Bulgarian MPs adopt CEZ committee report amid criticism for ‘useless’ document

Bulgaria’s National Assembly adopted on May 17 the report drafted by the ad hoc committee tasked with investigating the circumstances of the proposed sale of CEZ assets in the country, but some parliamentary parties described the document as “useless.”

The report concluded that Inercom, the Bulgarian company set up last year and virtually unknown to the general public, picked by CEZ as the chosen buyer for its Bulgarian assets, did not meet the criteria of a strategic investor, set out in the 2004 privatisation strategy for Bulgaria’s electricity distribution companies.

CEZ, in which the Czech government has a majority stake, acquired the bulk of its Bulgarian assets in 2005, paying 281.5 million euro for three regional power distribution companies in western Bulgaria, which it later merged.

The committee’s report also requires the government to include the country’s power grid on the list of sites with key importance for national security, asks the intelligence services to draft a report analysing their own activities regarding the proposed sale, and mandates the central bank to seek information from Bulgarian lenders regarding potential financing for the deal, which information is then to be forwarded to the National Assembly.

The report will have no direct impact on the proposed sale, given that for all the furore that the deal announcement sparked in February, it is unclear on what grounds the country’s regulatory bodies might deny the transaction. Plans by the government to buy back a stake in the CEZ assets as part of the deal have now been abandoned.

Bulgaria’s main opposition party, the socialists, who advocated for the creation of the ad hoc committee in the first place, used the report to once again criticise the proposed deal.

MP Zhelyo Boichev, who headed the committee, underlined that Inercom did not meet the old privatisation strategy criteria for a strategic investor, while another socialist MP, Kroum Zarkov, once again voiced the suspicions that Inercom and its owner, Ginka Varbakova, were merely standing in for other, unknown interested parties.

But the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the other major opposition party in the National Assembly, declined to back the report, having described it and the ad hoc committee’s mandate as “useless from the start”. MP Ramadan Atalai also described the report and its conclusions as “manipulative”.

Delyan Dobrev, chairperson of Parliament’s energy committee and MP for GERB, the senior partner in the government coalition, said that the CEZ ad hoc committee was “barren, we knew from the start that there would be no result.”

Plamen Hristov, MP for the small populist Volya party, claimed that the parliamentary report would have the opposite effect to what was intended, legitimising Inercom and its owner Varbakova, thus clearing the way for regulatory approval of the deal.



The Sofia Globe staff

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