BRATISLAVA, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has warned foreign utilities his government may expropriate their property if they seek to overcharge on power prices, the daily Hospodarske Noviny reported on Monday. Fico’s statement escalates his clash with western-run utilities as he aims to prevent hikes in household energy bills — a key promise that helped him win a 2006 election.
“(The Constitution) says a thing can be expropriated in public interest,” Hospodarske Novinyas quoted Fico as saying.
“If they, and it’s not just Enel but foreign owners of energy monopolies (in general), continued in policy that is basically against the interest of this state, its people, and therefore against public interest, we will not be shy to use even such extreme options in the future,” Fico said.
Slovakia’s main energy firms are run by foreign utilities following extensive privatisation process by the previous centre-right government earlier this decade.
Leftist leader Fico has focused mainly on the dominant power maker Slovenske Elektrarne and natural gas monopoly SPP in his effort to make good on election promises.
The main energy companies have said prices will have to increase due to rising cost of oil on the world markets, but Fico said utilities only want to boost their profits.
“We will not abandon people, we will fight until the very last option,” the paper quoted Fico as saying.
A Slovenske Elektrarne spokesman said the constitution guarantees appropriate compensation if the state wants to expropriate private property. (Writing by Peter Laca; Editing by Louise Ireland)