Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told a conference in St Petersburg that Europe must accept that energy security is a physical rather than an ideological or political matter.
Minister Szijjártó told the St Petersburg International Economic Forum that Europe must gain access to as many energy sources and delivery routes as possible to guarantee its energy security. This is how Hungary’s government defines diversification, he said, rather than the replacement of one reliable supplier with another. Whether or not Hungary buys gas from Russia “is not a matter of political taste”, Minister Szijjártó said, adding that it would be impossible to secure Hungary’s energy needs without Russian energy. The minister also emphasised the need to prepare for the next heating season, warning that “preparation for the next winter will be much more complicated and much more challenging” than last year. He argued that while Europe had received significant volumes of Russian gas up until last September, with the exception of Hungary, Russian gas imports had since been reduced to “basically zero”. He added that there was no guarantee that the coming winter would be as mild as last year’s.
The minister added that Hungary’s gas reserves already cover 37% of its annual consumption, against a European average of just over 21%. Minister Szijjártó warned against allowing certain countries to profit from the current challenging situation, noting that Hungary’s two neighboring energy transit countries were “increasing the transit fees like crazy in a coordinated manner”. Turning to what he called “an ideological and political campaign against nuclear energy” in Europe, Szijjártó said Hungary would not follow Germany in phasing out nuclear power. He said nuclear energy was a safe, clean, sustainable, and cheap way of producing electricity and guaranteeing long-term energy security. It was also the only way to keep utility prices affordable and achieve green goals, he added. Nuclear reactors are necessary because solar and wind power alone is not enough to produce the amount of energy that is needed, Szijjártó said. He said Hungary’s expansion of its Paks nuclear power plant would enable carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced by an annual 17 million tonnes from 2030. Meanwhile, Minister Szijjártó said that deliveries have resumed through the TurkStream pipeline after successful annual maintenance, adding that Hungary’s winter reserves are being filled according to plan. The Russian provider restarted deliveries earlier this week, and the volume is now up to normal levels, Szijjártó said. “No matter how hard the winter will be, curbing gas consumption is out of the question,” he added. “It is time everyone understood that energy supply is not an ideological or political issue but of rock-hard reality,” he said. Should it be cut off from Russian resources, Hungary would be unable to satisfy its energy needs, “and so a pragmatic energy cooperation with Russia remains in our interest,” he said. Szijjártó is attending the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, where he was slated to meet Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev.