Coalition partners shoot down Järvan's universal service plan
The Reform Party and the Social Democrats do not support Minister of Entrepreneurship Kristjan Järvan's (Isamaa) plan of reforming the universal electricity price service or tying it to a government confidence vote.
Järvan on Thursday asked Isamaa's coalition partners to get behind his idea of taking the universal service reform to the Riigikogu and tying its passing to a vote of confidence in the government (before general elections on March 5 – ed.)
"The plan is to bring the universal service 2.0 to the government today, so that the universal service can be made even better, ahead of the elections and before the new composition [of the Riigikogu]," he said.
While Järvan maintained a measure of optimism that his plan might work during the Thursday government press conference, PM Kaja Kallas (Reform) referred to it as a populist undertaking on the eve of elections.
"It is tied to the elections. But every decision we make today, even those with a populist angle of boosting ratings, have long-term effects, which need to be taken into account," Kallas offered.
"The universal service is a crisis measure, and has worked just fine as such. Looking at the price [of electricity], the market price was €174 in October, €219 in November, €263 in December and €102 during the first 24 days of January. Reworking the entire system based on those two dozen days, which is something that would have long-term effect, I find to be dangerous. But we will discuss this matter further," the PM added.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Riina Sikkut (SDE) also described the plan as unrealistic.
"Even now, after consumers have had to make difficult decisions choosing between energy plans. Changing hundreds of thousands of contracts inside the same heating season, with no certainty in terms of who will form a coalition after elections and how to manage the coming season's potential price peaks –there's just no sense to it," Sikkut said, referring to the reform plan that would make the universal service more flexible during periods when the market price of electricity is cheaper than the state-guaranteed fixed price.
"We need to analyze how to help people and whether the universal service needs to be amended or complemented but there is no fire. Especially in a situation where the Riigikogu will be in session for just another three weeks," the minister added.
Kristjan Järvan said he was saddened by his coalition partners' reaction.
"We have a clear reason today to make the universal service even better. To make things easier for citizens before elections. We know that it will take the new composition [of the Riigikogu] months to get settled, and that this thing will drag on as a result. In a situation where we have prepared the bill, negotiated with market participants, offering the consumer a better price, without affecting green investments and helping nudge consumption, would be a welcome move," the entrepreneurship minister remarked.
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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Marcus Turovski