Thursday, 21 February 2019

Gov't neutral on Pirate-proposed abolition of ČEZ exception

8 February 2018

Prague, Feb 7 (CTK) - The Czech cabinet took Wednesday a neutral stance on the opposition Pirates' proposal to scrap the exemption of the CEZ state-controlled energy utility and other firms from the duty to release their contracts in an online register, government ANO's spokeswoman Lucie Kubovicova said on Wednesday.

The bill will be submitted to parliament for discussion.

In the previous election term, the parliament passed the law on the register of contracts that included an exemption for CEZ.

Last year, the Chamber of Deputies introduced reliefs for some state and state-controlled companies and those run by the self-rule regions and towns.

The present wording of the law on the register of contracts enables to conceal data on possible disadvantageous contracts, the Pirates say.

The argument that the release of information might harm the companies' competitiveness is pointless in a situation where the business secrecy is maintained, the Pirates say.

Apart from the abolition of the exemptions, they propose an amendment to the law on free access to information to explicitly apply to the companies with a majority or crucial influence of the state, regions and towns.

This would secure the public access to information about the contracts worth billions crowns that state and and state-controlled companies annually sign, the Pirates said.

The Pirates' proposal is opposed by the ministries of finance, industry, justice and interior, as well as the anti-trust office and the Chamber of Commerce, the employers' union and other bodies.

The Government Legislative Council, too, has recommended that the cabinet reject the proposal.

Kubovicova, nevertheless, said Andrej Babis, head of the single-party ANO cabinet ruling in resignation, approves of the Pirates' plan but only dislikes the proposed implementation procedure.

At a press conference following the cabinet meeting, Babis said he has no problem accepting the Pirates' proposal, but economic interests of the involved state and state-controlled firms must be taken into account.

"It is necessary to realise that firms such as CEZ and Budvar [brewery] each have their business. Contracts [whose releasing could] threaten the firms' business or give an advantage to rival competitors should not be released," Babis said.

Transparency International (TI) has criticised the current system of exemptions as deteriorating the corruption perception index in the Czech Republic.

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