Marcelo ‘vetoes’ TAP privatisation, citing three “critical issues”

Tight-lipped PM says Marcelo’s concerns “will be duly pondered”

President Marcelo has ‘vetoed’ the government’s decree setting out the conditions for reprivatising TAP, citing three “critical issues” that require clarification.

Very much like the time when he vetoed the decree on teachers’ career progressions, this presidential power has its limits. Marcelo stresses he has previously asked for clarification on various points, but “these three specific but crucial questions” remain unanswered.

In his letter to the prime minister, shared on his official web page, Marcelo says he believes his question “can be clarified without too much delay, in other words, without harming the urgency of the process.”

Tight-lipped in Brussels where he was taking part in the European Council, prime minister António Costa said the president’s concerns would be answered. His office has since issued a short note saying the head of State’s points have been ‘registered’ by the PM and will be “duly pondered”.

Marcelo’s points involve wanting to know specifically what the State’s role will be in any future sale of the country’s flagship airline, stressing the importance of the “future effective capacity of the State to monitor and intervene in a strategic company such as TAP” if, for example, more than 51% of the company is sold.

Second, he questions the fact that “the decree-law allows TAP to sell or acquire, even before the decision to sell, any type of asset, without any further precision or criteria, which goes far beyond the planned integration of Portugália (TAP’s so called ‘low cost’ operation) into TAP SA“.

Third, Marcelo criticises the decree-law for “not ensuring total transparency, in a phase of contacts prior to the drawing up of the tender specifications, in other words, the rules that will guide the choice of the eventual buyer, at the very least making it clear that these will not be binding negotiations and that there will be a record of these contacts”.

“In his opinion, this is “fundamental in order to guarantee that the procedures are fully impartial, should the question of the aforementioned transparency of the process and the choice of buyer be raised at a later date”.

“In his letter to the prime minister, the head of State writes that the law raises “multiple doubts and misgivings* in the light of the desired maximum transparency of the process”, writes Lusa.

“I believe that maximum transparency must be ensured throughout the process that will lead to a decision to sell control of the company,” he adds.

This is very much a ‘controlled battle’. It has been clear from comments made in parliament that the government is fully-prepared to relinquish State control of TAP (having said only eight years ago how crucial State ownership was).

At the presentation of the decree at the Council of Ministers on September 28, finance Fernando Medina said the government intends to sell at least 51% of TAP’s capital – “that’s the minimum percentage“. Thus lack of clarification on how the State would stand in such a scenario is indeed crucial.

Opposition PSD have said this latest situation is just a culmination of “a soap opera of zigzags” on the whole subject of TAP, showing the government’s “enormous lack of transparency”.

It is also trouble with a diploma in which Marcelo’s political bête-noir, the infrastructures minister, will have played a key part.

*As to Marcelo’s expression about “multiple doubts and misgivings”, he said very much the same about a diploma he did promulgate recently, highlighting the discord that has opened up between the country’s president and its absolute majority government.

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Portugal Resident