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Hungary And Ukraine Butt Heads Over A New Natural Gas Deal

  • Hungary has relied on Russia for most of its natural gas imports delivered via a pipeline through Ukraine.
  • Russia, which used to ship natural gas primarily through Ukraine, has diversified export routes, constructing the Nord Stream pipelines to Germany and the TurkStream link to Turkey.
  • Relations between Hungary and its neighbor Ukraine have been tense for years.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has summoned Ukraine's ambassador over what he said was Ukraine's attempts to block Hungary's new long-term gas supply deal with Russia, which was signed on September 27. Szijjarto said in a statement posted on his Facebook page on September 28 that this amounted to a "serious violation of Hungary's sovereignty" after Kyiv criticized Budapest over the signing of a new 15-year natural gas supply deal with Russia's state-controlled energy giant Gazprom.

The agreement was signed by Gazprom and Hungarian energy group MVM executives at the Foreign Ministry in Budapest on September 27, during a visit by the Russian company’s chief executive Aleksei Miller.

The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine, which will lose millions in transit payments, said Hungary's supply deal was a "purely political, economically unreasonable decision" that was made "to the detriment of Ukraine's national interests and Ukrainian-Hungarian relations."

The Ukrainian statement said the deal would have "a significant impact on the energy security of Ukraine and Europe," and that it will ask the European Commission to assess whether the agreement respected European energy legislation.

Related: The Recent Oil Price Rally Can’t Be Justified

Szijjarto wrote in his Facebook message that the Ukrainian government's decision to attack the deal was "deeply upsetting" and amounted to an "unfriendly step."

On September 27, Szijjarto told a news conference that for Hungary, “energy safety is a matter of security, sovereignty, and economy rather than a political matter."

"You cannot heat homes with political statements," Szijjarto added.

A Gazprom statement quoted Miller as saying that Hungary “will start receiving Gazprom's gas starting from October 1 already via TurkStream and the pipelines of South-Eastern Europe."

Under the deal, Gazprom would ship 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Hungary annually, allowing for the supply of around half of Hungary's annual gas consumption.

There were no immediate comments from the EU executive.

Russia, which used to ship natural gas primarily through Ukraine, has diversified export routes, constructing the Nord Stream pipelines to Germany and the TurkStream link to Turkey.

Hungary has relied on Russia for most of its natural gas imports delivered via a pipeline through Ukraine, but in recent years it has diversified gas imports, opening cross-border interconnectors with most of its neighbors and securing supplies from Royal Dutch Shell via a liquefied natural gas terminal in Croatia.

Relations between Hungary and its neighbor Ukraine have been tense for years because of a dispute over the linguistic rights of some 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in the western Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia.

Kyiv angered Budapest in 2017 with a law restricting the use of minority languages, including Hungarian, in schools.

In response, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's nationalist government blocked Ukraine's efforts to build closer ties with NATO and the European Union, of which Hungary is a member.

By RFE/RL

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