VILNIUS - During a state visit to Lithuania this week, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said that despite the oil supply problems, Poland's PKN Orlen had no intention to relinquish the stake in Mazeikiu Nafta it intends to acquire pending EU approval.
"Poland is strongly determined here," the president told a press conference on Sept. 5. "We have no intention to sell the shares to any other company. It has cost us too much effort to sell them now. We have no intention to withdraw."
The $2.3 billion deal was shrouded in uncertainty after Russia ceased supplying crude oil to the Mazeikiai refinery, citing a leak in a section of pipeline in Belarus. Given the Kremlin's disappointment in the sale's outcome 's officials there had been hoping that a Russian oil major would acquire the company 's there has been a torrent of speculation that Moscow wants to sabotage the Poles' investment.
Kaczynski said he was unsure whether Russia's explanations concerning the pipeline repairs were true, but he added that he had received assurances by Russia that oil was still supplied to Mazeikiai by tankers through the Butinge terminal.
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus echoed the sentiment, saying the two countries would work together to overcome supply obstacles.
"We have found possibilities to ensure Mazeikiu Nafta operations if there were certain interruptions in deliveries from Russia," Adamkus said. "I think we are ready to accept this and not look for any confrontations, but look for other reasons 's admit the fact that systems sometimes need repair. We admit that and do not consider it to be a political challenge, and we will find a positive solution if there are such problems," Adamkus said.
Still, speculation was rife about Russia's energy ambitions in the region. As Antanas Valionis, former foreign minister and former ambassador to Poland, told a Polish-Lithuanian conference on Sept. 5, "The sale of Mazeikiu Nafta to Poland is a fact of special geopolitical significance, not only a commercial project but also an element of a geopolitical battle, the success or failure of which will be of great significance to us."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said he would ask the European Commission during his visit to Brussels this week not to delay approval of the sale of Mazeikiu Nafta to Orlen.
"I do not think that it is a major problem. I hope to learn that the European Commission will make no delays in issuing its permission. Naturally, I will explain the circumstances and the transaction," Kirkilas said.
The prime minister was scheduled to meet with European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso.
According to reports, PKN Orlen has only submitted a preliminary application to the commission so far.
"This is the procedure - the commission should give its answer whether the documents meet the requirements. If the assessment is positive, PKN Orlen will immediately submit an official application for permission to acquire Mazeikiu Nafta," said Alek Romankiewicz, PKN Orlen's representative in Lithuania, was quoted as saying.
PKN Orlen has agreed to buy Mazeikiu Nafta from Russia's bankrupt Yukos (53.7 percent) and Lithuania's government (30.66 percent). Valionis, speaking in the presence of Kaczynski and Adamkus, urged Lithuania and Poland to strengthen ties with Central European countries, help Ukraine, continue work in Belarus and undertake energy and infrastructure projects.