THE ENVIRONMENT Ministry headed by Slovak National Party (SNS) nominee Ján Chrbet has sold the country’s European emissions quotas for only two-thirds of the price obtained by its Czech or Ukrainian counterparts. In doing so, Slovakia has probably lost tens of millions of euros, the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) party has claimed. The price at which the Environment Ministry sold quotas for 10 to 15 million tonnes of environmental emissions was significantly lower than that obtained by neighbouring countries, SDKÚ MP Ivan Mikloš said at a press conference on April 20, the TASR newswire reported. Mikloš said that the SDKÚ has been trying for several months to find out how the tender for the sale of the quotas was organised, but still has not managed to do so.
“This tender was not even posted on a [ministry] bulletin board,” said Mikloš, referring to a controversial tender at the Construction Ministry that led to the resignation of former construction minister and - like Chrbet - a nominee of the SNS, Marian Janušek on April 14.
According to Mikloš, Ukraine sold its surplus quotas to the Japanese government for €10 per tonne, while the Czech Republic sold them to the same customer for €9 per tonne. Slovakia sold its units to a private company that was set up shortly before the transaction took place, TASR wrote.
Interblue Group, the company that bought quotas for 10 million tonnes of Slovak emissions at a price of €6.05 per tonne has not responded to requests for information – including questions about the company’s ownership – from either journalists or from the Environment Ministry itself, the Sme daily wrote on April 23. According to the Trend weekly, the company was registered in Washington state in the US in June 2008, shortly before the purchase of the quotas. The Interblue Group website was created by Michal Šušoliak, a 21 year-old Slovak student at the Slovak University of Technology and son of Miloš Šušoliak, a representative of three companies active in the environmental sector, Sme wrote.
SDKÚ leader Mikuláš Dzurinda sent a letter to Prime Minister Robert Fico asking him if it is true that Slovakia sold the quotas for €6 per tonne. Fico answered that the question should be addressed to the Environment Ministry. Mikloš said, however, that the government was informed of the sale on October 8, 2008 and that Fico therefore took political responsibility for it. Mikloš said that, according to the government, quotas for 10 million tonnes were sold, but questions from MPs to the Environment Ministry revealed that 15 million tonnes were in fact involved. The SDKÚ wants to present the issue to the parliamentary Committee for Agriculture, Environment and the Protection of Nature and request an investigation to look into the transaction.
“Our attention was attracted by the fact that such a large sale was shrouded in secrecy,” said SDKÚ MP Pavol Frešo. Frešo also said that the Czech Republic used the funds from its sale to finance energy-saving housing insulation, while Slovakia is offering loans rather than grants for the same purpose.
“Based on the law on trading in emission quotas, we are entitled to sell redundant quotas outside a bulletin-board tender or a competition,“ Chrbet rejected the SDKÚ’s allegations as reported by the SITA newswire. The ministry proceeded in line with this law and selected a firm that best fulfilled the criteria and requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, he said. However, he refused to provide specific details of the contractual terms agreed with the buyer. The ministry negotiated with about ten potential buyers and, according to Chrbet, the price offered by the chosen buyer was best and their offer was in accordance with the conditions of the Kyoto Protocol, SITA wrote.
Responding to statements that Ukraine and the Czech Republic had sold emission quotas for much higher prices than Slovakia, Chrbet said he did not think that information was based on the truth, “as none of these countries has sold its quotas.”
However the Sme daily reported that the Czech Environment Ministry confirmed that it had in fact sold its redundant emission quotas.