Hungary will veto Bulgaria’s bid to enter Europe’s border-free Schengen area unless Sofia removes a transit levy on Russian gas, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Saturday.
Budapest would use its veto power to block Bulgaria accession talks, according to Szijjártó, as Hungary accuses its neighbor of carrying out a hostile action by charging an extra tax for the Russian gas transitting its territory through the Turkstream pipeline. Sofia in October introduced an additional tax of 20 lev, roughly 10 euro, per cubic meter on all Russian gas flowing on its soil.
“Bulgaria’s decision, which is completely contrary to European legislation, risks stopping gas supplies, including to Hungary,” Szijjártó said, according to a post on social media by a Hungarian government spokesperson. Russia supplies Hungary with 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year under a deal signed in 2021. The gas arrives to Hungary mainly through Bulgaria and Serbia.
“We have made it clear to the Bulgarians that if they keep this in place for long, if they jeopardize the safety of Hungary’s energy supply for long, then we will veto their Schengen entry,” Reuters quoted Szijjártó as saying.
The European Commission has considered Bulgaria, together with Romania, ready for joining the borderless Schengen zone since 2011, but multiple vetoes by Austria and the Netherlands have so far blocked its accession. However, recently both of those countries have softened their positions, with Austria signaling it would be open for removing barriers when it comes to air traffic.
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