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Hungary to veto Bulgaria's Schengen bid unless it cancels Russian gas transit tax

by Martin Fornusek December 16, 2023 10:30 PM 2 min read
Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto attends the 10th Summit of the Heads of State of the Organization of Turkic States on Nov. 3, 2023. (Arda Kucukkaya/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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Hungary threatened to veto Bulgaria's entry into the EU's passport-free Schengen Zone if Sofia does not scrap its transit tax on Russian gas, Reuters reported on Dec. 16, citing Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

Budapest is known for its amicable stances toward Moscow, and the majority of Hungarian gas supplies come from Russia.

Bulgaria imposed a transit tax on Russian gas in October, threatening to increase the prices of Hungarian imports flowing via the Turkish Stream pipeline.

"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," Szijjarto said.

Hungary's top diplomat promised that the veto would be lifted as soon as the tax is removed.

In a bid to enter the much-desired Schengen Zone, the Bulgarian ruling coalition decided to suspend the tax earlier this week following discussions with the European Commission, at least until the EU presents a better solution.

"This tax shouldn't be unilateral from Bulgaria's side, but we should work with the European Commission. Such a tax can only be imposed with all European countries, in a way that would actually have an effect on the economy and on the Russian Federation," said Kiril Petkov, a former Bulgarian prime minister and a leader of the ruling PP party.

Boyko Borisov, another ex-prime minister and the leader of the PP's coalition partner GERB, commented that "since we are quite close to Schengen, any possibility of this fee hindering us should be removed."

Both Serbia and Hungary complained about the risk of higher gas prices when the measure was originally presented in October. Sofia retorted that the costs should be covered by Russia's state-owned gas supplier Gazprom.

Euractiv reported that despite Bulgaria's initial expectations to raise $1.3 billion per year, no money has been collected so far.

Budapest has repeatedly obstructed sanctions against Russia or blocked aid for Ukraine within the EU to leverage economic concessions.

During the recent European Council summit, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban blocked the $55 billion for Kyiv, but his abstention allowed an agreement on membership talks with Ukraine shortly after the European Commission released $11 billion in EU funds earmarked for Hungary.

Investigation: Italian company makes sure Russian war machine has the steel it needs
Editor’s note: This story was published by the Dutch investigative outlet Follow The Money on Dec. 14. The Kyiv Independent contributed reporting to this story and is republishing it with permission. Key facts: * After Russia seized Crimea and unleashed the war in the Donbas in 2014, the Italian…
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