ECONOMY

Romanian energy deals

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s defense council decided on Wednesday that details of past energy sector privatizations should be made public, saying that errors in previous sell-offs threaten the country’s energy security. The decision follows renewed debate in Romania over the 2004 sale of its top energy firm Petrom to Austrian oil and gas group OMV, which some politicians say gave OMV too much control over natural resources and should be reviewed. Analysts say the centrist government and Petrom are locked in a battle over the country’s future gas price policy. «All the contracts shall be made public by the Economy Ministry, listing the name of the company, the name of the shareholders and the content of the contract,» Romanian President Traian Basescu said after a meeting of the council that deals with defense and security issues. «The ministry will have to make them public and post them online… There are contracts that contain errors in guaranteeing energy security of the population. The conclusion is that such errors should not occur in the future,» he told reporters. Basescu reiterated that Bucharest should review the Petrom sale contract, which was sealed under the government of the ex-communists which was unseated by the centrists in 2004. So far, Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu has said his coalition will not seek to renegotiate the sale, which could threaten Romania’s relationship with foreign investors. But analysts say Petrom is pressuring the government to boost domestic gas prices to catch up with those of imported gas. Meanwhile, the Centrists are struggling with public pressure to keep energy costs down, particularly ahead of the winter when many people in the poor Black Sea state cannot afford to heat their homes. In addition to Petrom, Romania has sold several other energy companies, including gas and power distributors. Gas distributors Distrigaz Nord, Distrigaz Sud are owned by Germany’s E.ON and Gaz de France respectively. Electricity distributor CEZ Electrica Oltenia is controlled by Czech CEZ, E.ON owns E.ON Moldova and Italy’s Enel owns Enel Electrica Banat and Enel Electrica Dobrogea. Basescu also said Romania had sufficient energy supplies for the cold winter months and that Bucharest would draft energy strategy for the next five to 10 years in coming months, in an effort to increase energy independence. «Privatization has changed fundamental elements in previous strategies, concerning guaranteeing the energy security of the population,» he said.