Committee recommends Jahnátek as head of energy regulator

The position of head of the ÚRSO, which caused uproar in the ruling coalition and chaos and criticism of Jozef Holjenčík, will be filled by ex-minister of economy.

Former economy Minister Jahnátek Former economy Minister Jahnátek (Source: ČTK)

Ľubomír Jahnátek, who was elected to the parliament on the slate of the ruling Smer party and in the past held ministerial posts in two governments involving Smer (economy minister in years 2006-2010 and agriculture minister in years 2012-2016), may become the new chair of the Regulatory Office for Network Industries (ÚRSO).

A selection committee has recommended that Economy Minister Peter Žiga (Smer) should appoint him, the ministry’s State Secretary Vojtech Ferencz told the TASR newswire.

The committee evaluated the bids of four hopefuls: Jahnátek, the incumbent ÚRSO vice-chair Miroslav Čelinský, Jozef Legény and Ľubomír Blaško, at a closed session.

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“My vision is to make the ÚRSO more transparent,” Jahnátek said, as cited by TASR. “The ÚRSO cannot be like a Pandora’s box ... with some data just ‘getting inside’ the office and some just ‘coming out’ of it.”

Energy prices must be predictable, especially when it comes to the business sector, he added.

“Entrepreneurs usually plan their investments several years ahead,” Jahnátek noted, as quoted by TASR. “If they cannot calculate developments [in energy prices] for a five-year period, it’s very difficult for them to plan their investments. This creates an enormous risk for them.”

Impartial head of regulatory office or...?

Jahnátek’s nomination was proposed by the Federation of Employer’s Associations (AZZZ).

The former economy minister wants the ÚRSO to be an independent body despite his long-term affiliation with the ruling Smer party.

“I’m in the parliamentary economy committee for Smer, as the party nominee,” Jahnátek said. “I have been in the top state and legislative posts for the Smer party so it would be impolite towards the party and unfair towards citizens to pretend I have nothing to do with Smer. However, this time I haven’t been nominated either by the Smer presidium, or by the cabinet, I’ve been nominated by the AZZZ.”

The head of the regulatory office should be impartial – and that is why, Jahnátek claims, his nomination by employers and his non-partisan attitude have placed him in the position of nominee. The AZZZ is led by former economy minister Tomáš Malatinský, who was nominated by Smer.

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The ex-minister also claims he had not discussed the nomination with Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer) or the chair of the coalition partner Slovak National Party (SNS) and Speaker of Parliament Andrej Danko, reported the Sme daily.

Minister Žiga recently announced that the nomination of the new ÚRSO chair is slated to be approved by the government at its session on July 4, 2017. He also noted that Jahnátek is the best candidate.

Jahnátek, if appointed, will replace Jozef Holjenčík who left the position after higher energy bills started to burden households, according to Sme.

Legislation on the regulation of network industries that invests the government with powers to appoint the ÚRSO head was passed in parliament on June 13, overriding President Andrej Kiska’s veto.

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