VILNIUS - Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas has reportedly started consultations over who to appoint as chief negotiator in talks with the European Commission on extending the operations of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant after its planned closure at the end of 2009.
According to a report on the Panorama television program, the government is currently discussing candidates for the position, seen as extremely crucial given the increasing public sentiment that the atomic power plant must remain open.
The report even stated that the center-left government was leaning toward nominating opposition MP Egidijus Vareikis, a member of the Homeland Union (Conservatives).
"The Conservatives also have experienced diplomats, members of parliament," Kirkilas was quoted as saying.
"When I was appointed as a negotiator for Kaliningrad I was in opposition as well," he added.
Andrius Kubilius, chairman of the Homeland Union faction, confirmed that he had discussed the candidacy of Vareikis.
But Vareikis would take up the task only with the approval of the party, Kubilius added.
It is unclear when the nomination could take place, or when talks over an extension could start. Officials at the plant, however, have said that they need a final answer in August or September since, if the reactor is to be shut down, they need to begin preparations.
Equally unclear is how Brussels will react to the proposal. Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has expressed disapproval of the idea, but the final word is up to the 27-member commission.
Meanwhile, preparations for the construction of the Polish-Lithuanian power link are set to be finalized by the end of 2009, Economy Minister Vytas Navickas said.
"The technical project and the environmental impact study will be carried out by that date. All land property matters will be settled since the link will cross private plots 's there are about 6,000 private land owners," Navickas said on Feb. 13.
"Practical implementation of the project will be launched afterwards, from 2010," he added.
Lithuania and Poland signed a final agreement on the 600 million euro, EU priority project on Feb. 12 in Warsaw. The joint venture will be registered in the Polish capital since the bulk of the project, including the environmental questions in Augustow and land matters, will be concentrated on Polish territory, Navickas explained.
In Lithuania, the power lines to Alytus were almost ready, and Lietuvos Energija, the state-owned utility will have to install a 100 million euro frequency converter if the country is not connected to the UCTE system by that time, Navickas said.
Lietuvos Energija and Poland's PSE Operator will each own a 50 percent stake in the joint venture, which is expected to launch operations in April.
The agreement on the establishment of joint venture was signed by the executives of Lietuvos Energija and PSE Operator. The ceremony was attended by President Valdas Adamkus and his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski.