VILNIUS - Polish officials have expressed concern about the presence of private capital in Lithuania's planned nuclear power plant, though the Foreign Ministry downplayed the fears.
As Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas told the Cabinet of Ministers on March 28, "Poland is voicing concern about possibly non-transparent participation of Lithuanian private capital and possible non-compliance with the European integration criteria."
The minister said that Pavel Zalewski, chairman of the Polish parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, had conveyed this sentiment to him on March 27.
Poland wants guarantees that private investors will not sell their shares in the plant to other parties in the future, the minister said.
Lithuania's private-capital quandary arose once the government decided to merge three utility companies: Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), Rytu Skirstomieji Tinklai (operator of the eastern grid) and VST (western grid operator).
Germany's E.ON owns a 20.28 percent stake in RST, while VST is nearly fully owned by NDX Energija, a private firm managed by the owners of VP Market, the Baltics' largest retailer.
What's more, the draft law on the proposed merged company, which will keep the name Lietuvos Energija, calls for floating some shares on the stock exchange.
The Cabinet passed a draft law on the merger and has sent it to Parliament for approval.
Economy Minister Vytas Navickas said that Poland's doubts could be due to a lack of information, while Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said that the government would inform its future partners in the project 's Poland, Latvia and Estonia 's of its specific plans after Parliament passes a law on the atomic power plant.
Lithuania has been criticized by Latvia and Estonia for not being forthcoming about its plans regarding the atomic plant, which will cost up to 4 billion euros and could be ready by 2015 at the earliest. Lithuania, for instance, surprised its Baltic partners when it signed a bilateral agreement with Poland on the division of stakes in the plant. Lithuania gave itself 34 percent and the other three countries 22 percent each.
Initially the three Baltic states had agreed on an even 33 percent split in the plant, which will replace the Ignalina facility when it is shut down at the end of 2009.
Meanwhile, other privately owned companies are warming to the idea of investing in the high-profile nuclear power plant. The Lietuvos Rytas daily reported last week that the Achema Group, an industrial conglomerate, had expressed interest in joining the project.
Latvia and Estonia's investment in the plant will come from state-owned companies 's Latvenergo and Eesti Energia, respectively.