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Expanded energy capacity, diversified supply could give Hungary negotiating advantage

Expanded domestic energy capacity, diversified supply and better-connected energy networks in Europe could give Hungary the upper hand when it re-negotiates long-term supply contracts in 2015, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday.

The PM hailed an agreement by European Union leaders on unifying EU energy markets and accelerating the pace at which energy dependencies are ended.

The agreement reached at a summit in Brussels on Friday establishes a unified energy market across the EU through the dismantling of regulatory restrictions and the construction of cross-border infrastructure connecting gas, oil and electricity networks, Orban said. The heads of state and government also agreed that every member state must be able to take deliveries from at least two independent suppliers, he added.

In the interest of reducing energy dependence, the leaders made the construction of the north-south energy networks a top priority, and they acknowledged the need to accelerate the progress of the construction of the Nabucco pipeline, he said.

Orban noted that Hungarian energy networks are in the process of being connected with those in Romania, Croatia and Slovakia.

National Development Minister Tamas Fellegi is also in talks with Slovenia on an interconnector.

Hungary will "free itself from a giant trap" when, in just a few years, the country will be able to take energy deliveries from the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Adriatic Sea, Azerbaijan and even North Africa,  Orban said.

A decision will be made soon on the construction of a new block at Paks, Hungary's only nuclear power plant, he said. The expansion would give the plant capacity to meet 60% of Hungary's electricity demand.

Currently the plant meets more than 40% of demand. If Hungary can avail of so many opportunities, it will have a realistic chance to get better deals when its long-term energy supply contracts expire in 2015, Orban said. The PM said the government would announce a program in February that supports the conversion of gas-burning furnaces to mixed-fuel furnaces. (Econews)