[INTERVIEW] Hungarian minister talks about green energy plans and Korea’s role
This is not about politics or ideology, but pragmatism, said the Hungarian Foreign Minister when asked about the recent energy crisis in Europe and Hungary’s decisions on the energy front.
“You have two options in this regard. To be politically and ideologically motivated then no one knows how you will secure gas for your own country. Or you can be pragmatic and sign the cooperation agreement, ”said Peter Szijjarto, speaking to the Korea JoongAng Daily during his visit to Seoul on Wednesday. “For us, cooperation with Russia is definitely beneficial.”
Hungary signed a natural gas deal with Russia in September that will supply the central European country with energy for the next 15 years. It is also one of the European countries looking to rely more on nuclear power, a controversial topic in Europe these days.
“Hungary has been using nuclear energy for four decades now. We see it as a clean, safe, inexpensive and sustainable way to generate energy, ”said the Minister. “Now we have an agreement with Rosatom to build the second nuclear power station in Hungary, with which the nuclear share [power in total electricity generation] will increase to 70 percent.
It is in this context that the central European country is now turning to Korea for another type of energy support, which brought the minister to Seoul despite the worsening of the pandemic situation in the world with the rise in power of the Omicron variant.
“Korea is the world’s No. 1 supplier of electric vehicles [electric vehicles] and batteries, and Korean companies in this area will play a decisive role in the future long-term development plan of our national economy, ”said Szijjarto, who earlier today reached an agreement with a Korean company to mark the second-largest foreign investment in Hungary this year.
“Today, I signed an agreement with a company called Ecopro, [which] will build […] the first cathode factory in [Hungary and] European, ”he declared. “Cathodes are one of the four [pieces of] electric battery equipment. The plant will produce enough for 1.35 million electric cars per year.
The minister traveled to Seoul from Wednesday to Thursday to meet with trade delegations and leaders of battery and biomaterial companies including Bumchun, Inzi Controls, Solus Advanced Materials and Ecopro.
Szijjarto became the youngest member of the Hungarian National Assembly in 2002. Now 42, Szijjarto, who has been Hungary’s top diplomat since 2014, is one of the longest-serving foreign ministers in the country. ‘European Union. He is the second youngest foreign minister to serve his country.
The Korea JoongAng Daily met the minister virtually on Wednesday, after a member of his delegation tested positive upon arrival at Incheon airport. The member was reportedly immediately quarantined and the other delegates tested negative on their PCR tests.
The following are edited excerpts from the interview in which the Minister spoke about Hungary’s energy transformation plans and Korea’s place in this table, as well as the direction the bilateral strategic partnership could take. improved in the near future.
Your visit closely follows last month’s presidential summit in which the two nations decided to step up ties towards a strategic partnership. What does this change of status mean?
Korea is the world’s largest supplier of electric vehicles and batteries, and Korean companies in this field will play a decisive role in the future long-term development plan of our national economy, as electromobility plays an important role. role in the modernization of our automotive industry, which represents 30% of our industrial production.
What do you think was the most important outcome of your visit?
Hungary’s biggest greens investment announcement was made in February this year when SK Innovation announced its multibillion-euro investment. Today I made a deal with a company called Ecopro, which brings the second biggest investment in Hungary this year, to 725 million euros [$821.5 million]. They will build the first factory outside Korea in Hungary. It will be the first cathode factory in Europe, and the cathodes are one of the four most critical [pieces of] electric battery equipment. The plant will produce enough for 1.35 million electric cars per year.
Countries in transition to greener transport infrastructure face the question of how to generate their electricity, as using heavily coal-fired electricity to run electric vehicles would be counterproductive. Hungary has turned to nuclear power, which generates 50 percent of the country’s electricity. What is Hungary’s nuclear energy roadmap and what role is Korea playing in it?
With Korea, on this subject, we see opportunities for cooperation in areas with higher added value, such as medical use or isotopes, or training in this sector.
Will Korea participate in the construction of new nuclear power plants in Hungary?
No, this is not the case.
Europe has recently been hit hard by an energy crisis. Where is Hungary in all of this?
Besides nuclear energy, we use natural gas. The European continent found itself in very serious problems because of a short-sighted way of thinking. And in Hungary, we have a long-term gas supply agreement with Russia that guarantees a secure supply for the next 15 years. Thus, Hungary is not affected by the energy crisis in Europe, because we have already taken our strategic decisions before.
What does it mean for Hungary to take strategic decisions on the energy front, which is becoming more and more politicized in Europe?
You have two options in this regard. To be politically and ideologically motivated then no one knows how you will secure gas for your own country. Or you can be pragmatic and sign the cooperation agreement. For us, cooperation with Russia is certainly beneficial.
How does Hungary plan to get rid of highly radioactive waste from its nuclear installation? Safe disposal of nuclear waste is something that many countries with nuclear power plants, including Korea, struggle with.
We have an agreement with Russia on this. Some waste can also be stored in Hungary. The bigger ones, we have an agreement with Russia on how to handle it, including the return [to Russia] part of the waste.
What do you think was the most important outcome of the summit between President Moon Jae-in and Hungarian President Janos Ader?
The summit took place under very friendly circumstances. It was not only a meeting between Korea and Hungary but it was also a meeting between Korea V4 [Visegrad Group], a region that is developing very quickly in the EU. We offer the most competitive conditions in terms of investments. Together, the size of our national economies would place us in the G20 if we were one economy and one country. We provide the backyard for German industries, which is really the backbone of the European economy – the volume of trade between Germany and the V4 countries is twice as much as the trade between Germany and France. Korean companies can take advantage [by working with the V4].
In the future, where do you think the interpersonal bonds will develop between the two nations?
A program is currently underway to attract more Korean teachers to Hungary, and from the second semester of next year, Hungarian exams will be available in Seoul so that Korean employees preparing to work in Hungary can take. these reviews. We have also discussed with Korea University to open a school or branch in Budapest, so we look forward to more such engagements.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [[email protected]]