Zoltán Kovács to CNN: No safe physical alternative for Russian oil shipments

“There is no safe physical alternative for Russian oil shipments, not only up until the end of this year but in the foreseeable future as well,” announced Zoltán Kovács, Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Relations of Hungary, on Tuesday in his interview with CNN.

2022. 06. 01. 17:41
Kovács Zoltán (Fotó: MTI/Illyés Tibor)
Kovács Zoltán (Fotó: MTI/Illyés Tibor) Fotó: MTI/Illyés Tibor
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He emphasized that this not only impacts Hungary, but all European countries without access to the sea. The State Secretary mentioned Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Bulgaria in this category as well, as countries that, due to geographic and historical reasons, are reliant on Russian energy.

Zoltán Kovács highlighted that energy dependence was not just a campaign topic in the last election, or a policy of the past few years, but rather an inherited problem that is being dealt with.

Aside from this, the government spokesman also pointed out that they have been working on this unilateral dependency throughout the past 12 years, but they are still very far from developing safe alternative sources of energy and pipelines from Europe and other parts of the world.

The CNN reporter played Robert Habeck’s, Vice-Chancellor of Germany’s, statement criticizing Viktor Orbán’s “nefarious” self-interest. In answer to the question of why Hungary is refraining from reducing dependence on Russian oil, Zoltán Kovács replied: Germany, as an employer of thousands of Hungarians, understands the Hungarian leadership’s motives perfectly well.

He added that Germany cannot demand a greater sacrifice from Hungary then the consequential impacts of the Russian sanctions would have.

Concerning the oil embargo, Zoltán Kovács highlighted that landlocked countries and those without access to the sea – including Hungary – have not received any form of guarantees from the European Commission nor any Member States that their energy supplies would be guaranteed. Quoting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the State Secretary said that “the immediate introduction of an oil embargo would be tantamount to an atomic bomb for the Hungarian economy and households” and “no responsible politician could support such a move.”

Zoltán Kovács underlined that “the compromise agreement reached at the EU summit in Brussels was a triumph of common sense.”

The government spokesperson also mentioned that Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó recently visited Croatia and held successful talks concerning long-term energy security cooperation, including the expansion of the Adriatic oil pipeline connecting Hungary and Central Europe to Croatia.

The State Secretary also explained that the Hungarian government has done the most in the past 12 years to lessen energy dependence; dependence on Russian oil was reduced from 95 percent to 84 percent.

In regard to the compromise solution reached at the EU summit, he stated that it will cost Hungary a lot, but they are ready for this. As he said, the sanctions in the agreement do not impact Russian oil coming through pipelines, however, efforts are underway to ensure energy security in landlocked countries.

In response to criticisms of overly-friendly relations between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zoltán Kovács stated that this was purely a narrative that has been imposed on Hungary.

He added that Hungary’s economic and political relations with Russia before the Ukraine conflict, pale in comparison to Western Europe’s.

“Thus, there is no need to point fingers at Hungary as these disputes over the introduction of sanctions and punitive measures go on,”

– said the State Secretary, adding that even before the war in Ukraine, Hungary was clear about its position on energy.

Photo: Zoltán Kovács (Fotó: MTI/Tibor Illyés)

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