THE CZECH Environment Ministry sold its country’s excess carbon dioxide emissions quotas to Japan in October 2008 for around €10 per tonne, former Czech environment minister Martin Bursík said in an interview published in the Sme daily on June 10. The figure is more than double the price reportedly obtained by Slovakia for its own emission quotas in a sale which took place only months earlier, a difference which the media and opposition politicians say may have cost Slovak taxpayers several tens of millions of euros.
“If you sold them for €5, we were not under double that price,” Bursík told Sme.
In his reaction to this statement Slovak Environment Minister Viliam Turský said the emissions issue was a ‘closed case’ for the government. He also said Bursík is “an ex-minister, and that matters”, the SITA newswire reported.
Minister Turský said the emissions issue was a closed case and refused to make any further comments.
Bursík also told Sme that the Czech Republic is close to signing a contract with the World Bank for the sale of a relatively small package of 2 million tonnes of emissions quotas for a price very similar to that agreed with the Japanese government last year.
Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek said it was interesting “that Mr Bursík gives out this [prized] information only when he is no longer in the government or political life in the Czech Republic”, the TASR newswire reported.
Braňo Ondruš, from the communication department of the Slovak Government Office, told journalists after a government session on June 10 that the Slovak government still doesn’t have relevant evidence about the non-profitability of the emission quotas sale, because there is no such evidence, SITA wrote.
Pavol Frešo, an MP for the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), said Bursík has dispelled two myths that Prime Minister Robert Fico had been spreading about the emission quotas sale: that Slovakia sold its emission quotas profitably and, secondly, that it was impossible to find out about prices. According to Frešo, if Bursík told the price to Slovak journalists, he would also be willing to tell it to Fico. The only thing Fico needed to do was make a simple phone call, SITA reported Frešo as saying.
Fico’s reluctance to reveal more about the controversial sale, is according to Frešo, a sign that Fico and the people around him are responsible for the whole case, he told Sme.
“My personal opinion is that the case is so big that it could cause his government’s fall,” Frešo told Sme. “There is no other way for me to explain his actions.”
Frešo is sure that in the end the facts about the people involved in the case will be revealed.
The opposition has criticised the quotas sale because of what they call its suspiciously low price and suggest the state lost ten of millions of euros in the sale. According to the most recent findings, the state sold each ton of emissions for less than €5 while, according to Reuters, Japan bought other countries’ emissions at a price of €11 euros per ton at the same time.
The sale has already cost one Slovak environment minister, Ján Chrbet, his job. He was dismissed in May after failing to comply with an instruction from Prime Minister Fico to publish the sale contract. Turský, Chrbet’s replacement as environment minister, later published the contract, but omitted all financial data including the sale price, stating these were subject to a confidentiality clause – this despite a law requiring that all state contracts be published in full.
Fico has backed the controversial emissions quotas sale, and has stated that he has not received any evidence that Slovakia sold its quotas at a lower price than other countries.
Opposition MPs said they will try to raise the issue in parliament during its next session, beginning on June 16.
“We want the Prime Minister to take responsibility for it, to say ‘this is how it happened and I will sign on behalf of the whole government that we sold it the best we could’,” Frešo explained, adding that they will ask the government to submit a report that should be subject to discussion in parliament.
11. Jun 2009 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff