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Opposition aims to force the government to publish emission quotas sale details

AT AN ORDINARY session of parliament in June the opposition plans to propose a resolution that would bind the government to publish all the information about its sale of excess CO2 emissions quotas. The leaders of the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) agreed on this approach at a joint meeting on June 2, the SITA newswire reported.

AT AN ORDINARY session of parliament in June the opposition plans to propose a resolution that would bind the government to publish all the information about its sale of excess CO2 emissions quotas. The leaders of the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) agreed on this approach at a joint meeting on June 2, the SITA newswire reported.

Deputies from parliament did not find out at what volume and price Slovakia sold its excess emissions allowances during their inquiry on May 29 as Viliam Turský, the new Environment Minister, refused to disclose the information requested by opposition deputies, the SITA newswire reported.

Turský, nominated by the Slovak National Party (SNS), provided only the text of the contract with Interblue Group exactly as it was published earlier in May when he became minister, with blank spaces instead of the information about the volume and the price of the quotas sold. According to the inquiring deputies, by doing so the minister violated several laws, including the Act on Freedom of Information.

“He told us he was ready to take the whole blame for violating the laws,” Pavol Frešo, an MP for the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) and the main critic of the sale said, as quoted by the Sme daily. According to Frešo, Turský would not have done that unless he had the backing of Prime Minister Robert Fico and in Frešo’s opinion the suspicion that Fico and his party are behind the controversial sale has become even stronger.

During the inquiry, the deputies asked for five documents concerning the sale but the ministry provided them with only two. The third one was the sales contract with blank spaces and two other documents were not provided at all, SITA reported.

The only new information revealed by the inquiry was the names of the six other companies that competed to buy the quotas. In addition to Interblue Group, there were two Japanese companies, Mutsui and Nedo, two Slovak companies, WMJ Company and Menert, a German company, Eranus, and Genesis from New Zealand, Sme reported. However, the Ministry did not reveal the prices offered by the other bidders.

According to Jana Kaplanová, the ministry’s spokesperson, all information that the ministry is allowed to disclose has been released and they have asked representatives of Interblue Group for permission to reveal additional information twice, without any reply to date, the TASR newswire reported.

Deputies did not learn which directive the Environment Ministry used in drafting the contract which they say implies that Interblue Group, rather than the ministry, drafted the contract. Moreover, the deputies said that ministry employees could not confirm whether a notary was present at the signing of the contract. SITA reported that the deputies reminded the environment minister to disclose the contract in compliance with the Act on Freedom of Information, SITA reported.

Representatives of the opposition parties say they intend to ask Prime Minister Fico to disclose the confidential data blanked out in the agreement and will announce exactly what they plan to do next after a meeting of the Opposition Council next week. SDKU vice-chairman Ivan Mikloš didn’t rule out taking the issue to court or submitting another proposal for the Prime Minister’s dismissal to Parliament, TASR reported.

According to information previously published by the Sme daily, Slovakia might have lost over €120 million on the sale to Interblue Group, as the sales price, calculated from the available documents, was not even €5 per tonne while Slovakia’s Hungarian neighbour sold its excess quotas for more than €12 per tonne during the same time period in October 2008.

Fico said on a political discussion program broadcast by public service Slovak Radio on May 30 that he would ask the Environment Minister why he removed information from some parts of the published contract with Interblue Group. Fico said he wants to know why the name of the authorized representative of the company was deemed confidential, as well as why other information that apparently does not fall into the category of business secrets was not published, SITA reported.

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