Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Ministry official: Energy supply top Hungarian priority

Szijjarto: Hungarian economy can’t physically operate without Russian oil

Hungary's government will withhold its approval of any sanctions that would render the transit of Russian oil and natural gas to Hungary unfeasible, as this would compromise the country's energy security, given the reliance of its infrastructure on Russian deliveries, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Tuesday.

Whereas Hungary has so far voted for all European Union sanction packages, it has had to contend with “unfair and unjust” attacks, according to a ministry statement issued after Szijjarto held a joint press conference with Kazakh counterpart Mukhtar Tileuberdi.

He said Hungary was open and straightforward about its unwillingness to abandon its energy supply security, adding that the government protected the national interest first and foremost.

“We don’t care what people in the East or the West think,” he said. “This is a real issue of energy security as it’s currently physically impossible to run the economy without Russian crude.”

Around 20,000 tonnes each day, or 65 percent of Hungarian oil consumption, comes from Russia through the Friendship Pipeline, he said, adding that no alternative supply routes were available for replacing this amount.

The Croatian section of the Adriatic pipeline has major capacity limitations, the minister said, while developing the necessary infrastructure would require enormous investment, and it was unsure whether Zagreb would agree to this; and if it did, it was uncertain how long it would take to do so, he added.

With circumstances thrust upon it, Hungary, he said, had no time to alter its refinery to make the switch to another type of crude, and it did not yet know exactly how many hundreds of millions of dollars this would cost.

Hungary, he added, supported the diversification of European energy supply, and has made headway in this direction by increasing oil imports from Kazakhstan, which now cover 16 percent of its total consumption. Still, this is supplied via Russia and could be subject to sanctions.

Meanwhile, Szijjjarto said oil and gas company MOL was the technical manager of a Kazakh-Chinese-Hungarian consortium that plans extraction from a big gas field in Kazakhstan pending Kazakh government approval. Extraction could start next year, he added.

Szijjarto praised Kazakhstan for combatting terrorism and ensuring stability in the region neighbouring Afghanistan by preventing the spread of extremist ideologies and by taking action against migration and smuggling.

The minister is scheduled to meet Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and travel to Kyrgyzstan later in the day.

Ministry official: Energy supply top Hungarian priority

When it comes to drawing up EU sanctions against Russia, Hungary attaches prime importance to the security of its energy supply, a ministry of innovation and technology official said after attending an extraordinary meeting of the Energy Council in Brussels on Monday.

Attila Steiner said Russia’s decision to cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria would not affect Hungary’s own supply, and the country was receiving Russian gas in accordance with its contract.

Gas is flowing through Bulgaria to Hungary, he noted, adding that this was crucially important to guarantee its supply.

Steiner told members of the Energy Council that Hungary has made big investments in its gas network over the past few years, building cross-border interconnectors. But other member states and third countries are needed to secure necessary gas resources, he said.

He also noted that Hungary’s gas storage capacities are among the largest in the region.

Meanwhile, Hungary’s supply of crude oil is continuous, he said. Hungary’s domestic refineries are geared towards Russian crude, so these supplies must be maintained, he said.

Whereas countries in the region have invested heavily in alternative sources in recent years, dependence on Russian energy is still high, he said, adding that it would be a matter of years before investments yielded alternative sources of energy.

Press reports indicate that Hungary and Slovakia may be excluded from the EU oil embargo in view of their special situation, but Hungary has not yet received a related proposal in writing, Steiner added.


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