The MPs tasked the Minister of Energy not to distribute an advance dividend of BGN 425 million from BEH's profit

Energy / Bulgaria
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By a majority, the members of the National Assembly instructed the Minister of Energy not to distribute a dividend from the profit of the "Bulgarian Energy Holding" (BEH) of BGN 425 million for the financial year 2023.

Once again, two theses emerged within the debate. The first, defended by the petitioners in the person of Zhecho Stankov (GERB), Pavela Miteva (ITN) and the chairman of the energy commission Ramadan Atalay (DPS), defended the reasons for the decision not to withdraw the BEH dividend of BGN 425 million from BEH, as provided for in the government's decision of March 27. The second thesis, exactly the opposite – in defense of the government's decision and against the energy commission's decision, was mainly defended by MPs from PP Radoslav Ribarski and Venko Sabrutev and Finance Minister Asen Vassilev. The debate also touched upon the topics of "Turkish Stream", the liberalization of the electricity market, the status of the Electricity System Security Fund (ESSF) and the Eurozone. Pavela Miteva from ITN defended the thesis against seizing funds from the energy sector and explained that the deputies were surprised by the government's decision, in particular, on the advance payment of dividends by BEH, and the only way is to stop this from the National Assembly.

Radoslav Ribarski from the PP, for his part, was adamant that the government's decision of March 27 does not leave BEH without funds, as it is expected to have a profit of BGN 2 billion. According to him, with the decision of the Council of Ministers, the problems of "District Heating Sofia", and "Bulgargaz", and ESSF. Vasil Stefanov from PP, for his part, explained that this is only a redistribution of funds, not a drain.

The MPs from the opposition "Vazrazhdane" and BSP also joined the debate, who did not spare their criticism of GERB, but referring to their policy against draining energy, stated that they stand behind BEH's decision not to pay an advance dividend of BGN 425 million "The hypocrisy in this hall can be cut with a knife", commented from the rostrum the MP from Vazrazhdane - Yordan Todorov, who, in the course of developing his thesis, pointed out that who stands behind what thesis will become clear when the proposed suspension bill is voted on of the liberalization of the electricity market.

In the framework of the debate, Radoslav Ribarski (PP), for his part, suspects that this decision will be a stop for Bulgaria's entry into the Eurozone.

At the beginning of the debates, the deputies raised the question of the previous decision of the National Assembly requiring the Minister of Finance Asen Vassilev to return the sum of BGN 1 billion to the ESSF. According to the Minister of Finance, who was present in the hall, this contradicts the Law on the Budget, and the state of ESSF is as a result of not being able to make forecasts and the RES payments from 2010 and 2011 and the cogenerations. "As for BEH, there are BGN 2 billion. New capacities are BGN 1.5 billion. We cannot talk about decapitalization. The state has started to collect the dividend and there is no (money) left to be stolen," Vassilev said, explaining that the funds were given for health and social activities, for pensions. In this regard, he raised a question about the given BGN 3 billion for "Turkish Stream". In addition, according to him, the liberalization of the electricity market must take place, and the Energy Law provides for the preservation of a regulated market for those who cannot enter the free market. According to Asen Vassilev, with the liberalization of the market, prices will only increase by 4-5%, not by 15-20%.

Zhecho Stankov (GERB), for his part, was adamant that Minister Asen Vassilev had "bleeded" the energy system, taking BGN 5.4 million from it. In his speech to the deputies, he also referred to data on 1.17 million taken from NEC BGN million for the purchase of grain, which never happened, and an attempt to stop the construction of the 7th and 8th units of the Kozloduy NPP. "Now you want the Vertical Gas Corridor not to happen either," Stankov said, emphasizing the decision on the planned preliminary distribution of funds from BEH's expected profit of BGN 2 billion by the end of the year. He explained that against these funds, the state, acquires an asset for BGN 1.6 million. If you draw the line, more than BGN 300 million remain in BEH. We want BGN 425 million to remain in BEH," said Stankov. The MP also recalled the problem with the funds for rehabilitation of BGN 1.2 million, as well as that BGN 1.3 million should remain in the SAFE fund. In defense of his thesis, he reminded that since the previous rehabilitation they have already returned about BGN 2 billion

"Today, the decision is very clear - BEH should not pay BGN 425 million in dividends, because when it provided funds for Vertical gas corridor will remain with BGN 300 million. You wanted to stop the nuclear project, now the Vertical Gas Corridor. I will not allow it," said Stankov.

Behind the decision to stop the advance payment of dividends from BEH was also the deputy chairman of the energy commission and MP from the DPS, Ramadan Atalay, who stated that he had already asked the Minister of Finance Asen Vassilev not to drain the Bulgarian energy sector. He did not spare his criticism of the government's decision to transfer the debt of "District Heating Sofia" to the Ministry of Energy, but he also reacted to the Finance Minister's statement about directed funds from the Bulgarian energy sector to the citizens and pensioners in particular. “I can't understand when you are for the market principle? When it comes to taking money from the Bulgarian energy industry, you are behind him, and when it comes to handing it out - for the socialist principle," said Atalay. The deputy defended the Balkan Stream project, reminding that every investment in the territory of our country is beneficial. Ramadan Atalay questioned the linking of the RSP with the liberalization of the electricity market, expressing concerns about raising the price of electricity. "Today you come and say that the price will not rise. The chairman of EWRC, Ivan Ivanov, says that it will rise by 30%. Even today, I will not say that you are taking the money from the energy sector, but it is a fact," said Atalay. "The situation in the energy sector has been deteriorating for at least 4 years. For 12 years, we can't find the right approach for investment," he added, asking what has been built in the last three years, apart from a few apartments. "We at DPS do not support nuclear energy, but we stand behind the NPP and the Vertical Gas Corridor," he added.

In response to the criticism made by Ramadan Atalay regarding "District Heating Sofia", Asen Vassilev explained that if one looks at the decision of the Council of Ministers, it will become clear that the ownership of the company remains with the Capital Municipality, and only the debt is transferred to the Ministry of energy. "Companies can look for their debt for only 3-4 years, while the Ministry of Energy can look for it for 30 years," motivated the finance minister.

In response to Atalay's comment on energy investments, Minister Vassilev pointed to the doubling of cross-border capacity with Romania, the completion of the intermodal connection with Greece, the investments in the Chiren gas storage facility, the launch of the nuclear power project, the change of nuclear fuel, the submitted application for a joint project with Romania for the Danube HPP. "There is and will be money for investments in energy," said Asen Vassilev. Regarding the criticism of the rapidly closing thermal power plants, the finance minister was adamant that they were not working "because they are not competitive in the market" and boasted about the almost achieved 40% CO2 reduction.

Regarding the liberalization of the electricity market, Vassilev explained that there are BGN 450 million in the ESSF, which are intended for compensation of household and non-household consumers. "The problem in ESSF is not this, but the wrong forecast and that it cannot pay its money to RES and cogenerations." Earlier, during the debates, Vassilev advocated the thesis that ESSF cannot pay the owners of RES from the years 2010 and 2011 because of their high price for compensation and cogeneration, whose price is over BGN 1,400., but it was not corrected before, but only a few months ago. According to him, at the current price of gas, this amount should be further reduced. The finance minister once again expressed suspicions towards EWRC, when at the beginning of the crisis due to the price surge it was necessary to raise the price by 11% and stop this decision with the "moratorium on prices" by accusing that "someone wanted to play politics ". "The economic philosophy is for the Bulgarian people to live like the Europeans," Vassilev pointed out and boasted of the 9% increase in income over the last 3 years. Before that, however, on this occasion, Ramadan Atalay reminded the finance minister that the money for pensions and salaries was not given by a pension fund, but by the Bulgarian energy industry, which "inflated" inflation. A number of unconstitutional decisions of the rulers were not spared, including the decision of the Parliament to elect the head of EWRC.

Vassilev did not remain obliged and for his part reminded about the funds paid to "Atomstroyexport" for the two reactors for the "Belene" NPP given by NEK in the amount of BGN 1.2 million and recalled the budget from 2022 with, as expressed " an additional BGN 900 million flowed in."

As for "Turkish Stream" or "Balkan Stream", Atalay reminded "how many streams" have been discussed over the years. Before that, Zhecho Stankov specified that the funds for "Balkan Stream" were not paid by the treasury, but by "Bulgartransgaz" and the contractor, and they were with American compressors. "Revenues for 3 years are BGN 1.3 million, of which BGN 700 million were paid in advance," Stankov said.

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