Leaders warn of Baltic 'energy island'

  • 2007-10-12
  • By Mike Collier

VILNIUS CONFERENCE 's- Leading Baltic politicians were to the fore on the final day of the Vilnius Energy Conference with two presidents and a prime minister enjoying time in the limelight.

President Adamkus of Lithuania opened proceedings with a call for Europe to develop "a more ambitious and more decisive integrated energy policy."

During the morning's roundtable session, chaired by Latvian EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, Latvian president Valdis Zatlers talked about the Baltic as an "energy island."

Speaking in English, Zatlers voiced concern that Latvia is currently "one hundred percent dependent upon gas supplies from Russia," before casting around for solutions to such a situation, which included power connections with Nordic and Eastern European networks such as a direct energy link between Latvia and Sweden.

He also backed the proposed construction of a new nuclear power plant at Ignalina, describing it as "a challenging project for Baltic unity" provided "previously agreed" principles were stuck to, which seems like a veiled reference to Poland's eleventh-hour demand to increase the amount of energy it would be entitled to from Ignalina.

But Zatlers was keen to try and keep all Latvia's energy partners onside, despite the potential problems of doing so. He mentioned the need to work with the U.S., Norway, the Middle East, Ukraine and Russia.

Soon afterwards, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip took up the "energy island" theme but adopted a more direct and specific line.

Also speaking in English, Ansip defended Estonia's use of oil shale to produce a large proportion of its electricity, pointing out that "our overall energy dependency is one of the lowest in the EU. We are not dependent on Russia, as is commonly believed."

While acknowledging that other sources of energy should also be developed, Ansip said it was impossible to completely abandon all existing sources of energy.

He signed a warning note on Estonian participation in the Ignalina project, too, suggesting that Estonia is becoming frustrated with the repeated delays in getting a binding agreement in place. "The political will exists. Now it is important to make rapid progress on legal and technical details," he warned.