Bulgaria’s acting Cabinet has appointed Deputy Economy Minister Evgenia Haritonova as chairperson of the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC).
Haritonova replaces acting chairperson Yuliana Ivanova, who resigned on February 17, just days after her appointment when it emerged that a company she owned had been illicitly trading online in cigarettes.
Ivanova’s appointment – and her resignation – came at the height of protests rallies that saw tens of thousands of people march against high electricity prices and a spike in electricity bills in January.
The rallies have been mainly peaceful, marred by only a few clashes with police – the worst occurring on the evening of February 19, which prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and his Cabinet on February 20.
Despite her caretaker status, Ivanova did oversee two major decisions by SEWRC – the reduction in electricity prices that went into effect on March 5 and the start of the licence revocation proceedings against Czech utility CEZ, which services western Bulgaria.
(Proceedings against CEZ are still under way, with the next SEWRC meeting to assess whether the company has conformed to regulator decisions and would keep its licence due in April.)
Haritonova is a graduate of the Technical University in Sofia and was involved in the creation of SEWRC in 1999 as a senior manager at state electricity utility NEK, according to reports in Bulgarian media.
She was appointed as a member of SEWRC by the Borissov Government in 2010, but left in May 2012 when she was appointed deputy minister. She will now serve the remainder of the current SEWRC chairperson term – first held by Angel Semerdjiev, who was sacked in January, and then Ivanova – rather than start a new term from scratch. Her term will expire in September 2014.
The regulator’s six other members have also tendered their resignations last month, but it remained unclear whether the acting Cabinet has accepted them as the media statement announcing Haritonova’s appointment did not say anything on the issue.