Incumbents and Opposition Clash over Who Will Bear Burden of EUR 77 Mln Fine
115 ECONOMY - GAS - FINE - CONTROVERSY
Incumbents and Opposition
Clash over Who Will Bear Burden
of EUR 77 Mln Fine
Sofia, December 19 (BTA) - Reading out declarations in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the parliamentary groups of the ruling GERB party and the opposition BSP For Bulgaria clashed over who will bear the burden of a 77,068,000 euro fine imposed by the European Commission on the Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) and its two natural gas subsidiaries on Monday.
The stated reason for the penalty is that BEH, its gas supply subsidiary Bulgargaz and its gas infrastructure subsidiary Bulgartransgaz have abused their dominant position on the domestic market by blocking competitors' access to key gas infrastructure in the country.
BSP For Bulgaria Floor Leader Kornelia Ninova said during Wednesday's debate that Prime Minister Boyko Borissov lied when he said that the fine will not be paid by the Bulgarian people because the money will be taken from BEH's profit.
Ninova said: "BEH is a state-owned company which is run by a team elected by the government. The government is not a defender of the national interest and is incompetent to run the economy, the energy sector and the country. And we pay for that, every Bulgarian out of their own pocket, by paying the price of gas, electricity and heating energy, despite all the poverty and inequality existing in the country."
The Socialist leader also accused the Prime Minister of one more lie: the allegation that the European Commission had required Bulgartransgaz to be privatized, thus presenting Bulgaria with a dilemma between having the company privatized or paying a fine. Ninova said: "Yesterday we asked the European Commission whether it is true that they had allowed themselves to impose conditions on Bulgaria: either you get it privatized or we fine you. The answer came immediately. It was expressed by European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager. She refuted the allegation of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov by saying that the Commission never wanted Bulgartransgaz to be privatized."
What the Commission actually wanted was a structural adjustment by taking both Bulgartransgaz and Bulgargaz out of the BEH system, Ninova said. The exact way to do it was up to the Bulgarian government. "The important thing for the European Commission was to stop BEH's illegal [monopolistic] actions," she said.
"You will be held responsible for getting Bulgaria into this scandal in the playing field of the European Commission," Ninova said to the incumbents.
She went on to note that according to information from the Finance Ministry, Bulgarian citizens have successfully sued members of the government for violating their rights and have been paid 15,563,961 leva in compensation. However, the government has not lodged a single claim against a minister or some other civil servant for inflicting detriment on the state in this way. "When are you going to apply the law, Mr Borissov, and file such claims against those ministers and officers who have done that to [the citizens] and the country and have made all Bulgarian people pay for it?" she asked.
GERB's Delyan Dobrev, who chairs the Energy Committee in the National Assembly, said in a declaration that whatever fines may be imposed, they are never factored into the prices approved by the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission. Dobrev explained that the money for the 77 million euro fine will be taken from undistributed profit of the companies concerned, from gas transit revenues and from electricity exports, but not through the price of gas, electricity or any other product sold to Bulgarian consumers.
"We have not violated EU rules," Dobrev said. "The National Assembly required the Council of Ministers to appeal a possible negative decision of the European Commission."
In a separate declaration, the Volya parliamentary group called for the immediate cancellation of the procedure for the purchase of "expensive aircraft" for the Air Force "until the pressing problems of the people are solved."
Volya urged Prime Minister Borissov to prevent the adoption of an ordinance which would change the medicines policy to make up for a shortfall in the National Health Insurance Fund. Rather than that, the money should be secured from the state budget surplus, the group proposed. LY/VE