Can the energy crisis become a driver to dismantle unity in the EU?

Employment and Social Affairs

Estimated time of reading: ~ 2 minutes  

One of the main consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been an unprecedented global energy crisis that affected mainly European countries and prompted higher inflation rates. As stated by the EU Council, the hikes in energy prices and disruptions to energy supply are top concerns for European leaders, aware of the threat to political, economic, and social stability for the Continent.

Since last year, the authorities in Brussels have promoted cooperation as the best way for EU countries to better mitigate the impact of the crisis and reduce risks associated with it, like joint purchases of energy, which can reduce the costs of imports. The EU Council then insists that unity and solidarity are key features to the European response to the energy crisis, but the reality seems different: every country has its own view of potential solutions and opportunities, reflecting different sentiments among the population and the national economic circles.

In this way, Hungary stands out as one of the main examples in such a dynamic: in mid-April, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto flew to Moscow for talks on energy with Russian counterparts. Szijjarto already had a trip to Belarus in February. In Moscow, Szijjarto met Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Alexander Novak and Alexey Likhachev, the chief executive officer of state nuclear company Rosatom, in order to discuss Russian oil, gas, and nuclear supplies to Hungary.

The Central European country has strong economic and political ties with Russia but had to adapt to the policy of sanctions imposed by the EU against Moscow. Still, in December 2022 Hungarian officials underlined the need for EU leaders and the European Commission to evaluate the impact of the bloc’s Russia sanctions on individual member states, particularly in the context of the ongoing energy crisis.

The inflation rate in Hungary skyrocketed in the last 12 months, with a peak of 25.7 percent in January 2023. The Hungarian government, led by Viktor Orban, is thus aware of the threats posed by economic instability in the country, deeply associated with the surge in energy prices.

Hungary is both a member of the EU and NATO, and its government is ready to negotiate potential deals with Russia, despite the ongoing war in Ukraine and tension with the West, in order to avoid an internal crisis, due to the difficulties of citizens in front of rising costs of living.

Written by: Francesco Marino

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