Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: EU wants energy diversification but puts up barriers

The European Union is putting pressure on Hungary to curb its dependence on Russian energy yet the big barriers to diversification are Brussels' policies, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said in Tbilisi on Thursday.
27. October 2023 6:24

Ever since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, the EU has faced uncertain energy supplies, Szijjarto told a panel discussion on the Silk Road Forum, according to a ministry statement.

The EU sees energy as a political instead of a physical matter, he said.

“You can’t heat houses and flats with political statements…” he said. Energy must be bought at the point where the infrastructure is available, and the infrastructure determines from where each state can get sufficient amounts of energy.

While diversification is vitally important, he said, the government cannot replace a reliable supplier but rather it must find as many new sources and transit routes as possible.

Szijjarto cautioned against putting states under pressure to act against their own national interests, adding that supplying Hungary with energy other than Russian sources would be “physically impossible”.

Azerbaijan, he said, is a supplier, but increasing imports depended on boosting pipeline capacity in south-east Europe. Yet Brussels will not provide financial support for this, he said, insisting the EU did not regard it as “trendy enough”, and besides “we won’t be using natural gas in fifteen years”.

“Firstly, we don’t know whether we will be using natural gas, but the question is not what will happen in fifteen years, but what will happen tomorrow.”

To reduce Russian supplies of crude oil, deliveries from Croatia would be feasible except for Zagreb’s refusal to grant Hungary’s request for long-term capacity reservation, while it has raised the transit fee of the Adria pipeline to five times the European average, he said.

Also, Bulgaria has hiked the transit fee for Russian natural gas delivered to Serbia and Hungary, he noted.

“How does this decision reflect solidarity?”

Endangering the supplies of a peer EU state and a candidate for EU membership “is an massively hostile move,” he added.

More nuclear energy is needed to satisfy energy security needs and partnerships with reliable suppliers must be maintained in the face of political pressure, he said.

The Caucasus region should be involved in the import of renewable energy, he said, welcoming an agreement whereby Hungary will be able to import green electricity from Azerbaijan via a new undersea pipeline also passing through Georgia and Romania.

Meanwhile, he said environmental protection was not a political or ideological issue but a practical one, which must go hand in hand with improving competitiveness.

Hungary, Szijjarto said, was among countries that had managed to boost their economic performance while reducing their emissions, and it would carry on doing so. But expanding nuclear capacities and importing green energy would be necessary to achieve this, he added.

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