Hungary Challenges Bulgaria Over Gas Transit Fee: EU Unity Tested

World » EU | November 13, 2023, Monday // 17:41
Bulgaria: Hungary Challenges Bulgaria Over Gas Transit Fee: EU Unity Tested

In a move that adds strain to European Union cohesion, Hungary has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission (EC), seeking criminal proceedings against Bulgaria over its imposition of a new transit fee on Russian gas. The fee, set at 20 leva (equivalent to 10 euros), has ignited a diplomatic dispute, with Hungary arguing that Bulgaria enacted the levy without proper consultation, thereby violating European customs and trade regulations.

Hungarian Minister for Europe, Janos Boka, contends that the Bulgarian tax poses a severe threat to the entire region's energy security. He accuses Bulgaria of taking unilateral action, emphasizing that the decision was made without the necessary discussions and agreements among neighboring countries. According to Hungary, this breach of established protocols is a direct violation of European customs and trade rules, and it undermines the collaborative approach that is essential for ensuring regional stability.

Boka further asserts that Bulgaria's move seriously jeopardizes the energy security of the broader European region. To demonstrate the gravity of the situation, Hungary is urging the European Commission to initiate criminal proceedings against Bulgaria promptly. If the EC fails to act, Hungary has signaled its readiness to escalate the matter to the highest European court by the end of the year.

The tax on gas transits through Bulgaria was a subject of discussion in Brussels in October. However, no definitive decision was reached regarding the justification and legality of Bulgaria's move. The Bulgarian government maintains that the new fee will not result in increased gas prices for Serbia and Hungary. Instead, it argues that the levy is intended to curtail Gazprom's privileged position in the Southeast European gas market, ultimately reducing Russian influence in the region.

The European Commission has now confirmed the receipt of Hungary's letter and is in the process of reviewing the complaint. The unfolding conflict highlights the complexities and challenges associated with energy policies within the EU, especially as member states navigate the delicate balance between national interests and collaborative decision-making.

In a related development, the EC has sought additional information on the agreement between Bulgargaz and the Turkish company Botas. The agreement, established under the caretaker government "Donev" in January, provides Bulgargaz with access to gas supplies from Turkey. This additional inquiry adds another layer of complexity to the already intricate web of energy-related disputes within the EU.

As the situation evolves, all eyes are on the European Commission to mediate and provide a resolution that preserves the unity and cooperation vital for the EU's collective strength.

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Tags: Hungary, Bulgaria, European Union, European Commission

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