Saturday, 24 June 2017

HN: Babiš interferes in Czech-Turkish energy deal, ČSSD upset

ČTK |
26 January 2017

Prague, Jan 25 (CTK) - Czech Social Democrat (CSSD) ministers are annoyed at a diplomatic faux pas of Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) who circumvented them in negotiating about a power plant project in Turkey, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes yesterday.
Babis launched the Turkish talks on his own, though the task had been assigned to Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD), it writes.
Babis's step aroused tension between CSSD and ANO, the two major government partners but also rivals ahead of the autumn general election, HN writes.
During his mid-December visit to Turkey, Zaoralek was supposed to start a debate with Ankara on ways to solve the problematic Czech-Turkish Adularya power plant project, for which the Czech Export Bank (CEB) had loaned 12 billion crowns, the daily writes.
However, Zaoralek found out, to his surprise, that Czech negotiators had already been to Ankara, sent in by Babis without the government's knowledge, the daily writes.
Still before Zaoralek's visit, Babis sent his adviser Jan Jursa and two other negotiators to Ankara.
Originally, Zaoralek was asked to launch the negotiations and prepare the ground for Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mladek (CSSD), who, along with diplomats, would try to prevent the Czech-Turkish project from collapsing at the cost of the state-run CEB and the EGAP insurer.
In effort to speed up the negotiations, Babis launched initiative of his own.
"From my viewpoint as the finance minister, CEB and EGAP did not tackle the situation efficiently," Babis told HN, adding that he informed the other ministers about his step afterwards.
The Adularya project has become a nightmare of the Czech government now that the participating Czech company, Vitkovice Power Engineering, is faced with bankruptcy and the original Turkish investor, Naksan Holding, does not exist anymore. Its original owners have been accused of supporting the unsuccessful coup last year, and the company has been nationalised.
There are several possible ways for Prague to solve the situation. The government has not yet chosen any, but Babis's negotiator Jursa promoted in Turkey the variant of CEB gaining the power plant units now under construction and ensuring their completion and subsequent sale, HN writes.
Jursa praised his Turkish negotiations as effective.
"We finally reached progress in the affair, which EGAP representatives failed to do in the past six months. We did not wish a repetition of the Polyarnaya power plant scenario that cost the Czech state budget billions of crowns," Jursa told HN, alluding to a Czech investor's recent withdrawal from the project in Siberia.
($1=25.220 crowns)
rtj/t/kva

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