Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: EU gas-saving decree ‘disregards Hungary’s interests’

The European Union's proposal aimed at reducing gas consumption is "unfounded, cannot be implemented and fully disregards the Hungarian people's interests", therefore the Hungarian government will vote against its passage, the Hungarian foreign minister said in Brussels on Tuesday.

According to a statement from the foreign ministry, Peter Szijjarto said after a meeting of the community’s energy ministers that a political agreement had been made, to be followed by a vote in writing “the results of which could be expected”.

“We were the only country to indicate that we would vote against (the proposal),” the statement quoted Szijjarto as saying.

Referring to EU treaties, Szijjarto said it was a national competence to determine the structure of a member’s energy supply and to take measures to guarantee the security of supplies, which makes the proposal “at least questionable” from a legal point of view.

Under the decree, member states could start reducing their gas consumption on a voluntary basis right now, but if the European Commission or five members so decide the European Council can issue an alert and it will make it mandatory for member states to cut consumption by 15 percent compared to their average consumption in the past five years.

Szijjarto criticised the EU for disregarding Hungary’s “special situation” in terms of having an especially high ratio of natural gas in the composition of its energy supply. He said households accounted for about a half of the total gas consumption, which, he said, was also exceptionally high.

The minister also warned that the decree could negatively impact the EU’s competitiveness. “There will be gas in the storages and we will not allow its use… it will have an appalling impact on the European economies,” he said.

Szijjarto said the Hungarian government had a “responsible energy policy” and the country’s gas storages were filled up to 28.5 percent in terms of annual consumption, whereas the European average was 18 percent. He also insisted Hungary’s supplies were stable due to its long-term agreements and the southern pipeline “over the construction of which the country was seriously attacked at the time”. Over half of Hungary’s gas supply is received from the south, with “100 percent of the contracted amount guaranteed, while it is currently 53 percent in terms of the northern and western routes”.

The government is committed to ensuring the country’s supplies to save individuals and businesses from “a vulnerable situation in which they have to do without sufficient gas”, Szijjarto said. He added that the government was making “promising progress” with talks aimed at purchasing an additional 700 million cubic metres of gas.

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