Hungary and Poland have voted against a “dangerous” proposal of the European Commission to extend earlier legislation cutting the use of natural gas by 15 percent, Peter Szijjarto, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said on Tuesday in Brussels.
Szijjarto told a press conference on the sidelines of a meeting of the EU’s energy council that the EC’s proposal would cut gas consumption rather than drawing in further resources or developing infrastructure, the ministry said.
The original regulation was adopted last year despite Hungarian and Polish objection, he said. While that legislation pertained to a winter period when growing household demand made it easier to comply, this proposal is “more dangerous” as it threatens industrial consumption more, he said.
“Artificially curbing industrial consumption raises the risk of economic regression,” he said.
Szijjarto said the regulation amounted to a “stealthy curbing of member states’ competencies” as member states have the right to decide over energy use, the national energy mix and the country’s economic structure themselves. “By deciding to curb the use of natural gas, they basically harm sovereign member states’ rights,” he added.
Hungary has now joined a lawsuit brought by Poland after the fist regulation, contesting the decision to adopt the regulation without a unanimous vote.
The regulation may curb demand on the market, he added, which would drive up prices.
“The proposal threatens to bring growing prices and supply security issues, leading to recession,” he said.
Hungary voted against the proposal and maintains that gas supply is not a political issue, “and discriminating against gas resources on political grounds is extremely harmful.” The aim should be to bring as much natural gas into Europe as possible, from the most diverse resources possible, he said.
Many experts have warned of the possibility of a gas shortage this winter, he said. Some 60 billion cubic meters of Russian gas will be missing from the European system, and growing Chinese demand might syphon away further resources as the country’s economy reopens, he warned. Meanwhile, Europe is still missing the LNG capacity necessary to replace the missing resources, he said.
At the same time, natural gas costs seven times more in Europe than in the US, and electricity is three times dearer here than in China, he noted. “The only reasonable step in this situation would be to increase gas supply in Europe,” he said.