Nicosia, January 11, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Kyriacos Kyriacou
The Cabinet decided on Monday to exclude state-owned Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) from its list of public entities to be privatised and adopted a preliminary decision to split the organization into two public entities.
The decision was taken amid fierce reaction by EAC trade unions, with employee representatives questioning government intentions and vowing to defend the organization’s public status, during a separate staff meeting they held in Nicosia.
According to Deputy Government Spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos, the Council of Ministers decided to amend a relevant decree and remove EAC from its privatization list.
Moreover, Papdopoulos said that a preliminary decision was taken, concerning the ownership unbundling of EAC into two public entities, one responsible for the production of electricity and the other for the electricity network and supply.
The Deputy Government Spokesman also noted that employees will retain their working status in the new modus operandi, that has been adopted so far by two thirds of EU member States.
With today`s decision, EAC will have the opportunity to partake in energy designs involving natural gas, he added.
Asked to comment on trade union reaction, Papadopoulos said that today`s decision concerned the exemption of EAC from the privatization process. Consumers were unfairly subjected to all this trouble, he added, referring to today’s closure of service centres.
EAC customer service centers remained closed on Monday morning, as part of measures against the government decision, however EAC staff returned to work just before noon, following the conclusion of their meeting.
On the decision to split the organization into two, Papadopoulos noted that this is in line with the EU`s Third Energy Package, aiming to enhance competition.
He said finally that Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, who introduced the changes, was in line with the President`s orders on the matter and has cooperated with the Board of EAC during negotiations with the Troika of lenders, that had initially asked the privatization of a number of organizations.
Asked if this opens the road for the disbursement of the final tranche of Cyprus` adjustment programme, Papadopoulos said the sooner Cyprus implements its lenders’ prerequisites, the better for the country`s economy.
As the Finance Minister has repeatedly said, it is important to conclude the Memorandum of Understanding successfully, Papadopoulos noted.
EAC employees gathered on Monday morning at the organization’s headquarters, in Nicosia, expressing their resoluteness to defend its public status. EAC staff arrived by buses from all districts of Cyprus to attend the protest rally.
Times are critical for EAC, because some aim at transferring the organization to private hands, either by employing the Troika of lenders or by misleading public opinion with unfounded arguments, said Andreas Panorkos, head of EPOPAI trade union.
He targeted the Minister of Energy, noting that his statements over ending the privatization process for EAC were untrue and that the unbundling was actually the beginning for privatizing the organization.
Other trade union heads said that ownership unbundling was not necessary and that the aim was to weaken EAC, while misleading public opinion.