Hungary says Romanian gas deal would end Russia's monopoly

BUDAPEST, Hungary — A forthcoming deal to import natural gas from neighboring Romania means that the "age of the Russian gas monopoly in Hungary is ending," Hungary's prime minister said Friday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Hungary plans to get over 4 billion cubic meters (141 billion cubic feet) of natural gas a year from Romania, putting his country in a new and more favorable "geostrategic situation."

Speaking after a joint meeting with Serbian government representatives, Orban said the Romanian imports are expected to account for over half of Hungary's imported gas by 2021-2022.

"I announce with due modesty but happily, that the age of the Russian gas monopoly in Hungary is ending," Orban said after a meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. "This is a totally new situation not only for Hungary, but for the region."

Orban said Hungary had already built the pipeline link to Romania and Romania's link to Hungary "is under construction now."

The diversification of energy sources puts Hungary in a "new geostrategic position, which is more favorable than the earlier one," he said.

Hungary is now highly dependent on Russia for oil and gas imports. Russia is also expanding Hungary's only nuclear power plant.

Hungary was forced to tap into its strategic gas reserves in January 2009 and to ration the industrial use of natural gas when European gas imports from Russia were temporarily suspended because of a pricing dispute between Moscow and Ukraine, a transit country for Russian gas supplies.

Hungary sent some of its gas reserves to Serbia, which was even more acutely affected by the crisis.

Regarding Serbia, Orban thanked Brnabic for her country's help in stopping the flow of migrants through the Balkans. He said Hungary was ready to help Serbia protect its southern borders if there is another surge of people trying to reach Europe.

Orban also praised Serbia's "exemplary" policies on minority communities, including the ethnic Hungarian population of about 250,000.

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