Hungary clears way for Southern Stream gas pipeline

October 23, 2014


Hungarian news sources report that Fidesz parliamentary speaker László Köver filed amendments in the parliamentary energy committee that would theoretically make it possible for Russian Gazprom to circumvent EU and international agreements and build the Hungarian segment of its Southern Stream gas pipeline by 2017. The amendment of a 2008 law would establish a category for gas companies that do not comply with international energy supply agreements but may still undertake construction in Hungary. Enacting the amendments would constitute a willful disregard of EU sanctions against Russia, as well as a unified Brussels policy not to discuss Southern Stream plans until the conclusion of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict.

Many journalists speculated that the internet-tax bill serves as a diversion from this motion, which is virtually the last step in making it possible for the Russian energy giant to complete the Southern Stream gas pipeline as far as the Austrian border. The EU already requested Bulgaria not to comply with the Russian construction plans until the war in Ukraine reaches a conclusion. Hungary’s law amendment came just days after the Orbán government’s diplomatic fallout with the US following the State Department’s order temporarily suspending the right of six Hungarian government officials and businessmen to enter the US.

Despite heavy protest from US and EU officials, the construction of Southern Stream would enable Russia to export natural gas across Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary via the Black Sea instead of Ukraine. Realization of the Southern Stream project would allegedly jeopardize EU plans for their Nabucco gas stream.

A few weeks ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller.  Shortly thereafter Hungary ceased exporting gas to Ukraine.  Orbán later said in a radio interview that he and Miller only discussed the situation of natural gas reserves in Hungary.  It is not known at this time whether they discussed the status of the Southern Stream project or the proposed amendment.

Referenced in this article: