed to increase its GDP while reducing its harmful emissions.

Szijjarto underlined the need to find a balance between boosting competitiveness and environmental protection.

He highlighted three prerequisites for a responsible, carbon-neutral global energy policy of the future. The first, he said, was to ensure the role of nuclear energy, arguing that industrial growth would double the demand for electricity by the end of the decade, and nuclear reactors were the cheapest, safest and most sustainable energy sources for satisfying it.

He noted that the ongoing upgrade of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant involved a Russian general contractor in addition to American, German and French companies, adding that this could offer hope for a return to peaceful international cooperation.

The second requirement, Szijjarto said, was the transport sector’s transition to electric vehicles, on which a political decision has already been made in Europe. This, he added, was also impossible without global cooperation, highlighting Hungary as a key meeting point for the sector’s Eastern and Western players.

Thirdly, Szijjarto underlined the need infrastructure developments related to energy supply, saying there was “no unnecessary infrastructure”.

The Hungarian government, he said, understood “diversification” of its energy supply to mean tapping new sources, rather than replacing existing ones. He said this process was under way despite the EU not financing infrastructure developments in southeast Europe, arguing that gas would no longer be part of the energy mix in 15 years’ time.

“They might be right . but there are 14 winters to go, for which we have to ensure the safe supply of energy,” he said, adding that it was important to “avoid any kind of aggressive, artificially quick phase-out of gas from the national energy mixes”.

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