Polish government accused of manipulating energy lobby in anti-Brussels ad campaign

Electricity and gas prices have rocketed 94% and 131% in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same quarter last year. [Shutterstock / Sashkin]

The Ministry of State Assets manipulated energy companies to participate in a TV and billboard campaign worth over €2,600,000, blaming the EU for the rise in energy prices reported news service Wirtualna Polska (WP).

Sine January large billboards and TV adverts have proclaimed that Brussels and the EU are responsible for Poland’s high energy prices

“The European Union’s climate tax is as much as 60% of energy production costs. EU climate politics equals high energy prices,” the message reads.

Officially, the campaign was launched by the Economic Association of Polish Power Plants (TGPE). But it has been revealed that the idea behind the campaign came from the State Assets Ministry.

When the government realised that lowering prices would not be achievable, the ministry and its head Jacek Sasin “decided to shift the blame for the expensive gas and electricity on the EU,” said one source close to the matter, quoted by WP.

Then, the ministry persuaded the energy lobby to sign the campaign with its name to create an impression that the voice came not from politicians but the energy sector. Some were not even aware that they were involved in the campaign.

The Polish Energy Group (PGE) initially opposed the ministry’s idea, but all they managed to change was a revision of the campaign’s content not to contain false information.

Initially, the message was that the EU is responsible for 60% of the bills for energy that Polish people pay. After PGE’s intervention, it was changed and now refers to energy prices.

“A false claim was replaced with manipulation,” said WP’s sources.

“The campaign says that the EU is to blame in 60%. But this concerns the market energy prices, so this share is actually much lower, below 50%, according to our estimations,” explains Michał Hetmański from Instrat economic think-tank.

The European Commission has responded to the campaign, calling it misleading. “Let’s be clear: EU policy is NOT responsible for 60% of your energy bill. Some people use such a number, distorting the meaning of the discussion,” said Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans in an article for Polish news service Onet.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | EURACTIV.pl)

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