Fidesz to submit political declaration on utility-fee cuts [Updated]

EU

The Fidesz parliamentary caucus will submit a political declaration in defense of the government's utility-fee cuts and to rebuff attacks from the European Commission (EC) to parliament, Fidesz caucus chairman Antal Rogán. 

Rogán said the text of the declaration would be ready by next Monday, noting that the Fidesz parliamentary group could submit the declaration in the form of either a parliamentary resolution or a political proclamation.

A two-step price reduction will cut the utilities bills of Hungarian households a combined 20% this year after the second step of cut takes effect on November 1. Hungary has received a letter from Brussels concerning a reduction in utilities prices, and “the letter confirms the government's earlier assumption that we must count on further measures attacking the utilities price cut by Brussels and market players,” government spokesman András Giró-Szász said on Wednesday.

The website BruxInfo said that the EC had asked Hungary in a letter to respond to questions regarding energy market regulation, seeking information on possible discriminatory pricing mechanisms used to calculate gas network fees for households and for businesses.

At present, the fee for households and public institutions is less than the fee paid by businesses. Brussels' inquiry into the matter is not related directly to the government-mandated cut in households utilities prices this year, BruxInfo said.

Update: National news service MTI followed up on this story today with the following.

Government measures will be necessary to defend utilities price cuts, in addition to cementing them in the constitution, József Szájer, an MEP of governing Fidesz, said on Monday.

Szájer is the head of a working group established to consider the inclusion of the price cuts in the constitution. He told a press conference that the group on Monday started its work to establish whether a constitutional amendment is necessary in connection with the utility cuts scheme.

Szájer said the government’s objective is to achieve that utility fees should not be higher in Hungary than in other countries in the EU. To achieve that goal, the government will take up fight with Brussels, he said.

Szájer said the working group is also exploring whether regulations on utility services including price regulations should be included in the country’s basic law with the aim to ensure “bombproof” guarantees to Hungarian households.

In connection with the inquiry Hungary has received from the European Commission concerning the utility cut scheme, Szájer said there is a debate within the EU itself as to what sort of rules should apply to utility services. Therefore Brussels itself lacks a clear-cut, exact position on the whole issue, he said.

It may even help Hungary in that debate, if the country reinforces related rules in its basic law, he said.

In January this year, the government reduced the prices of natural gas, electricity, and district heating by 10%, and cut water, sewage, garbage collection, bottled LPG, sewage removal, and chimney sweeping fees also by 10% in July. On November 1, the prices of electricity, natural gas, and district heating will be cut by a further 11.1%.

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