Hungary has said it will help build a pipeline to transport Russian crude to Serbia in an effort to ensure continued oil supply to Belgrade despite EU sanctions.
Serbia gets its oil supply mainly via Croatia and the Adriatic Sea — a link that will be severed when the EU enforces a ban on Russian seaborne crude from December. However, Hungary will still receive Russian oil via the Druzhba pipeline, which is exempt from the EU ban.
“The new oil pipeline would enable Serbia to be supplied with cheaper (Russian) crude oil, connecting to the Friendship oil pipeline,” Hungarian government spokesman Zoltán Kovács said on Monday, referring to the Druzhba pipeline.
Kovács said the project was part of a long-term ambition from Hungary to diversify the region’s energy infrastructure.
The comment confirms a statement last weekend from Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić, who said the plan was to link the two countries within two years.
“Croatia has proved to be an unreliable supplier,” he said.
Landlocked Serbia and Hungary both rely heavily on Russian fossil fuels and energy partnerships with Moscow. Vučić and Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán met last week in Budapest where they agreed to pull the two countries’ energy sectors closer together.
“We consider long-term, large-scale energy co-operation with Serbia,” Orbán said at the time. “We want to connect our system. From an ownership perspective, we also want to connect our large energy production and transport systems.”
The plan, Vučić said, was to link up Serbia to southern Hungary at a cost of €100mn, with a possible extension to the Albanian Adriatic port of Durrës, via North Macedonia.
Winter supplies pose a more immediate challenge, however. Vučić said Serbia had about 200,000 tons worth of crude reserves and enough fuel to last about two months.