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Szijjarto: Hungary plans to import 700 million more cubic metres of gas

Hungary's government is in talks to import 700 million more cubic metres of natural gas beyond the volumes specified in the country's long-term gas purchase agreements with a view to boosting energy security, the minister of foreign affairs and trade said on Friday.

The government is negotiating the gas purchases with both western and eastern partners, Peter Szijjarto told a press conference he held jointly with Gebran Bassil, the head of Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement. Szijjarto said he hoped to be able to go into more detail about the outcomes of the talks next week.

The minister said that in 2020, market players had tried to talk him out of long-term gas purchase agreements saying that gas supplies would be secure without them. Szijjarto added that because he had always maintained that Hungary’s energy security was a strategic and national security issue, the government had decided to sign long-term gas supply deals with both Shell and Russia’s Gazprom.

“If we hadn’t made those deals, the country would be in major trouble right now because Europe’s natural gas spot market has dried up in this time of war,” Szijjarto said, adding that thanks to the long-term agreements, Hungary’s energy supply was on a secure footing.

But because of the war Hungary must be prepared for potential energy supply disruptions in western Europe and must stockpile as much gas as possible, he said. This was why, he added, Hungary had decided to increase its gas imports beyond the volumes specified in the long-term gas supply deals.

Szijjarto said Gazprom had been a reliable supplier so far and it was clear that the southern gas delivery route was the most predictable.

He noted at the same time that Hungary has built the infrastructure needed to link the country to the Turkish Stream pipeline despite “everyone trying to get Hungary to do otherwise”.

But had that infrastructure not been developed, “we’d be in enormous trouble”, the minister said. He argued that half of the 32.6 million cubic metres of gas that flowed into Hungary on Friday had arrived via the southern delivery route. “So most of the Russian gas comes from the south, while we only get one third of the contracted volume from the west,” he said. Hungary will therefore also negotiate diverting the gas deliveries it would get from the west to the southern route, he added.

Meanwhile, Szijjarto said the war and the related sanctions on Russia had created an inflationary environment in Europe.

But the war also affects other parts of the world and the emergence of a migration crisis that will be more severe than ever before is increasingly likely, Szijjarto warned. He argued that falling food and grain exports would lead to serious supply disruptions in parts of the world that are already unstable.

He said the “disastrous consequences” threatening Europe could only be prevented by achieving peace as soon as possible, urging “those with power on the international stage” to do all they can in the interest of peace.

Szijjarto noted that there are some 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and Lebanon had sourced 80 percent of its wheat supply and 90 percent of its cooking oil supply from Ukraine and Russia. This, he said, made Lebanon a “powder keg” that could set off a major migration wave towards Europe if peace was not achieved.

Meanwhile, he said that besides energy security, the key to Hungary’s physical security was keeping out “the armed migrant gangs that have besieged our southern borders”.

In such a situation, the international political world, too, should be focusing on preventing the emergence of migration waves and helping countries that look after a lot of migrants, Szijjarto said.

Hungary is one of those countries, he said, noting that it has given the Lebanese Christian communities millions of dollars in the recent period for the construction of churches and offers university degrees to 50 students a year.

Bassil said Hungary had always stood by Lebanon when it faced difficult times. He said the Hungary Helps humanitarian scheme was proof of the aid Hungary had provided, adding that his party aimed to boost ties with Hungary’s ruling Fidesz. Concerning migration, he said Syrian migrants could start gradually returning to their home country, which should be encouraged.

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