Hungary declares 'energy emergency' over threat of shortages

Hungary’s government has declared an “energy emergency” in response to supply disruptions and skyrocketing energy prices in Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s government has declared an “energy emergency” in response to supply disruptions and skyrocketing energy prices in Europe, an official said Wednesday.

There is “unlikely to be enough gas in Europe for the autumn and winter heating season,” said Gergely Gulyás, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff.

Hungary will increase its domestic energy production capacities to ensure adequate supply, Gulyás told a news conference in Budapest. Gulyás cited Russia's war in Ukraine and consequent sanctions from the European Union as the cause of what he called an "energy crisis" on the continent.

“The prolonged war and the sanctions from Brussels have caused energy prices to rise dramatically across Europe, and in fact a major part of Europe is already in an energy crisis,” Gulyás said.

The Central European country will boost its annual production of natural gas from 1.5 billion cubic meters to 2 billion cubic meters, increase the extraction of lignite (brown coal) and put a currently non-functioning lignite-fired power plant back online, Gulyás said.

Energy exports will be banned, and Hungary’s only nuclear power plant will also increase its production by extending its operating times, he added. The measures will go into effect in August.

The announcements came after Orbán convened a meeting of his Cabinet earlier Wednesday to discuss what he called an “energy emergency” in Europe.

Hungary is heavily dependent on fossil fuels from Russia, and last year signed a 15-year agreement with Russian energy company Gazprom for the purchase of natural gas. Hungary gets around 65% of its oil and 85% of its gas from Russia.

But after Moscow launched its war against Ukraine, the EU, of which Hungary is a member, sought to target Russian oil exports with sanctions.

But the nationalist Orbán fought vigorously against such measures, arguing that blocking Russian oil would cripple his country's economy. The autocratic leader managed to negotiate a concession which allowed a temporary exemption for oil imports delivered by the Russian Druzhba pipeline to certain landlocked countries like Hungary.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said at a meeting of regional foreign ministers that Hungary would seek to buy an additional 700 million cubic meters of gas before autumn, but didn't specify from where.