| KIEV, Sept 22
KIEV, Sept 22 The Ukrainian parliament passed
two bills on Thursday aimed at prising open the domestic energy
distribution market to more competition, a reform demanded by
the European Union in exchange for a 600-million-euro ($674.10
The first bill will allow more companies to compete in the
local distribution market - at present controlled by regional
monopolies. The second measure creates an independent
electricity commission responsible for setting power tariffs.
Ukraine must adopt a series of reforms to secure tranches of
aid money from its various international donors, which include
the EU and the International Monetary Fund, as part of a phased
$40 billion aid package.
After nearly a year-long wait, Ukraine finally secured the
disbursement of $1 billion in more IMF aid last week. But doubts
persist about whether Ukraine has the political will to
modernise its economy and tackle entrenched corruption.
"The bill has a great role in the development of the energy
market and the establishment of an independent and professional
regulatory agency in the energy market," said a statement from a
special group of advisers to Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman
that focuses on reforms.
"We believe that the energy regulator should be a truly
independent body and arbitrator for the energy market. It has to
defend the interests of consumers, to create fair conditions for
suppliers and producers. In the future, it is important to
demonstrate in practice the independence of this institution."
Corruption has long plagued Ukraine's energy sector at a
cost to the public purse. The EU has linked the disbursement of
new aid to passing the two bills.
The law to create the commission was passed at the final
reading. The law on regulating the energy market was passed at
the first reading and needs to be approved a second time.
Once implemented, the legislative changes will also help
pave the way for the sale of six regional energy companies that
are slated for privatisation.
However, two prominent lawmakers in President Petro
Poroshenko's party said the legislation wasn't strong enough to
protect the new commission from political interference.
The president has the power to nominate two of the five
representatives, who will in turn choose members of the
commission. The other representatives are nominated by the prime
minister and parliament. The president also has the power to
veto prospective members.
"The President will retain influence over the institution,
which not only sets tariffs but also singles out the oligarchs
who would benefit from them," MP Serhiy Leshchenko wrote on
($1 = 0.8901 euros)
(Writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Mark Heinrich)