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Fico: Quotas are exclusively in the Environment Ministry’s competence

THE PRIME minister may have declared it to be over months ago, but the saga of the emissions quotas sale in which Slovakia, according to critics of the government, may have lost tens of millions of euros rumbles on. New facts and figures reported in the Slovak media have revived discussion about the controversial sale, and the opposition has again been seeking answers from the government.

THE PRIME minister may have declared it to be over months ago, but the saga of the emissions quotas sale in which Slovakia, according to critics of the government, may have lost tens of millions of euros rumbles on. New facts and figures reported in the Slovak media have revived discussion about the controversial sale, and the opposition has again been seeking answers from the government.

Pavol Frešo, a parliamentary deputy for the biggest opposition party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), and a leading critic of the emissions quotas sale, on June 26 formally requested in parliament that Prime Minister Robert Fico answer 10 specific questions about the sale. These include whether Fico considers the process of selecting a buyer to have been transparent, and what steps the government took in order to higher to get the best possible price for Slovakia’s quotas.

According to Frešo, Slovakia could have lost €75 million in the sale because the Slovak government sold the country’s unused redundant emissions quotas for €5.05 per tonne at the same time as neighbouring countries apparently secured much more favourable deals. Hungary sold its quotas for more than €13 per tonne and the Czech Republic and Ukraine sold theirs to Japan for €10 per tonne. Slovakia sold quotas to emit 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gases to Interblue Group, an intermediary company, for €5.05 per tonne, which meant it received approximately €75 million less than if it had secured the same price as the Czech Republic or Ukraine, the Sme daily wrote.

Parliamentary rules require the Prime Minister to answer a formal interpellation within one month. Fico took his time answering the questions: Frešo received his answer, dated July 21, on August 3. In his letter to Frešo, the Prime Minister wrote that the government has no competence in the matter and had not taken any decision.

“The problem of the emissions quotas, as well as their sale, is exclusively in the competence of the Environment Ministry,” the SITA newswire quoted the letter as saying. The environment minister is nominated by a junior coalition partner, the Slovak National Party (SNS).

However, the government dealt with the emissions quotas sale on October 15, 2008, when then-Environment Minister Ján Chrbet presented the draft sale contract.

Chrbet later resigned from his ministerial post because he refused to publish the contract with Interblue Group. His successor Viliam Turský published the contract after being appointed to office, but the published document contained several deletions, including the price which Slovakia received from Interblue Group for the quotas.

According to Frešo, there is still a chance to withdraw from the contract in order to prevent further losses for Slovakia.

The prime minister’s arms-length attitude to the controversial sale concerns 56 percent of Slovaks, according to a survey carried out by the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) think tank during the first week of July. Some Slovaks were even concerned enough to file a criminal complaint in the case.

The General Prosecutor’s Office has received two such complaints, and passed them to local prosecutors’ offices: one came from a woman from Kysucké Nové Mesto who said she considered it her citizen’s duty, another one was from a man in Bratislava, SITA reported.

Since the scandal over the emissions quotas sale first broke the media and the opposition parties have reported alleged links between Interblue Group and Ján Slota, the leader of the SNS, which controls the Environment Ministry.

Slota’s name recently appeared in the media in connection with a private aeroplane which took off from Žilina airport bound for Croatia on July 23. The plane’s passengers did not pass through passport control despite the fact that Croatia is outside the Schengen zone. According to information published in Sme, the only aeroplane from Žilina to land that day in Rijeka, which is close to Slota’s favourite holiday resort on the island of Rab, was a Beechcraft Super Air King B-200 belonging to a private company, Financial Public Service. The owner of the company, Katarína Kubáňova, is reported to be the wife of Norbert Havalec, who prepared some of the documentation related to the emissions quotas sale. According to Sme, Havalec is close to Slota as well as former minister Chrbet.

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