Hungarian-Greek cooperation will have an important part to play in managing the global crises stemming from the war in Ukraine, and Greece has a key role in diversifying Hungary’s natural gas supply, Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, said in Athens on Wednesday.
The armed conflict may trigger global crises in food and energy supply, and Greece is playing an important role in handling both shortages, Szijjártó told a press conference he held with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias.
The Hungarian government considers energy supply a “matter of reason, physics and mathematics” rather than “an ideological or philosophical issue”, he said. For this reason, it does not support any proposal that would jeopardise Hungary’s energy supply, Szijjártó said.
“We have insisted on the right to purchase oil from Russia and rule out the chance of being not allowed to buy Russian natural gas. Simultaneously, it is in our interest to have access to gas from several sources and on several routes, which, of course, requires investment, as well as plenty of money and time,” he said.
Hungary has two viable scenarios for diversification; it may purchase gas from Azerbaijan and the eastern Mediterranean via an exclusive route through Greece, which would involve major investment in infrastructure, he said.
Szijjártó welcomed the expansion of the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector but added that this was still not sufficient. To establish a direct gas supply link between Hungary and Greece, other countries “should also do their homework”, he said.
“As long as there is no such link, there will be no alternative for Hungary purchasing Russian gas through pipelines,” he said. Szijjártó said the failure of efforts to increase Russian and Ukrainian grain exports would trigger disastrous famine in several unstable regions of the world, which are already major sources of migration.
“The decline of grain exports may bring about more dramatic waves of migration than ever before,” he said. As the number of immigrants keeps growing on the western Balkan route, both Hungary and Greece have to make great efforts to defend the European Union’s external borders, the minister said.
Both countries are well aware of the serious consequences of the war in Ukraine, all the more so as that country is home to many ethnic Hungarians and ethnic Greeks, Szijjártó said. “We have a vested national interest in restoring peace as soon as possible,” he said. Szijjártó praised bilateral relations as “excellent”, noting that two-way trade had hit another record last year.