BUDAPEST: Hungary and Croatia signed a declaration of intent to enable reverse gas flows between the two countries on Tuesday. Speaking at a press conference after the signing of the declaration, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó called the document strategically important, arguing that it was crucial for Hungary’s energy security that the country has access to gas from the south as well.
Energy security continues to be a critical issue in central Europe, Szijjártó said, adding that the development of north-south gas infrastructures was both an economic and national security interest of central European countries. He added, at the same time, that the development of gas infrastructures in the south “seriously lags behind” the development of infrastructures in the north, noting that Hungary currently has no access to gas from the south. The minister noted that both the Hungarian-Croatian and Hungarian-Romanian interconnectors only supply gas in one direction, from Hungary to Croatia and Romania, respectively. The declaration of intent signed on Tuesday covers the timeline for Croatia to enable reverse gas flows through its interconnector with Hungary and plans are to have this done by the first quarter of 2019, Szijjártó said. He said Croatia’s construction of its LNG gas terminal was a crucial requirement for Hungary being able to import gas from the south. Therefore Hungary intends to support this project by any means necessary, the minister added. Szijjártó said joining the southern gas corridor that will supply gas to Europe is a strategic interest of Hungary. It is therefore conducting talks with Serbia and Russia on upgrading and connecting the three countries’ gas pipeline networks, he said. The minister noted that Hungary’s joining the southern gas corridor could be made possible with the construction of a gas pipeline that would partially mirror the route of the now abandoned South Stream pipeline. This pipeline will have a smaller capacity than the South Stream, he added. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Martina Dalic said the declaration of intent was an important step towards connecting Europe’s energy markets and boosting energy security within the European Union. Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission in charge of energy union, told the same press conference that the declaration of intent clearly reflects the EU’s aim for access to affordable and clean energy sources through its energy union. Asked if he and Szijjártó had discussed disagreements between Hungary and the EU concerning energy policy, Sefcovic said the two sides were in agreement on the need for affordable and competitive energy prices within the EU. He added, at the same time, that the European Commission believes in the need to “liberalise the energy market a bit”, since the markets, especially the electricity market, are overregulated in a number of member states. Sefcovic also stressed the importance of protecting vulnerable consumers.
Szijjártó said that keeping energy prices low was a strategic matter for Hungary, as it is key for the country’s competitiveness. Hungary is of the view that energy pricing decisions should stay in the hands of national governments, he said. The declaration of intent was signed by András Aradszki, the national development ministry’s state secretary for energy affairs and Mario Siljeg, Croatia’s state secretary for energy.