FM: Hungary backs green transition but rejects extreme ideologies

The foreign minister said economic development and environmental protection should coincide.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said Hungary approves of the green transition as a way to “preserve the planet for our descendants”, but it objects to green ideologies that kowtow to “fanatical climate activists”.

In a speech to the India-Europe Business and Sustainability Conclave in New Delhi on Wednesday, the foreign minister said economic development and environmental protection should coincide. He added that tipping this balance either way was harmful. Hungary is among twenty countries that have managed to raise its economic game while reducing harmful emissions; by 32% compared with the 1990 level, the minister said. Szijjártó highlighted Hungary’s “pragmatic approach and common sense” to environmental considerations. At a panel discussion on the circular economy, he said the green transition must be shepherded in a way that does not imperil the security of the energy supply. Szijjártó said European demand for electricity was set to increase by 50% by 2030, with heating, cooling and transport taking up more and more electricity resources. So, producing cheap electricity in large quantities in a sustainable way, he said, was vitally important, and only nuclear energy was up to the task.

With the expansion of Hungary’s sole nuclear power plant in Paks, around 70% of Hungary’s electricity needs will be met by Paks, while 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions would be cut each year, 1.5 times the emissions of the domestic transport sector. The circular economy is a strategic goal, he said, adding that storage as well as production of green energy was a key issue. Electric battery production, he added, was therefore crucial. Hungary, the minister said, was without exaggeration “a global leader”, ranked fourth in the world in this respect, and would soon rise to second place now that five of the world’s ten largest manufacturers have committed themselves to investments in Hungary. When it comes to sustainable management of natural and mineral resources, Hungary is ready for closer cooperation with Indian partners, he said.

Speaking at a panel discussion later on Wednesday, Szijjártó warned of the “gaping abyss” between political communication and reality, and said that closing that gap was a condition of “true connectivity”. He said that after economic hardships wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, when supply lines were broken and factories closed, “the war in Ukraine and the resulting regime of sanctions has made European-Asian cooperation impossible and eliminated the growth model based on a cooperation of cheap Russian energy resources and Western technology.” As a result, several European states were now buying energy from alternative resources or from Russia through third parties, he said. Meanwhile, the war in the Middle East has hobbled passage through the Suez Canal, which made the movement of goods between East and West unreliable, long and expensive, he said. Those factors were pushing the world toward the new establishment of blocs, he warned. “Hungary continues to promote connectivity, which can be achieved by re-introducing mutual respect into international politics and by replacing hypocrisy and the politicising of practical issues with common sense and rationality,” he said. Szijjártó insisted that European politicians spoke of decoupling Eastern and Western economies “even as the largest European carmakers have become completely dependent on Eastern suppliers.” The EU has also banned imports of Russian crude oil, he said, resulting in the ratio of Russian oil in India growing to 30% from 0.2%, and Europe emerging as the largest buyer of Indian crude. Meanwhile, Russia had become the largest Uranium supplier of the US even as other countries were under pressure to end nuclear cooperation with Russia, he said.