“We will not be Gazprom’s happiest barrack (…) Although oil comes from the East, freedom always comes from the West” – often quoted phrases from Viktor Orbán, but few people paid attention to his promises and commitments on Russian energy dependence during the past decade of peace, even though they were quite epoch-making. The latter is particularly interesting because in the current crisis situation, when Fidesz is falsely blaming the European Union for everything and citing our energy dependence on Russia as a constraint on our actions, it turns out that all their promises were ultimately unkept or simply wasted, forgotten commitments, or, to put it simply, pure lies.
In the last written election programme of Fidesz (Yes, Hungary can do more – 2009), which is still in force, the energy issue is still given a special chapter, and it is stated that “in our country, it is a particularly urgent task to alleviate the unilateral dependence on Russian suppliers.” Fidesz, which was still in opposition at the time, also scolds the then government for not doing all it can to reduce Hungary’s energy dependence on Russia.
In fact, a sentence – no longer uttered by Fidesz – can be read in the written document: a common European energy policy is needed, since “Russia, as the main energy supplier, successfully divides European countries; the majority of decisions are still taken by the Member States individually, overshadowing the need for unified Community action.”
This last sentence would get treason-label these days, but at the very least it would be tagged with the stigma of ‘Brusselsite Lib Dem.’ It is also in this Fidesz programme that the ‘legal obstacles to the spread of renewable energy sources’ must be removed and domestic financial support for this purpose must be strengthened. However, we know that Fidesz did not do this when it came to power, but instead, referring to ‘climate hysteria,’ it has, for example, banned the installation of wind farms by law and is making it more difficult for people to use solar panels, among other things.
But this is not the only time Fidesz has lied – or let’s be more understanding and say, falsely exaggerated – to voters about ending Russian energy dependence. Less than four years ago, Viktor Orbán spoke about Hungarian energy policy priorities after a joint Serbian-Hungarian government meeting and, citing several international investments, promised that by 2022 “the Russian gas monopoly in Hungary will be over once and for all.” Well, it isn’t. Not in the least.
In some sort of defence of the Fidesz government, there were some strategically important plans that Orbán referred to and thrown in, the full implementation of which ultimately did not depend on the Hungarian government, but it can be said that Orbán’s calculations were wrong, they did not take their own promises seriously, and even – for example, after the aggressive annexation of Crimea – they concluded agreements with Russia that were an unjustified shackle to Hungary.
Hungary’s so-called energy mix is currently very one-sided: it relies overwhelmingly on gas and oil, with renewable green energy sources barely exceeding 11 per cent. In fact, statistics show that since 2010 Fidesz has not even attempted to change this ratio: between 2010 and 2019, the amount of imported natural gas from Russia to Hungary nearly doubled (17.7 million cubic metres). If Fidesz had used its historic opportunity and almost unchecked power over the past twelve years to implement what it undertook to do in opposition in 2009, we would be in a very different place today. If the past twelve years had been about truly strengthening the country’s immune system and not just about the vast enrichment of a few privileged friends and relatives, our country would be much more crisis-resistant.
But, the fact of the matter is, Fidesz has done nothing of substance in the last period to ensure, as it has demanded, that our exposure to Russia is ended as soon as possible. On the contrary, despite his promises and commitments, Orbán has tightened the noose that is now around all our necks. The world is changing and some crises cannot be predicted, which is why it would cost nothing if the leaders of Fidesz sometimes respected Hungarian people enough to be honest with them. And apologize to them if they have made mistakes, if they have been wrong or if they have lied to them. It seems that even after the fourth two-thirds majority, the ability to shed one’s arrogance is still a luxury.
Member of the European Parliament
14 August, 2022