President Kaljulaid talks Belarus, electricity with Lithuanian counterpart

President Kersti Kaljulaid in a coronavirus-era greeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in Vilnius Friday.
President Kersti Kaljulaid in a coronavirus-era greeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in Vilnius Friday. Source: Social Media/Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia

President Kersti Kaljulaid has called the current situation in Belarus "deeply disturbing". The president made her remarks while n a one-day official visit to Vilnius, Lithuania, where she met with president Gitanas Nauseda. The latter had been absent from a Baltic presidents' meeting on Saaremaa earlier in summer.

"The current situation [in Belarus] is deeply disturbing," the president said after the meeting.

"Every nation has the right to determine its own way and future. What occurred in Belarus on Sunday and what has happened before and after that does not respect the rights of the Belarusian people. These elections cannot be regarded as honest, free or democratic, as far as current information shows. Sadly, we don't know much of it, as independent observers were not allowed in the country, and that alone already makes acknowledging the declared elections results impossible," she went on. 

The heads of state of both Estonia and Lithuania, together with those of Latvia and Poland issued a joint statement condemning widespread repressions in Belarus in the aftermath of last Sunday's presidential elections which returned Alexander Lukashenko for a sixth term but which have been widely condemned as rigged. 

President Kaljulaid also said that coordinated EU-level action was paramount.

"[Belarus] is an Eastern partner to the EU, physically situated right here behind our borders. Estonia has made a proposal to appoint a special representative of the EU whose effort should be directed at the immediate termination of violence, release of detainees and bringing those in power and those in the opposition together at one table," she said. 

The issue has been raised both at EU level, and on the UN Security Council (UNSC), where Estonia holds a non-permanent seat, by foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu. 

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya recently took refuge in Lithuania.

The two presidents discussed the issue of energy synchronization with the EU, a matter which also ties in with Belarus. 

Lithuania seeks sanctions on the latter with regard to the near-completed Astravyets nuclear power plant, which is situated very close to the Belarus-Lithuania border. A lack of common ground on this is widely thought to be the main reason Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda did not attend June's Saaremaa Baltic Heads of State meeting with President Kaljulaid and President Egils Levits of Latvia. 

In the meantime, the Baltic States are pursuing electricity grid synchronization with the EU and away from the Russian and Belarusian grids. President Kaljulaid said that she hoped compromise on the intertwined issues could be met.

"The plan to synchronize the Baltic electricity networks with the West-European frequency is underway and on schedule. However, the issue of electricity trade with third states currently remains unresolved. With multilateral agreements, mechanisms for leveling disagreements unfortunately always need to be found. I hope that everyone nonetheless focuses on the final goal and is prepared to make the compromises needed for this purpose, and that a final declaration is also reached in the near future together with the European Commission," the president said after the meeting.

Baltic electricity grids are scheduled to be synchronized with the central European grid system by 2025. 

President Kaljulaid is back in Estonia on Saturday, where she closes out this year's Paide Opinions Festival

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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