VILNIUS - Lithuania scored a major victory last week after European Union leaders acknowledged the isolation of Lithuania's energy sector from the union's grid. On March 24, the European Council approved conclusions presented by Austria, current president of the rotating council presidency, regarding an integrated EU energy policy, the Lithuanian government's press service said.
EU leaders urged the European Commission, the executive branch, to draft a plan of priority links in order to integrate isolated markets and build electricity lines throughout the European Union. The plan should be ready by the end of this year.
EU leaders also decided to enhance coordination of energy-related actions, exchange information about national energy development plans and the situation on the market. They also commissioned the EC to prepare the union's annual strategic energy review starting 2007 so that it would become the basis for a discussion among EU leaders and directions of actions in the energy field.
Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, who was instrumental in lobbying for the priority status, saluted the decision.
"The consistent and firm stance taken by Lithuania helped the EU focus its energy policy on isolated markets like those of the Baltic states. Stipulated measures will ensure better energy security for Lithuania," he said in a press release.
The European Council decided to include energy matters in its EU foreign policy agenda, as well as harmonize action in talks with major energy suppliers and in the search for alternative energy resources. In the future, more focus will be placed on developing and funding the energy infrastructure, establishing response procedures to energy supply crises and preparing the country for possible natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
Brazauskas said the European Union was a large and reliable market for Russia, so speaking together with dominant suppliers may help ensure realistic and long-term energy supplies.
"The Baltic countries are a kind of energy island, that is why a European interconnection plan should be drawn up and approved by the end of the year," said Brazauskas, who chaired a conference between traditional Nordic and Baltic government leaders on the eve of the Council of the European Union meeting.
Other government leaders backed the energy interconnection initiatives, with Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen urging the EU to encourage the development of interconnection projects.
Nordic and Baltic prime ministers agreed that EU members should take up joint actions and hold definite talks with Russia and other external energy suppliers as they pursued the development of an effective and functioning common EU market and to guarantee energy security.