Банкеръ Weekly


Bulgaria’s New Parliament Lacks Energy Experts

The fate of the mega project South Stream, the arbitration of the NPP Belene case, the discussions around the construction of the new VII block of NPP Kozloduy, the financial hole in the National Electricity Company (NEC), the future of the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission and many other important decisions will lie on the shoulders of the MPs in the newly elected Bulgaria’s Parliament, the energy committee of the 43rd National Assembly, which will have to go into difficult disputes and discussions to decide what is the best option for the country’s future. The bad news is that the good experts of the sectors among the number of MPs are very few.

The largest parliamentary force represented there - GERB now can rely on the experience of Delian Dobrev gained mainly while he was a deputy, and then an energy minister in the government of GERB. Given the fact that he almost certainly will again become part of the executive power, the situation in Parliament significantly complicates for the people of leader Boyko Borisov in terms of purely expert perspective. Indeed, former Executive Director of NPP Kozloduy Valentin Nikolov was elected to the National Assembly, but it would be a pure political suicide to rely on a man famous in the energy field with the nickname ‘the Baker’. He is also know for not looking at things professionally, but only through the prism of his party’s slogan.

Otherwise, if one lists the people from GERB, who figured in the previous Energy Commission - Alexander Nenkov, Daniel Kirilov, Ivailo Moskovski, Tsetska Tsacheva, they are part of the current National Assembly. None of them, however, can enter into a serious and reasonable debate with opponents on energy.

For this reason, in the last two to three years, the people of Boyko Borissov periodically tried to impose someone as an energy expert, but the attempts always failed. A textbook example is MP Dian Chervenkondev. He was Vice Chairman of the Committee on Economy and Energy in the last Parliament and was responsible for energy issues in the party, but before the snap elections in 2013 surprisingly went of the politics and embarked on other challenges.

The situation with the socialists (BSP) is not rosy, either. Once the proven capacity Rumen Ovcharov went to the background now socialists will also rely on their ex-energy minister Dragomir Stoynev. His controversial actions as a factor in the energy sector, however, triggered a penal procedure from Brussels because of the actions around the pipeline South Stream and the financial hole in the NEC exceeding 1 billion levs.

The energy tandem Tasko Ermenkov - Yavor Kuyumdjiev, notorious with their legal amendments in favour of Russia in the case with the South Stream pipeline, the fight against monopolies and a permanent reduction in the price of electricity also did not meet people’s expactations. Though he was head of the lists of the Socialists from Targovishte, Kuyumdjiev failed to enter the Parliament after the last redistribution of the votes according to the mathematical model Hare - Niemeyer.

This all too bad, considering his colorful way of disputing, which he was remembered in the committees and the plenary session. Some people will remember how in May this year he nailed GERB’s MPs comparing them with the policy of Goebbels. “You are like Goebbels. You repeat the same thing in the hope that it will happen. Well, no! And that’s it. You all somehow suddenly became energy experts - Tsetska Tsacheva, Alexander Nenkov, Moskovski, Ivanov ...  Bad for us if theses are our engineers,” said ironically Kuyumdzhiev during a debate on the pipeline South Stream.

After his coming down as a top energy expert of BSP, Tasko Ermenkov remained to be the leader here. It can be said that he is able to lead reasonable disputes, although his experience dies not speak much in his favor. To the sector Ermenkov came in 2003 as a completely unknown figure, served as the director of the second-rate entity Energy Efficiency Agency. He managed to hold his position until 2010 when he was sacked by the Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism Traicho Traikov. Mr. Ermenkov is said to be able to find arguments to prove his point. He is willing to accept reasonable arguments, although opponents will always mention his personal pro-Russian lobbying for the gas pipeline South Stream.

As for the other socialist MPs, there is a hidden weapon there. This is the eternal oppositionist Georgi Kadiev. Except that the insiders say he is a prot?g? of Rumen Ovcharov, his wife - Sonia Kadieva - is one of the largest retailers of electricity in the country.

Businesswoman Kadieva is the manager and owner of Energy Supply Ltd., which since 2007 has been operating under a license for its activity. In July 2012 Kadieva took license from the regulator for another company trading in power - Energy Green Supply. Submitted by the energy regulator documentation made it clear that the purpose of the company is to expand its operations and to conduct transactions with customers in Albania, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary

Only for the ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF or DPS), as usual, there are no surpises. Local people will rely on the competence of Ramadan Atalay, who was chairman of the portfolio committee in parliament during the 42nd National Assembly. For him can be said that in addition to the knowledge accumulated over the years in parliament, he has a subtle sense of humor, which he often uses to disarm opponents in plenary sessions and in committee discussions.

The other big energy expert in the movement is Alexander Metodiev - Sally. A year ago, he became famous as the head of the private energy entity in the Roma neighborhood of Samokov, known as the Seventh neighborhood. Investigation of the New TV revealed that this entity was involved in a parallel illegal collection of money for electricity. The illegal network existed over ten years and thousands of Roma people in the neighborhood were illegally connected to power supply from it without paying electricity bills but they sent money to trusted people of the Roma leader.

The Reformators’ Bloc (RB), strangely, is deprived of the valuable experience of Traicho Traikov who never became an MP. Given that Ivan Ivanov of the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB), which is part of the bloc, also never made it to the lists, the rightists now will have to rely in the debates on the topic of energy sector only on Martin Dimitrov. He claimed he foloows the development in the sector - and was the chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy, Energy and Tourism in the 41st National Assembly. The problem with him is that he may be rather emotional during debates.

The smaller parliamentary parties, too, are not full of established energy specialists. Representatives of the Patriotic Front have not yet spoken in details about the future of the sector. They populist already called for a full audit of the energy system of the country and wanted to be set up parliamentary committee on the case in the new National Assembly. They have already demanded that the state renegotiate long-term contracts for the purchase of energy as well as review the conditions for producers of renewable energy, creating a truly independent energy regulator. As the main speakers on the subject are expected to be the both leaders - Valeri Simeonov and Krasimir Karakacanov, but none of them has the necessary skills and knowledge for a debate on a more detailed level.

Deputies from the Bulgaria Without Censorship can count on Kancho Filipov, close to energy businessman Hristo Kovachky. He is in fact an energy expert - his employment experience began in 1977 in Maritsa East III. Since the beginning of the Transition period (1989) he has been working in Maritza East I, where he moves up the professional ladder to the position of CEO of the enterprise Brickell, merged with Briquette Factory. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Brickell. It is intriguing, however, to see what interest he will defend in Parliament - the national one or a purely lobbyist one.

ABC will surely lack Rumen Petkov who failed to make it to the MP. In recent months he emerged as a spokesman of the movement on the topics of Belene, South Stream and the energy sector in general. Traditionally a serious debate attack on the topic of energy is difficult to be conducted with the Ataka party, given the populist rhetoric the pro-Russian nationalists use. The only exception seems to be prof. Stanislav Stanilov.


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