OPED By Vaishali Basu Sharma
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said his country had secured its gas supply through the TurkStream pipeline that crosses the Black Sea rather than Ukraine.
EU country Hungary is the most dependent on Russian gas imports. Gas via TurkStream is exported to Southern and Eastern Europe – Hungary, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Serbia.
Foreign Minister Szijjártó said: “We reached an agreement with Turkey, Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia that we would build the so-called Turkish Stream gas pipeline, which would serve as an alternative route to transport the Russian gas to Central Europe, without passing through Ukraine. including Hungary.
“That time we were threatened with sanctions by our allies, but we stayed true to our national interest because we know that if you depend on just one delivery route, you can quickly get into trouble.
“And the unfortunate and sad developments since then have proven that we made the right decision in sticking to the idea of building the TurkStream gas pipeline, because if we had not built the TurkStream, we would now be facing a very, very serious problem. because currently, the majority of gas destined for Hungary is transported via the TurkStream gas pipeline.
After the Nord Stream gas pipeline became untenable due to damage caused by explosions, an agreement was reached in October 2022 to increase the supply of Russian gas along the southern route – TurkStream and its branch line through Bulgaria and Serbia, and last year Hungary received 4.8 billion cubic meters. meters of Russian gas via TurkStream.
Allowing Moscow to bypass Ukraine, the TurkStream consists of two 930 kilometer offshore lines stretching from Russia to Turkey, across the Black Sea. Hungary also receives Russian oil via the southern branch of the Druzhba pipeline, exempt from European Union (EU) sanctions.
TurkStream can deliver 31.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year, half of which goes to Turkey and the other half to the Balkans and Central Europe. Serbia and Hungary are the main European consumers.
In 2021, Hungary signed a 15-year deal with Kremlin-controlled gas giant Gazprom to supply 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year. But during 2022, it imported Russian gas in addition to the contracted volumes, in order to ensure security of supply before last winter.
Located three kilometers under the sea, the TurkStream requires specialized equipment imported from the West to operate. But now, with European Union sanctions against Russia, maintenance and repair work on the Turkstream gas pipeline is becoming more complex, threatening to worsen Europe’s energy crisis.
But NATO countries say it is a pressure tactic used by Russia to create energy shortages in Europe and cause divisions between EU countries over energy policy.
Kremlin-controlled Gazprom has started cutting its natural gas exports to the EU, causing prices to rise. Last year, Russia halted deliveries via the Yamal-Europe and Nord Stream gas pipelines and also sharply reduced deliveries via Ukraine.
Amid these shortages, the EU is at odds over energy supplies and funding for alternative routes and green energy. At a press conference in Budapest, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the European Union demands that Hungary buy as little oil and gas from Russia as possible, but does not help it to obtain alternative energy supplies. On the other hand, Russia proposed to Hungary to set up a deferred payment mechanism for any additional gas deliveries.
Russia says growing evidence shows that the United States, which was opposed to the Nord Stream 2 project from the start, was involved in the destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines. After the artificial explosions that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines, the system became unusable.
The resulting energy shortages are already forcing governments to reassess their situation. Russian pipeline deliveries to Europe are currently limited to flows via Ukraine entering at the Sudzha point on the Russian-Ukrainian border via TurkStream’s European channel.
Last week, Germany’s cabinet approved the resumption of lignite-fired power generation during winter energy shortages, increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Spain remains the largest importer of Russian LNG.
The EU is already at odds on various issues related to the war in Ukraine: sanctions and migration. Hungary’s right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the EU has “shot itself in the lungs” by imposing reckless economic sanctions on Russia, which unless reversed, risked destroying the European economy.
There is speculation that Viktor Orbán could veto €50 billion in EU aid to Ukraine, an issue that will be put to a vote in December. The European Commission will also likely oppose additional funding for Zelensky from newly elected Slovak lawmaker Robert Fico, a pro-Russian critic of European policy towards Ukraine. Hungary and Serbia are the main beneficiaries of TurkStream and have warm relations with Russia.
As the war progresses, attacks on the TurkStream, similar to those on the Nord Stream, cannot be ruled out. Earlier in May, three Ukrainian speedboats attempted an attack on the Russian warship Ivan Hurs, protecting the TurkStream and Blue Stream pipelines, which carry gas from Russia to Turkey, in the Black Sea near the Bosphorus .
Finally, another NATO member, Turkey, is in deep disagreement with the EU over the May elections, human rights issues and its relations with Russia. In October 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed creating a “gas hub” in Turkey. NATO and EU countries fear a gas hub in Turkey could facilitate Western-sanctioned Russian energy exports.