Ratas: Conflict over Astravyets power plant is between Latvia and Lithuania

Victory Day ceremony at Toompea.
Victory Day ceremony at Toompea. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) has said the main conflict in the discussion over electricity from the Belarusian Astravyets power plant reaching the Baltics is between Latvia and Lithuania.

Ratas said: "There have been at least four different alternatives of political declarations made, this is mainly a disagreement between Latvia and Lithuania."

He noted during Estonia's presidency of the Council of EU, an agreement was worked toward and added that it needs to be continued with.

The Lithuanian government has been against the construction of the power plant since its inception and has tried to lobby the other Baltic states to boycott buying electricity from the plant. Estonia and Latvia have not expressed intentions to make such a statement.

Electricity from Astravyets power plant would reach Baltic markets through Latvia who buys electricity through the Russian grid. Lithuania sees the Astravyets plant as both environmentally unsafe and a potential way for the Russian Federation to pressure Belarus, which shares a border with both Lithuania and Latvia.

The Baltic states are planning on synchronizing electricity grids with Continental Europe by 2025 which should end the discussion of using Belarusian electricity. It is the period until then that is causing issues.

Ratas said: "Our direction is that we will synchronize with Continental Europe by 2025. Preparations are being made, not only on paper but also investing. But yes, the two countries [Latvia and Lithuania] are at odds."

Ratas also noted that the European Commission has always been neutral on the plan to synchronize grids: "The Commission is actually financing most of it. Where Lithuania makes their appeals and proposals, that is their right."

On Monday, ERR News wrote that Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda 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 European Commission makes a new proposal

On Monday, Timo Tatar, Deputy Secretary General for Energy at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, said that after a meeting between the European Commission's and the Baltics' Directorate-Generals for Energy, the Commission promised to make a new proposal and they did so on Monday.

Tatar said: "The Commission is offering a solution where the energy ministers would emphasize power plants in the region to be more tightly regulated in terms of safety. They would also assign an independent European Commission institution as an evaluator that would deal with questions regarding nuclear energy and who can also say if the plants are safe or not."

The new proposal also provides a guideline of methods for when a third country power plant is deemed unsafe and does not meet the EU's requirements.

Tatar concluded that the compromise proposal seems adequate for Estonia, but a response from Lithuania is expected.

Minister of Economic Affairs and Communication: Estonia has no interest in buying electricity from Belarus

On Friday, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications sent a statement to ERR News from Tatar, which confirmed an agreement between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has not yet been reached. The full text can be read here.

He said Estonia has no interest in buying electricity from Belarus and agrees with the safety concerns raised by Lithuania. Tatar said Estonia has expressed support to Lithuania many times. However, concerns an agreement will not be made between all three countries are increasing by the day as Lithuania has rejected several different versions.

He said: "There is no similar law in Estonia which bans electricity imports/trade from specific power plants in foreign countries. Such regulations are highly unusual." Latvia does not have a law similar to this either.

He also said these discussions should have been held years ago, but then Lithuania was lobbying for different rules. "Frankly, it is really hard to keep up with all the dynamic changes," Tatar said.

As for a solution to the disagreement, he said: "We sincerely believe that the technical agreement, as well as accompanying energy ministers declaration, are allowing us to implement all those goals and lets us focus on completing the synchronization project on time and on budget."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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