Hungary on Tuesday slammed an EU proposal to reduce gas consumption as “unenforceable” after the bloc’s energy ministers approved the plan.
“This is an unjustifiable, useless, unenforceable and harmful proposal,” Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.
Hungary was the only member state to oppose the plan, which passed on a majority vote.
“We were the only ones to signal that we are voting no… given that this decree completely ignores the interests of Hungarian people,” Szijjarto told reporters in Brussels.
The plan asks the bloc’s 27 member states to voluntarily reduce gas use by 15 percent — based on a five-year average for the months in question — starting next month and over the subsequent winter through March.
Russia has halted or reduced gas deliveries to a number of EU countries for a variety of reasons that are considered in Europe to be pretexts for retaliation for sanctions over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In an effort to increase EU security of energy supply, member states today reached a political agreement on a voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15 percent this winter,” the Council of the European Union said.
“The Council regulation also foresees the possibility to trigger a ‘Union alert’ on security of supply, in which case the gas demand reduction would become mandatory,” the statement continued.
But Szijjarto said the “the legal basis of a decree that decides how much member states can consume from which supplier is at best doubtful”.
“Will someone in Brussels be explaining to Hungarians how Hungarian people or companies won’t be able to use gas while there is gas in Hungary, the whole thing is clearly nonsense,” he said.
Hungary, which largely depends on Russian oil and gas, declared a “state of danger” over the energy crisis this month. It currently imports 65 percent of its oil and 80 percent of its gas from Russia.
Last week, Szijjarto visited Moscow to discuss the purchase of an additional 700 million cubic metres of natural gas.
The amount represents around 6.7 percent of Hungary’s 2020 natural gas consumption, according to data from Hungary’s natural gas pipeline operator FGSZ.