Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó slammed Brussels at a conference in Baku on Friday, February 3rd, for its inaction that he says is hindering energy diversification. On Sunday, February 5th, Fidesz MEP Balázs Hidvéghi called the EU’s proposed embargo on Russian fossil fuels “life-threatening, untenable, and flawed,” reports Daily News Hungary.
The Budapest-Brussels row regarding energy sanctions has flared up again, as the EU is preparing its tenth sanctions package against Moscow, under which the European Parliament proposed a “full and immediate embargo on all fossil fuels and uranium” coming out of Russia.
During the parliamentary vote on the measures, Fidesz stayed away because “this was the latest of many impossible texts we should have given our opinion on,” Balázs Hidvéghi, MEP of the governing Fidesz party said in a public radio interview. According to him, the proposed measures would only result in a “dangerous and untenable situation.” The embargo would hardly trigger the failure of Putin’s regime and thus put an end to the war, he said, but instead would be “suicidal and harmful to us, slowly ruining the security and quality of life of Hungarians and Europeans, to the point of collapse.”
As a small, landlocked country, Hungary relies heavily on Russian oil and gas arriving through pipelines, simply because it lacks other infrastructure to import adequate supplies from elsewhere. With national interests in mind, Budapest so far has been able to negotiate opt-outs from all energy sanctions of the EU, but at the same time seeks to diversify its sources to move away from Russian energy as soon as possible. This is where the Southern Gas Corridor comes in—a project that is still lacking crucial development funds, primarily from Brussels.
Earlier last week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó traveled to an international conference on the Southern Gas Corridor and green energy investments held in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he told the audience that for most of Central Europe, the only possible route toward energy diversification is through Azeri gas—but its extraction must happen “without delay,” while “significant network development” is still needed in South-Eastern Europe.
As proof of its commitment to the Corridor, Budapest signed a memorandum of understanding with Baku before the conference. However, to ensure that Central Europe’s energy diversification does not remain just a dream, Brussels “must do its homework” too, said FM Szijjártó.
Hungary is not the only country lobbying for speeding up the infrastructural development of the Corridor. According to the foreign minister, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia will try to appeal to the European Commission in a joint effort to pressure the EU into handling the issues as a priority and provide the financial framework needed to guarantee Central European energy security and independence from Russia.
“If the European Union is not only using diversification as a tool for political communication,” Szijjártó said, “then it is high time that Brussels act and finance the necessary infrastructure development in south-eastern Europe, enabling the involvement of Azerbaijani gas extraction.”