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24 June, 2024
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The secrets, controversies, and tape recorder incident shaking the energy sector

'Clash of the Titans' as Energy Minister and EAC leadership lock horns

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

The communication between the Minister of Energy and EAC's leadership is likened to a game of "broken phone," despite efforts to portray the recent public rift between the two sides as a mere parenthesis. The new meeting following their initial tumultuous encounter cannot bridge the existing gap, despite public efforts by George Papanastasiou to maintain a low profile. During the meeting between the Energy Minister and EAC's Board of Directors and unions on Tuesday at 9 a.m., an attempt will be made to present harmonious cooperation between the Ministry of Energy and the semi-governmental organization. It will be portrayed that the issues from the previous meeting were merely a fleeting moment and are now in the past. However, it appears that the contentious matters persist.

This entire issue is also taking on political dimensions, and sources familiar with the prevailing climate suggest that if necessary, the President's office will intervene. For now, government sources do not confirm any issues with Energy Minister George Papanastasiou. However, there is growing interest in the reshuffling of leadership within semi-governmental organizations, including AEK. Given the current state of relations between the Ministry of Energy and the EAC Board, sources within the semi-governmental organization believe that the solution will involve changes in the organization's leadership, following the tried and tested practice of "what is not resolved is cut."

The Meeting

During Tuesday's meeting, both the Energy Minister's team and the EAC leadership will attempt to provide explanations to mend their public image. Substantively, both sides will present ideas and proposals regarding matters concerning the semi-governmental organization. This is an issue that has come under scrutiny from unions, who criticized the EAC Board after the breakdown of the first meeting, asserting that the commitments made remain unfulfilled.

The First Meeting

The refusal to keep minutes in the previous meeting between the Minister and the EAC leadership was presented as a source of controversy, which was contradicted by Mr. Papanastasiou himself. However, sources within the Agency provide a significantly different account. As per the information available, tension was palpable as soon as the Energy Minister and his entourage arrived at the central offices of EAC. Papanastasiou was greeted by the building's security at the entrance, who directed him to the meeting room. The atmosphere, according to these sources, was so heavy that the reception accorded to the Minister and his entourage was described as cold. The Board members, as mentioned by the same sources, did not adhere to protocol and remained in their seats upon the Minister's entry into the meeting room. Before the meeting commenced, the Energy Minister faced intense annoyance from the agency's leadership over negative press reports, leading to suspicions that the source of the leaks was the Ministry of Energy.

The Tape Recorder

The final straw that escalated the situation was a journalist's cassette recorder used to record the meeting. The tape recorder was discovered by an official from the Ministry of Energy, who informed Mr. Papanastasiou. This resulted in his strong reaction, the interruption of the meeting, and their subsequent departure.

Long-Standing Disputes

Officially, the EAC leadership justified the presence of the tape recorder in the room for record-keeping. However, a deeper investigation reveals that over time, relations between other EAC Boards and Energy Ministers have not been the smoothest. For instance, George Lakkotrypi was often targeted by unions and the EAC Board behind the scenes. Behind these confrontations, disagreements on issues regarding the position and role of EAC in the new energy landscape seemed to be the underlying cause. The organization had given the impression in the past that it behaved as a state within a state. Disagreements on crucial policy matters were not uncommon, such as those related to the procurement of natural gas (FA) for power generation. According to a report in "K" on June 8, 2014, behind-the-scenes efforts within the semi-governmental organization attempted to obstruct the procurement of FA for electricity production. As argued from a technocratic perspective, one decisive factor in the entire effort was the stance of the sole customer in the initial phase, to whom DEFA would sell the gas, which was the Electricity Authority. This behind-the-scenes attitude within EAC seemed to cause headaches for DEFA as well. Sources from the company indicated at the time that the key issue in the effort to procure FA was the stance that EAC would take, a stance that would determine whether the entire process would reach the contract-signing phase. This process never reached its conclusion, resulting in the abandonment of the supply of FAs through this procedure five years later.

[This opinion piece was translated from its Greek original and endeavors to convey the message relayed by its author]

Cyprus  |  energy  |  EAC  |  electricity

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