Hungary’s government will not support EU sanctions that go against the country’s national interests, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Brussels on Friday, adding this meant that Hungary did not support imposing a price cap on Russian gas, which for now was off the agenda. According to a foreign ministry statement, Szijjártó told a press conference after a special session of the EU’s Energy Council that the body had approved the European Commission’s latest package of proposals “amid the most severe energy supply crisis of all time”.
The EC’s package mandates a 5% cut in energy consumption in peak hours. It proposes allowing member states to intervene in the retail prices of electricity on a voluntary basis. Further, the plan proposes capping the revenues of so-called “inframarginal” electricity producers and levying a solidarity contribution on the extra profits of companies in the oil, coal, gas and refinery sectors, Szijjártó said. Because these last two measures are already in effect in Hungary, they do not present new obligations, he added.
“This package is inadequate when it comes to resolving the current energy supply crisis in Europe,” Szijjártó said. “In any event, it perhaps doesn’t cause much harm at this point, but I doubt it will be of much help.”
Szijjártó welcomed that the proposals did not include a price cap on gas, saying that such a measure would make it impossible for Hungary to receive gas. “Everyone knows, because the Russians have made it clear, that if the European Union imposes a price cap, they will completely stop gas deliveries to Europe,” he said. The minister said such a proposal was “hypocritical”, arguing that it would clearly be a political decision rather than an economic one. It would also count as a sanction, whose approval requires unanimity among member states, he added.
Szijjártó said the gas price cap was being proposed by those who “are not in the least bit affected” by the issue, and called on them “not to try to be heroic at our expense”. He said that though the EC had “lost out to member states”, “we should have no naive illusions that this issue won’t come up again.”
Meanwhile, Szijjártó said Hungary was on schedule with filling up its gas storages and Russian gas was continuing to flow into the country. The amount of gas in storage right now is enough to cover 46% of annual consumption, while the EU average is at 26%, he said.
Szijjártó also expressed support for investigating the suspected attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, calling the security of supply routes a shared international responsibility.
In response to a question, he said Russia’s Gazprom had assured Hungary that gas deliveries along the TurkStream pipeline would remain uninterrupted.
He also said that the EU’s planned new sanctions package included several proposals that could cause problems around the upgrade of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant, which Hungary “firmly rejects”. “We refuse to accept any form of blackmail,” Szijjártó said. “When it comes to the sanctions we will only make decisions that are in line with Hungarian national interests.”