Lithuanian president asks Brussels to mediate Belarus electricity boycott
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda is appealing to the European Commission for mediation between the Baltic States on the issue of Belarusian nuclear energy, which Vilnius wants to boycott, the English-language page of Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports. Failure to reach common ground on the issue led to Nausėda canceling a trip to Saaremaa to meet his Estonian and Latvian counterparts last week.
"We have already agreed with the European Commission president [Ursula von der Leyen] that she should be somewhat of a moderator for this whole process, as our bilateral relations have not led to the result we hoped for," Nauseda had told Lietuvos Rytas TV, LRT reports.
The official Lithuanian line is that Astravyets nuclear power plant, just a few kilometers from the border with Lithuania and around 50 km from the capital, remains both a hazard and a political tool for the Kremlin to apply pressure on Belarus and, in turn, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
While all three Baltic States aim to decouple from Russian and Belarusian grid systems by 2025 and be synchronized with those of the rest of the EU, the question remains about dependence on electricity – often cheaper than that generated in EU countries – from Russia and Belarus, with Vilnius favoring a boycott.
While Estonia and Latvia do not oppose Lithuania's boycott, they have stopped short of joining it; Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaiciunas had previously proposed codifying this line, i.e. supporting the boycott without joining it, LRT reports.
Matters came to a head last week when Nauseda stood up President Kersti Kaljulaid and Latvian President Egils Levits by not attending a scheduled summit hosted by the Estonian head of state on Saaremaa.
This is reportedly the first time a Baltic head of state has given the meeting, an annual tradition dating back to 1991 and independence, a miss, at least due to political reasons.
Nauseda said he hoped agreement could be reached between all three Baltic States as well as Poland.
An added consideration is Finland, which also imports electricity from Russia.
Work on all the reactors at the part-operational Astravyets plant, whose blueprints date back to the 1980s, is nearing completion. Progress had been halted in part due to fears following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion in Ukraine.
Even without a direct grid link – unlike Lithuania and Latvia, Estonia does not share a border with Belarus – electricity generated in that country can still find its way on to the Estonia market via the NordPool exchange.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte