Hungary under ‘great pressure’ from US over its energy deals with Russia

AFP Photo / Bulphoto / M3 Communications Group
​Washington is exerting heavy pressure on Hungary over the country’s decision to give a green light for the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline and expedite the construction by allowing companies without licenses to participate in the project.

“The US is putting Hungary under great pressure fearing Moscow’s rapprochement with Budapest,” Hungarian media cited Prime Minister Viktor Orban saying in Munich, Germany after a meeting with Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer.

Orban said that Hungary's relations with Russia have become “entangled in geopolitical and military and security policy issues,” AFP reports. The PM said that US is retaliating for Budapest's willingness to endorse the South Stream gas pipeline development as well as a deal that would see Russia’s Rosatom expand Hungary’s nuclear power.

Under a deal worth up to €10 billion Rosatom will build a 2,000 megawatt addition to Hungary's state-owned nuclear power plant MVM Paksi Atomeromu. Russia is Hungary’s largest trade partner outside of the EU, with exports worth $3.4 billion in 2013. Also it is highly dependent on Russian energy.

“We don’t want to get close to anyone, and we don’t intend to move away from anybody,” Orban said. “We are not pursuing a pro-Russian policy but a pro-Hungarian policy,” as expansion of the nuclear plant was the “only possible means” to lower dependence on external energy resources.

The PM remained firm that “cheap energy is key in strengthening Hungary’s competitiveness” as he also defended the law which gave a green light for the construction of the South Stream pipeline that would bypass Ukraine as a transit nation in EU gas supply chain.

It “ensures Hungary gas supplies by eliminating risks posed by situation in Ukraine,” Orban said. “Even if South Stream does not diversify gas sources, it diversifies delivery routes.”

But Monday's move by Budapest on the gas project angered Brussels as the EU threatened to fine member states if they violate sanctions and pursue construction of South Stream Pipeline.

Orban, who on previous occasions has called Western sanctions on Russia “counterproductive” has faced fury from Washington.

The attacks on Viktor Orban and his government “demonstrate that it doesn’t matter what label you go under – if you don’t do exactly what Uncle Sam and the Euro-elite tell you to do - your country will come under great pressure to conform. And all of course in the name of freedom and democracy,” journalist and writer Neil Clark told RT.

READ MORE:EU sanctions like 'shooting oneself in the foot' - Hungary PM

Washington may also be worried that Hungarian energy firm MOL will sell its 49 percent stake in Croatia's energy giant INA to a Russian firm, Reuters reported. The Hungarian state has a 24.7 percent stake in MOL. Earlier Washington blacklisted six people with ties to the Hungarian government from entering the United States, accusing them of involvement in corruption.