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Hungary’s energy supply is secure, the prime minister’s chief of staff told a news conference. Even if the country received not a single molecule of gas during this period, it still has enough gas stored to last six months, Gergely Gulyás said, adding that Hungary has significant storage capacities and high storage levels, and it has also made significant gas purchases. Skyrocketing energy places in Europe has triggered inflation and exchange rate problems in Hungary, he said. Europe faces two major challenges: the availability and the price of energy, especially natural gas, Gulyás said. Prices are exorbitantly high and energy is not always and necessarily available from its usual sources, he added. The current crisis has underlined the need to effect several changes in Hungary’s energy system, he said.
If the government reaches agreement with the European Commission, Hungary would use the credit part of the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF) for the green transition and upgrading its electricity network, he said. Meanwhile, Gulyás said that whereas solar panel installations were feeding the energy into the electricity network, current regulations would have to be changed because the network cannot take in any more energy until a major upgrade is carried out. The requirement to feed the electricity back into the network will be suspended in the case of new applications for solar panels, he added.
Asked about Orbán’s meeting on Monday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Gulyás said the two leaders discussed EU sanctions against Russia among other matters. The sanctions should be discussed calmly and reviewed in a way that Europe’s interests are also taken into consideration, he said. Gulyás argued that rising energy prices triggered by the sanctions and the continuing threat of them had put all European economies in an extremely difficult situation.
Though Hungary has introduced “Europe’s biggest utility support scheme”, the situation is still “an extremely heavy burden” on the state, and further support schemes will have to be launched, Gulyás said. He added, however, that no other European country could compete with Germany’s 200 billion euro plan to shield companies and households from soaring energy prices. Meanwhile, Gulyás said Europe would have to decide which sanctions should be extended when they expire in December.
Meanwhile, commenting on the National Consultation whose questionnaires will be sent to households on Friday, he said the public survey of opinions on sanctions against Russia served as a good example to the rest of Europe. The survey would reveal, he said, how far arguments for sanctions are publicly supported or otherwise.
Regarding EU funding, he said that if an agreement is struck with the European Commission, Hungary may receive its money either at the end of this year or at the start of 2023 at the earliest.
Asked about inflation, Gulyás said the government would pursue a balanced fiscal policy and reduce the trade deficit causing Hungary “the greatest uncertainty”. Although the forint has weakened more than the Polish or Czech currencies, Hungary’s exposure to the global market is bigger, too, he said, adding that as long as sanctions blew up energy prices, the forint would lose value. Gulyás insisted, however, that Hungary’s economic fundamentals were stable. If there were no longer sanctions, the forint would rebound, Gulyás added. Once there is peace and sanctions on energy have been lifted, “we will have no problems with inflation” as there “is no structural factor whatsoever” in the Hungarian economy generating inflation, he said.
Asked about the National Bank of Hungary bank led by György Matolcsy flagging the prospect of ending the series of rate hikes, Gulyás said the government did not comment on central bank policy decisions.
Asked about the EU proposal to impose a cap on the price of gas, he said if the European Commission failed to guarantee a sufficient amount of gas for households and the economy, this would not be a price-cutting measure but a form of sanctions.
Asked about the formation of a multi-party parliamentary group dealing with LGBTQ rights, Gulyás said: “I envy anyone who believes this to be among the country’s top hundred most important issues.”
In reply to a question, Gulyás said that Hungary had implemented all EU sanctions involving the freezing of assets.
Asked whether Western arms deliveries had helped Ukrainians in their struggle, Gulyás said they had while also prolonging the war. The great powers would have done better to strive for a resolution before the outbreak of war, he added. Gulyás said Hungary had decided against delivering weapons to Ukraine because such shipments would cross Transcarpathia, and the government, he added, did not want to expose large numbers of ethnic Hungarians living in that relatively peaceful region to danger.