Péter Szijjártó, the foreign affairs and trade minister, reached an agreement with Parviz Shahbazov, his Azeri counterpart, in Baku on Friday to set up a working group tasked with laying the groundwork for the delivery of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Hungary from 2021. It is in Hungary’s interest to have access to Azerbaijan’s increased supply of gas to Europe from 2021, Szijjártó told MTI by phone.
This is important for Hungary because the diversification of its gas supply has been on the agenda for a long time. But until now, there have always been geopolitical and regional political hurdles along the way, the minister said. “Now, with Azerbaijan, there’s a realistic chance for this after 2021, and it’ll significantly improve Hungary’s gas supply,” Szijjártó said. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has taken its toll on Europe, he said, noting that it has kept the two countries from signing a new gas transit deal that would ensure the delivery of Russian gas to central Europe via Ukraine.
This presents a particularly tough challenge for Hungary, as more than half of the gas it imports from Russia is delivered through Ukraine, the minister said. Szijjártó noted that last week he signed an agreement with the CEO of Gazprom ensuring that the company will supply Hungary with gas next year regardless of whether or not Russia and Ukraine sign a new transit deal, adding, at the same time, that Hungary also had to get started on negotiations on its 2021 gas supply.
“We’re being serious when we say that in order to improve Hungary’s energy security, we need to be able to import the gas Hungary needs from multiple sources,” he said. “Looking around our region, we see that importing gas from Azerbaijan could be one of the most viable scenarios in terms of gas supply sources.” He pointed out that Azerbaijan exports an annual 16 billion cubic metres of gas to Turkey and southeastern Europe.
The minister also noted the discovery of three new gas fields in Azerbaijan which hold more than 500 billion cubic metres of reserves. And the Caucasian country has begun making preparations to increase the transport capacity of its southeast European pipeline from 16 billion cubic metres a year to 31 billion, he said.