Energy dominates Baltic agenda

  • 2007-09-25
  • By TBT staff and wire reports

PAST IMPERFECT: A replacement for the elderly Ignalina nuclear plant is just one piece in the Baltic energy puzzle

TALLINN - Parliamentary foreign affairs committees of the three Baltic states have underscored the necessity of a shared energy system for the region.

Meeting in the Estonian capital Sep. 24, the panels discussed the Baltic states' energy policies, formation of common standpoints, questions relating to the Nord Stream gas pipeline, and construction of a new nuclear power plant at Ignalina, Lithuania, as a joint project of the Baltic countries and Poland.

Speaking about a common energy policy, the politicians noted the need to separate Baltic electricity networks from Russia's and create the missing 'energy bridge' between Western Europe and the Baltic countries.

Lithuanian lawmakers said Poland's participation in the Ignalina nuclear power plant will establish a good basis for this as for that purpose connections between Lithuania and Poland will have to be built. In their words, converter stations should also be built on the Russian borders to enable the interconnection of two systems using different frequencies.

Lithuania is determined to implement the Ignalina project regardless of whether the other countries join it or not, members of the Lithuanian committee said.

The chairman of the Estonian parliament's European Affairs Committee, Marko Mihkelson from Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, reported on the Nord Stream gas pipeline project. He gave an overview of the Estonian standpoints and the reasons why the government turned down the Russian-German consortium's application to conduct seabed surveys in Estonian waters. He further spoke about the security and environmental risks the project involves and Russian reactions to the Estonian refusal.

Other reports were delivered by the chairman of the Latvian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Andris Berzins, who spoke about the Baltic states' opinions on the European Union's common energy policy, and Audronius Azubalis, vice-chairman of the Lithuanian panel, whose subject was nuclear energy-related developments.

Meanwhile, in the Latvian seaside resort of Jurmala, more discussions along similar lines are taking place under the auspices of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Wilton Park, an offshoot of the British Foreign Office.

The three-day conference is titled 'Energy Security in the European Union: The Eastern and Baltic Dimension' and includes representatives from the EU, Russia,energy companies and governments throughout the region.

In little more than a week, Vilnius also plays host to a major energy conference.

The preponderance of high-profile participants in all three events clearly reflects the urgency with which the Baltic region feels it must address its future energy needs.

It can only be hoped that as well as engaging in debate and discussion, the concentration of so much expertise on the subject will quickly lead to practical action, as the failure to provide adequate, affordable energy in a timely manner could have serious social and economic consequences for the Baltic.