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Cyprus

Electricity authority unions brand energy minister a liar

Andria Kades

Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) unions on Saturday hit out at Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis, calling him a liar who completely ignored orders by President Nicos Anastasiades.

Their furious reaction, expressed during a press conference, followed an unofficial announcement by government sources that on Monday Lakkotrypis will hand over a bill to the Cabinet sealing EAC’s fate.

The bill proposes that the power company will remain in state hands and has even received the nod of approval by the island’s international lenders, the troika.

With the privatisation decree withdrawn, the EAC will be legally unbundled into two companies, one responsible for distribution and transmission, while the other will be responsible for production and supply.

Nevertheless, unions which had been demonstrating against privatisation did not take long to react, sending a letter to Anastasiades on Friday denouncing the energy minister and complaining he had deceived them.

“In our view, the minister is misinforming the people of Cyprus and the public opinion with his announcements,” EPOPAI union leader Andreas Panorkos said on Saturday.

Unions allege Lakkotrypis is defying promises he made before Anastasiades on December 7 that he would submit a preliminary decision to the Cabinet to separate the EAC but would re-evaluate it in two years time.

Panorkos added the letter pleaded for Anastasiades’ intervention to avoid what they call the destructive proposal.

It also outlined if the EAC moved towards any form of separation apart from the logistical and operational one, then the derogation granted by the European Union to Cyprus will be immediately repealed.

In this case, there would be no going back and would work against the public good.

“There’s a huge lie in what we hear today from the minister. It is clear he is talking on withdrawing the privatisation of an EAC which will not exist tomorrow and in essence is proceeding with privatisation where the first step is unbundling.”

Lakkotrypis has repeatedly said employees will maintain their status as semi government organisation employees and will not lose any benefits.

Panorkos alleged members of the EAC board were threatened into agreeing with the state decision while Adonis Giasemides, SEPAIK union leader, said the Troika’s final €400 million tranche is a fraction of EAC’s value, which exceeds €2 billion, calling it the selling off of national wealth.

Unions also claim unbundling the EAC into two companies will in fact burden the taxpayer more as there will be a need for double the accounting systems, software licences and common services as well as the possibility of twice as many boards of directors.

Meanwhile, on Monday employees will head to the Strovolos offices at 9am for a union briefing where they will decide a course of action, which could include dynamic measures.

They stressed they will do everything in their power to prevent the implementation of this proposal.

Their decision means customer service will be unavailable on Monday but the EAC reassured this will not affect supply.

The proposal set to reach Cabinet on Monday also includes government reservations relating to uncertain factors such as a potential solution to the Cyprus problem, natural gas developments and the EuroAsia Interconnector project, designed to connect the grids of Israel, Cyprus and mainland Europe via a subsea cable.

In regards to the timeline, once the decision is taken Lakkotrypis will submit an ‘implementation plan’ expected to be ready in the very near future.



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