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Hungary’s government is working on helping households to abandon gas consumption wherever possible, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Rádió on Friday. Commissioners László Horváth and Gábor Riz are currently working to restart the closed coal-fuelled blocks of the Mátra power plant and on reopening lignite mines in northern Hungary. The government imposed a ban on firewood exports, and forestries have been requested to present plans on stepping up firewood production, he said. László Palkovics, the minister of technology and industry, has been requested to set up a “stove and furnace scheme,” he said.
Referring to EU efforts to solve the problem of dwindling gas supplies, Orbán said the procurement of gas was “a matter of survival”, so it was “better if we can rely on ourselves” rather than Brussels. He insisted that the EU plan to cut gas consumption by 15% was “not working”.
The prime minister cast doubt over the successful outcome on the battlefield of American training of the Ukrainian army or that sanctions would “shake the Russians”. Also, sanctions were likely to backfire, he said, adding that Europe was on course for a wartime economy from October. Without a deal with Russia, energy supplies cannot be replaced entirely elsewhere due to a lack of capacity, so a new strategy is needed that focuses on securing peace, Orbán said, urging ceasefire and peace negotiations. Orbán said the US had a key role to play, arguing that the war in Ukraine was a “proxy war” into which “the West has drifted halfway”. A US-Russia agreement would ensure “security and stability”, he added. The prime minister said that on the economic front the government had worked out a series of measures to prevent “trouble”. “We’ll battle the recession,” he said, outlining measures such as the extension for another two years of the reduced 5% VAT on housing construction after its original expiry at the end of this year.
Meanwhile, he said the drought in Hungary was not threatening the country’s food supplies. Hungary’s agriculture has the capacity to cover the needs of 10 million people even under such circumstances, he said. At the same time, exports will shrink, he warned. While the economy will lose revenues, Hungarians’ food supplies are not at risk, he said. Regarding damage control for farmers, Orbán said the fund for such purposes was exhausted. The government has set up a working group to work on aid for farmers, and its decisions will be announced in the next week or so, he said.