The Minister of Energy has decided to start from scratch the nomination procedure for the presidency of Creg, the federal energy regulator. The three candidates selected at the end of the previous process may represent their candidacy.
It is the end – and the restarting – of an energetic-political soap opera that never ceases to last. The Minister of Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen) decided this Thursday by ministerial decree to stop the procedure during the appointment of a president and a management committee at the Creg, the federal energy regulator. At the same time, the Minister announced that a new procedure would be initiated which will be entrusted to Selor, the selection office of the federal administration.
“The ambition is to quickly start the procedure so that the president and the members of the executive committee are selected independently.”
“Selection through an independent procedure offers the best guarantee and certainty for a strong independent regulator“, declared the minister.” The ambition is to quickly start the procedure so that the president and the members of the executive committee are selected independently “, she added.
Remember that the Creg has been operating without a president since 2018 and with directors who have exceeded their mandate since 2019.
What is surprising about this file – apart from the visibly complicated handover between the previous minister, Marie-Christine Marghem (MR), and the current one – is that the appointment process had come to an end. During his tenure, the outgoing minister had actually interviewed the three candidates selected at the end of the procedure already conducted by the Selor. To find out who from Andreas Tirez (Open Vld), member of the management committee, Francis De Meyere (N-VA), deputy chief of staff to the former Minister of the Interior Jan Jambon and former adviser to the Creg, or Charles Cuvelliez, without a political label and former member of the BIPT board of directors, was going to be selected, Marie-Christine Marghem only had to submit her choice to the government. The final decision could then have been made by the Council of Ministers and the chosen candidate would have started a six-year term.
Except that the outgoing minister never postponed a decision. So in current affairs, the government of the time, according to Marie-Christine Marghem, could not decide. In the background, the former minister did not want to engage the next government on such crucial appointments. It should be noted in passing that the former chief of staff of Marie-Christine Marghem had, at the time not been retained at the end of the Selor procedure, to the chagrin of the minister.
An independent and strong regulator
But that does not explain why the procedure must be restarted from scratch today. “The candidates were good, since they were recommended by the Selor“, notes Bruno Liebhaberg, director general of the Center for Regulation in Europe (CERRE).” I am surprised and scandalized that the government decides to start all over again. There is an urgent need for energy policy in Belgium and this decision weakens independent regulation at this key period, “he says.
“I am surprised and scandalized that the government decides to start all over again.”
An incomprehensible decision for many actors, especially since the disappointed candidates, even if they can represent themselves, may not stop there. “It all seems very fragile to me legally. Nothing prevents the three candidates from appealing to the Council of State, which would further slow things down“, observes Bruno Liebhaberg here.
For an independent and strong regulator, we will therefore have to wait a little longer. A most uncomfortable situation as the country prepares to exit nuclear power and the CRM (the capacity remuneration mechanism which aims to guarantee the security of electricity supply) is at the heart of the debates.