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Unions warn against reform of electricity sector.

By Angelos Anastasiou

THE government is unilaterally trying to weaken, dissect and break up the semi-governmental Electricity Authority of Cyprus, which will cause the collapse of the electricity sector on the island, the semi-state company's four trade unions declared on Friday, adding that they will convene on Tuesday to decide their course of action.

In a news conference, representatives from the four unions called on the government to refrain from all unilateral action in connection with a government bill on public organisations and a proposal amending the regulatory framework of the electricity market.

The government bill on public entities was designed to strengthen transparency in semi-government organisations, improve financial management and accountability.

The government, the unions added, is trying to "fool the Cypriot public" while ignoring the recommendations of the House Commerce committee, with which it had agreed last April.

"Their refusal to exempt the EAC from the SGO bill, thus circumventing the Constitution, per the request of unions and the EAC's board, is ample proof of their true intentions," Adonis Yiasemides said on behalf of all four unions.

He added that the SGO bill, prepared by the Finance ministry, allows the cabinet to make decisions that would "facilitate the dissection and liquidation of existing public organisations".

"And, following this, we foresee the breaking up of the EAC, and the transfer of operations, as well as assets, as necessary, to organisations newly funded by the cabinet," Yiasemides said.

"Basically, under the guise of transparency, this bill attempts to circumvent the state's constitutional obligations, and promotes the break-up, weakening, and selling off of state organisations, like the EAC."

The unions warned that the end result of this process will be using electricity to the benefit and profiteering of a "certain few".

A second bill that is being prepared by the government is the second unilateral action, they said.

According to the EAC employees' unions, this bill, under the pretence of rendering the Cyprus Transmission System Operator (TSO) fully independent, essentially creates a new Authority to take over some of the EAC's assets, thus neutralising synergies and creating added costs to Cypriot consumers.

Further, they claimed that the Energy ministry has failed to consider serious matters relating to Cyprus' small size and isolated location, national security, the exemptions allowed by the European Union through the 3rd energy package, as well as the prospect for a settlement of the Cyprus problem, considering that a confidence-building measure relating to the unification of electricity grids has been agreed.

The unions claimed that, while the Energy minister told them that the EAC will not necessarily be privatised, the "ministry's decisions and actions lead to pre-decided results and will justify the clauses found in the bills", warning that if the EAC is privatised, the price of electricity will "increase dramatically".

Asked what the unions reaction to the government's unilateral actions will be, union leader Andreas Panorkos said that the unions will convene on Tuesday to plan their course of action, noting that they have already been authorised by their members to take measures.

Panorkos clarified that the unions have no intention of inconveniencing households and businesses, nor harm the tourist sector.

"This will burden the Energy ministry solely, because it has forced us to hold this news conference, as well as any additional measures we may take," he said.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EXCY
Date:Jun 19, 2015
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