Parliament wraps itself in political corruption along EWRC

Energy / Analysis / Interview
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Slavcho Neykov, expert on energy policy

In just a few months of the 47th National Assembly, the majority of deputies may have broken many records in the energy field for purely political flirtations, violations of the law and actions on the edge of the law - and only in relation to the EWRC. And this was happening while they swore allegiance to him and at the same time imposed difficult-to-defend changes in their quest to make the Commission independent. And given the status of the parliamentary institution, for me such actions are part of the classic examples of political corruption.

Against this background, even the 44th National Assembly is beginning to look more and more crisp, although it also has unforgettable achievements in these areas.

What has happened in the last two months

In December 2021, an unconstitutional and illegal moratorium was adopted, limiting the activities of the EWRC. Subsequently, the decision to introduce it was repeatedly described as a political, economic and legal mistake by both the ruling party and the opposition. However, the moratorium is still in effect to this day - contrary to the law and despite its conceptual contradiction with axioms in the party platforms of members of the ruling coalition, apparently forgotten by themselves. And it is no wonder that, according to recent opinion polls, it is these participants who have increasingly diminishing functions - the exchange of "political benefits against legality" will only deepen this result.

The Parliamentary Committee on Energy has already given concrete examples of how both the parliamentary and its own rules regarding the EWRC and related legal amendments should be violated. I hope that the management does not start specializing in obscene procedural tricks, hiding documents and refusing to answer written inquiries - because in this regard there are already attempts on the merits.

The consideration of the amendments to the Energy Act in the plenary hall, aimed at strengthening the political control over the EWRC, also smelled the meetings with legal impurity. The rules for the activity of the National Assembly were openly violated, and on fundamental issues - e.g. on deadlines for consideration of bills. The explanation of the chairman, Mr. Vigenin (BSP), in an inquiry on this occasion on January 21 was more than strange. The topic should have been discussed earlier - as if compliance with the law is mandatory only in certain parts of the day?!

Attempts to publicly disguise the EWRC continued, with people who often had no idea what they were saying. Here, at least, the goal was clear - the contrast between the Commission's outgoing sinners and the brilliance of the new political appointments had to shine - even before they were formally a fact.

The indisputable highlight of the parliamentary show was that in addition to a castrated law, we also got one nomination for each of the two positions (chairman and member of the EWRC). This is a real precondition for transforming political appointments into relentless political obedience to those appointed - especially given the distorted nomination scheme and the unjustifiably reduced number of commissioners.

In fact, it has long been clear that neither hearings, nor draws, nor any other procedural steps, nor biographies have any real significance. And the executive power openly sends messages to future commissioners about specific expected behavior, talking to e.g. how it controls the price of electricity and introduces criteria for the work of the EWRC, emphasizing its desire for the commission to work "correctly" (Minister Lorer, "Panorama" on BNT, 28.01.2022 [1], etc.). In this context, the Speaker of Parliament Mr. Minchev did not fail to state his expectations for "adequate actions" of the EWRC, incl. and about what and how to check - although this has nothing to do with his competencies (BNR, "Sunday 150", 30.01.2022 [2]).

At the same time, he does not comment at all, e.g. the elementary question is whether the decision on the moratorium is lawful and in accordance with the Constitution - something for which he personally has direct responsibilities.

And a few questions plus a few suggestions

It is time for the government to realize that systematic disregard for the law cannot last long. Let me remind you that the election of new members of the EWRC is only part of a large number of open issues of strategic and operational nature in energy, awaiting the intervention of the National Assembly - and concerns about whether these issues will be treated in the same way are natural. This is especially true given the apparent lack of a medium- and long-term vision for the development of the sector, which has long been at the root of the problems. However, in addition to the vision, the need for investment is at the forefront, which also requires a change in attitudes towards business - and he expects legality, transparency and real support within predictable and logical rules, not moratoriums.

Against this background, it would be good for the President of Parliament and the Chairman of the Committee on Energy to state at least publicly whether any legality, transparency and openness is planned in the field of energy - and if so, when.

The deputies must understand that only with the support of the executive power on energy issues and with the self-confidence of the omnipotent and self-sufficient will not happen - compliance with the law, incl. and parliamentary rules, is becoming more and more relevant, especially with the growing smell of political corruption, which is firmly entrenched in Parliament and in this composition. Political will and coalition allegiance cannot be an excuse for breaking the law - and so far we have seen just that, as the need for consensual decisions in energy of a strategic nature and within the law grows stronger and stronger. In fact, discussing strategic energy issues at parliamentary level has long been formally proposed to the President of Parliament - but is clearly not yet a priority for him.

Otherwise, Mr. Minchev will definitely do well if he urgently structures the Advisory Council on Legislation and actually uses it - his lack, at least in the energy field, has always been obvious. The effect of the purposeful actions of the former Speaker of Parliament Ms. Karayancheva towards this body, which led to its closure in 2018, is still being felt, and is on the backs of all of us.

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