Motorists who come across the border to Hungary to refuel cheaper have had to pay a significantly higher price for motor vehicle fuel since this Friday.
In order to prevent tank tourism, the Hungarian government has decided that only cars with Hungarian license plates can be refueled at the officially fixed price of 480 forints – the equivalent of 1.22 euros for premium petrol (octane number 95) and diesel. Foreign vehicles must pay the market price. According to media reports, this is an average of 40 percent above the official price.
The measure is part of a package with which the Hungarian government wants to counteract the economic effects of the Ukraine war.
Since Hungarian fuel prices are among the lowest in Europe, fuel tourism near the border has increased and is now threatening domestic supplies, explained the head of the Hungarian chancellery, Gergely Gulyas. Protecting the country's security and economy has top priority.
The announcement came as a surprise on Thursday afternoon. Long queues formed in front of the gas stations near the border with the EU neighbors Austria and Slovakia in the evening because many foreigners wanted to fill up at the cheaper official price.
The different treatment of nationals and citizens of other EU countries at the pumps raises the question of whether Hungary is violating the EU's ban on discrimination.
Orban's head of chancellery, Antal Rogan, admitted in a television program on Thursday evening that the new price regulation could lead to discussions with Brussels.
The government of the right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban had officially set the price of petrol last November. The regulation, which will initially apply until July 1, is intended to ensure that drivers do not have to suffer from rising fuel prices worldwide.