Hungary is keen to diversify its energy supplies and, besides the Russian gas, use other sources of energy, a foreign ministry official said on the sidelines of an international conference held jointly by the Atlantic Council think-tank and Hungary.
Besides top US and EU officials, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry attended the International Gas Conference.
“The programme’s aim is to introduce and promote the energy diversification,” Pál Ságvári, Hungary’s roving ambassador, told MTI on Monday. “Hungary only purchases Russian gas at present and we intend to change this situation in the near future.”
By 2020, Hungary aims to have a more diverse supply of energy, he added.
Energy union within the European Union has political as well as economic aspects, he said. Building infrastructure is economic while the political goal is to create energy supplies for each member state from at least three different sources, thereby securing their independence in a competitive environment. “For Hungary, broadening our energy supply after 2020 is a national security issue.”
Currently American LNG is still more expensive than Russian or Norwegian gas, but Europe is likely to see strong competition for fixed gas and LNG in the next 5-10 years, Ságvári said.
It is important to note that Russian gas will still be on the Hungarian market after 2020, he said, but Hungary will be in a better position with more options at its disposal, he added.
The EU’s north-south corridor linking the Baltics to the Balkans and Polish and Lithuanian LNG terminals to the Croatian and Romanian coasts is the key plan for Hungary. “The anticipated energy imports from Romania and the Black Sea are what we’re concentrating on,” he said, adding that producers would still be able to make the necessary investments this year.
The North Stream 2 pipeline, which has been planned with a view to bypassing Ukraine, is rejected and supported in equal measure by EU member states, Ságvári noted. “Western European countries have an economic interest in building North Stream 2 … but as far as central and eastern European countries are concerned, it’s just the opposite: gas from Ukraine is cheaper.”
Whereas economic interests explain the divide, there is another aspect which is geopolitical, he noted. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, the US wants to promote its own LNG exports, and this will make the European market the seat of US-Russian competition, he said.
“Hungary is preparing for the situation after 2020, when there will be many uncertainties; it is not known from where Russian gas will be piped, so we are leaving all possibilities open,” the ambassador said.
Asked whether Hungary felt under pressure, Ságvári said Hungary was not the only one at the table: Germany, Poland, America, Russia and Ukraine are directly affected, he noted.
Perry invited representatives of the Three Seas Initiative — 12 central European countries — to a roundtable discussion, Ságvári noted. “The United States looks to these countries as economic partners,” he said, adding that the details of cooperation were reviewed and the groundwork for a summit to be held in Bucharest next year was also prepared.
Other participants at the conference included Sandra Oudkirk, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department, Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission for Energy Policy, researchers at the Atlantic Council and Visegrád Group (V4) ambassadors.
Hungary helped to organise the conference in its capacity as the outgoing V4 president.
Featured image: MTI