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Cyprus

EAC unions to consider ‘new measures’ to oppose privatisation

EAC trade unions are considering their next steps

TRADE unions at the semi-state power company EAC will decide on Tuesday on the measures they will take to protest the government’s policy, which they claim is aimed at weakening and dismantling it, union reps announced on Friday.

At a joint news conference held by the four unions, rep Marios Pappoutis lambasted the government, arguing that it is deploying a covert strategy in order to impose its views, which “are against the interests of the public”.

He charged that, while Cyprus has the explicit right to deviate from the requirement for the vertical disjointing of the company’s power-generating and distribution operations under any market model it ends up implementing – a right reaffirmed in a 2010 letter by the permanent representation of Cyprus in Brussels to the Energy Ministry – it has not been utilised to the benefit of the country.

The unions have long opposed the operational separation of the EAC for fear that it is the first and crucial step leading to the privatisation of the utility.

“Not only has the ministry not even tried to safeguard Cyprus’ fundamental right, it actively tried, following a meeting we had with President Nicos Anastasiades on December 7, 2016, to undermine it in email communication with the Financial Directorate of the EU,” Pappoutis claimed.

He added that the ministry is aiming at “releasing the EAC’s productive resources” by deactivating and auctioning off overseas and domestic production facilities to third parties.

“The ministry argues that it needs to render the Transmission Systems Operator (TSO) fully independent supposedly because it is also the market operator, with whom it claims it will cooperate to reduce the price of electricity, but on the other hand, the same ministry admits that, in order to attract investment in the industry – meaning competitors – profit margins must be increased,” Pappoutis said.

“In the end, [regulator] CERA will be called upon to set a higher average power cost, resulting in higher prices to consumers.”

The government’s proposed bill granting the TSO full autonomy, the unions said, was discussed in the House Commerce committee, where CERA deemed it an “unprecedented monstrosity”.

Pappoutis also denied that any consultation was held with either the EAC or its employees on the TSO bill, accusing the ministry of “misleading parliament”.

He also complained that the EAC has been literally headless for three years.

Union rep Andreas Panorkos said this was an intentional move by the ministry, “particularly by the permanent secretary”.

“He doesn’t want to have a counterpart at the EAC with the same powers, who could defend the organisation,” Panorkos claimed.

“Instead, he would like to see a dismantled Electricity Authority so that he can boss around lower-level officials or, even worse, interfering and directing decisions by the board of directors.”

On Tuesday, Panorkos said, the unions will hold a joint meeting to decide what measures, if any, they will take.

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