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Government gets greater influence over energy prices

PARLIAMENT approved a revision to the Act on Regulation yesterday which gives greater power to the government to control energy prices.

According to the revision, the current management of the Bureau for the Regulation of Network Industries (ÚRSO) will end their terms in office on March 15, allowing the government to nominate six new members to ÚRSO’s top body, the regulatory board. The government also chooses ÚRSO’s director, who is responsible for signing price decisions on behalf of the network regulator. In addition, Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek will vet all pricing verdicts.

The opposition and the country’s energy suppliers have warned that the head of ÚRSO will now be under greater political pressure, and that energy prices in future may not include justified costs and adequate profit, the Pravda daily wrote.

“Already today we can see the impact of political pressure on this year’s prices in that water suppliers lack sufficient funds for making investments,” said opposition MP Ivan Mikloš of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union.

The opposition also objected to what it saw as the unjustified dismissal of the ÚRSO’s current management. Jahnátek said that the new tasks and the personnel department of ÚRSO and the regulatory board made the dismissals necessary.

Slovak consumers have already experienced the negative impact of political interference with energy prices. Between 1999 and 2004, the price of heating for households increased 375 percent after years of price caps by the preceding government of Vladimír Mečiar.

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