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Work of 47th National Assembly starts with moratorium

Prices of electricity, heating and water now frozen until March 31

According to the plans of the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, the prices of electricity, heating and water were to rise by an average of 11 and 12% as of January 1, 2022. Price of central heating in Sofia was expected to rise by 30 percent. The independent energy and water regulator was expected to take such a decision on Wednesday.

In line with promises by the Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and leader of the ruling party “We Continue the Change” that there would be no price rise, the parliament decided on Wednesday (December 15th) to make a legislative contribution to halting the price hike. At the suggestion of the now opposition GERB party, lawmakers hastily adopted a moratorium on electricity, heating and water prices with a huge majority of 186 MPs in favor, out of a total of 240 lawmakers. The price is kept at the level of January 1, 2021, because the rise was a "point blank shot” against the new government just three days after it came to power, according to MP from the ruling coalition Vladislav Panev. A parliamentary inquiry commission has also been set up to study problems in the energy sphere and propose lasting solutions within a month.

The introduced moratorium provoked a wave of contradictory comments from politicians, citizens and experts, which eventually led to a review and correction of the decision by parliament. In its new version of December 16, the decision provides for the freezing of prices at the level of December 16 for a period until March 31, 2022.

Bulgaria's electricity distribution companies and the state-owned electricity system operator have strongly opposed what they call "attempts of pursuing social policy through mechanisms for artificial freezing of electricity prices," and added that this act put "the entire electricity system at risk of collapse.” According to former Minister of Energy Rumen Ovcharov, the parliament's decision was "nonsense". Nikola Yankov, a former Deputy Minister of Economy and Transport, spoke to the BNR about the issue:

“The moratorium on electricity, heating and water prices is a disappointing move, incompatible with the concept of market economy. In a modern European country, things are not governed by moratoriums. Another question is whether this is actually legal as the parliament cannot fix prices in a market economy.”

A difficult start of the work of the new parliament and government, observers and analysts commented, pointing out the chaos in energy prices and the inconsistent actions of the two institutions. "False start of the parliament," political scientist Deyan Kyuranov summed up the situation. Lack of experience is the probable reason for this confusion in the National Assembly, which led to a revision of its own decision taken the day before, other observers say.

"The fact is that a way must be found to compensate households for the high prices of natural gas and electricity. However, there