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Hungary finally throws its weight behind EU’s Nabucco pipeline

Hungary on Tuesday appeared to change its policy on the Nabucco pipeline, a European Union-backed project aimed at reducing dependence on Russian gas, when Economy Minister János Kóka said that his government backed the plan.

Kóka, speaking to reporters ahead of Friday’s international conference on the Nabucco project in Budapest, said that the conference demonstrated Hungary ‘is committed’ to the pipeline. Hungary had appeared to be leaning toward backing an extension of Russia’s Blue Stream pipeline, with Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány criticizing Nabucco for lacking a clear direction.

Both Nabucco and the Blue Stream extension are to carry gas to the EU via Turkey and the Balkans, with the main difference being that Nabucco would transport gas from the Middle East and Central Asia. The EU is looking to reduce its dependence on Russian gas since supplies were interrupted following spats between Russia and transit nations Ukraine and Belarus. Hungary, which is almost entirely reliant on Russian gas, was hit particularly hard by the interruptions.

Kóka said that the Russian project would only cut technological risks and that a new pipeline was needed to diversify supply. While Kóka said that he now supports Nabucco, he also said that Hungary would use the conference to push for the pipeline to be opened up to third parties, including Russia. The €4.6-billion ($6.36-billion), 3,300-kilometre Nabucco pipeline is scheduled for completion in 2012, although work is not due to start until 2009. (monstersandcritics)