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Hungary still mulling Russian and EU-backed gas pipelines

The Hungarian government on Friday said that it remained undecided on whether to support the EU-backed Nabucco gas pipeline or its Russian Blue Stream rival after defence minister Imre Szekeres appeared to back the EU pipeline.

„The government's standpoint on Hungary's energy security is unchanged: Hungary has not committed to either pipeline and does not rule out participation in either,” the government said in a statement. „We will choose the solution that is the most advantageous and secure for Hungary,” it continued. Szekeres, during an official visit to the US, said that Hungary would choose the EU pipeline if it were at all possible. The main right-of-centre opposition party Fidesz, which is fiercely anti-Russian, immediately welcomed Szekeres' statement and said it hoped this signaled a change in stance from the government.

Hungary, which receives 80% of its gas from its former overlord, was one of the countries most affected by the gas outages in January 2006, which occurred when Russian gas deliveries through Ukraine were disrupted. Since then, the government has been pursuing three different routes to ensure there is no repeat of such events. One of the options has proven to be controversial, however, drawing fire from the EU and domestic sources alike.

Hungary's gas behemoth MOL Nyrt has agreed to team up with Russia's Gazprom on extending the Blue Stream pipeline, which carries gas across the Black Sea to Turkey. If the plan were carried out, the pipeline would extend into Europe. MOL has also agreed to cooperate on building a 10 billion- cubic-meters storage facility in Hungary. However, the Blue Stream pipeline is seen as a rival to the EU- backed Nabucco pipeline, which aims to cut the dependence on Russian gas by bringing in Middle Eastern gas through Turkey. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány has faced accusations of undermining the Nabucco pipeline by backing the Blue Stream project. (eux.tv)