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Budapest targets ‘petrol tourists’ — Analysis

Hungarian drivers are the only ones who can enjoy government-capped prices. Other foreigners will have to pay higher.

Drivers with foreign license plates can no longer buy gas in Hungary at government-capped prices – the lowest in the EU, the country’s authorities announced on Thursday. Budapest said the measure is aimed at stopping ‘petrol tourists’ “Avoiding” Hungary’s fuel supplies.

The prime minister’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas told journalists during a regular press briefing that “Foreign buyers take advantage of the fact Hungary can maintain petrol prices at just 480 Forints (€1.22) They are priced at between 700 and 900 euros per liter elsewhere in Europe.

According to the official, “Abuse” of the low gas prices by fuel tourists has become a real issue of late, threatening Hungary’s own uninterrupted supply.

Hungarian gas stations will now charge motorists who have foreign plates for higher market prices.

Viktor Orban’s government originally introduced the gas price cap on November 15, 2021 amid accelerating inflation. Budapest has extended the program several times over the years, most recently in late April.

Similar price caps in Hungary were also introduced for gas and some staples like sugar and flour.

Gulyas not only announced the new fuel station price, but also addressed the impact of Ukraine’s ongoing conflict, warning of an economic downturn and the possibility of another global economic crisis. The official pointed out that Hungary already bears some of the burden, noting rising fuel prices as one example.

Gulyas continued to critique the EU sanctions against Russia, saying that they are counterproductive and causing damage to Hungarians.

Marton Nagy, Hungary’s minister for economic development, said that Budapest’s key objective under current circumstances was to build a resilient economy while keeping the budget and national debt in check.

Hungary is among several EU member states blocking the adoption of the bloc’s sixth round of sanctions against Moscow, with an embargo on Russian oil imports being the bone of contention. Budapest insists that it cannot possibly wean itself off Russian energy overnight – a scenario, which, according to Hungarian officials, would deal a heavy blow to the nation’s economy – and reportedly demands that Brussels pick up the tab for the costly transition to alternative sources.

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