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By refusing to help finance regional energy infrastructure capacity expansions, the European Union “has lost all rights to have a say in where Hungary buys its natural gas”, the minister of foreign affairs and trade said after meeting his Azeri counterpart in Budapest. The success of a project to increase Azeri gas shipments to 1 billion cubic metres a year hinges on EU financing, because south-eastern European energy infrastructure currently lacks capacity to satisfy demand for energy diversification in the region, Péter Szijjártó told a joint press conference held with counterpart Ceyhun Bayramov, noting that Azerbaijan has begun LNG deliveries to Hungary under a deal to purchase 100 million cubic meters of gas and to store a further 50 million cubic meters. Energy diversification is key to Hungary’s energy security, and Azerbaijan “is a viable alternative” for Europe as well as Hungary, he said.
Meanwhile, Szijjártó said Azeri-Hungarian relations were also key to economic growth. In the first half of 2023, trade was double the amount of that of the entire year of 2022, he said. The jump was driven by exports of pharmaceuticals and energy imports, he said. Szijjártó also welcomed the presence of Hungarian companies in the reconstruction of Nagorno-Karabakh after the war there, a business opportunity coming to tens of millions of dollars, he said. Two Hungarian pharmaceutical companies and Hell Energy are also planning investments in Azerbaijan, he added. “When we started building relations with Azerbaijan in 2010-2011, we were looked down upon in Europe … so it’s fun to watch western European leaders now fighting for a photo-op with President Aliyev in Baku,” he said. “We are not friends only because it turned out that you have natural gas,” he told Bayramov.
Responding to a question, Szijjártó slammed EC President Ursula von der Leyen as “very bad for Europe”. Under her tenure, the EU had lost its position as the second largest economy to China, and it continues to sever Eastern-Western cooperation ties. Also, the EC “severely discriminates against Hungary and Poland”, he said. Regarding Ukraine’s EU membership, Szijjártó said Hungary would not support it while Ukraine “tramples on minority rights”. Protecting such rights is a fundamental value of the EU, he said. Kyiv “seems to be reluctant to do so, despite statements to the contrary,” he said.