VILNIUS - President Valdas Adamkus has blasted the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant referendum, which he says is misleading the Lithuanian public into thinking the nation can avoid its European Union accession treaty responsibilities.
Adamkus reiterated that Lithuania must adhere to international policy and declared that he would not mark his personal ballot in the referendum, leaving it blank. "Lithuania shall respect its international commitments," he said.
The referendum, proposed by the Liberal Movement party, will ask the public whether INPP should remain operational past the end of 2009.
Adamkus thinks Lithuania could negotiate the lifespan of INPP with the European Commission legitimately.
Adamkus recently rubbished the idea of a referendum on the issue, calling it "misleading the public" and saying that there have been changes in the world's energy market that must be taken into account.
"The global situation 's not Lithuania's, but the global one 's has changed so drastically since 2002-2004 that there are now very legal and logical possibilities for a review. And we should â€¦ evaluate the global situation resulting from the surge of energy prices with the European Commission instead of rejecting the agreements. And I believe, if we say it clearly 's 'let us extend the period until we get our own energy because the situation has changed' 's we will not remain the energy island we are today," Adamkus said.
Eligijus Masiulis, leader of the Liberal Movement party, cited Sweden's decision not to enter the euro zone as a victory for popular power. "I respect the opinion of the president, but I think the referendum is strong. Sweden asked the people if they wanted the euro or not, and they said they didn't want it. This opinion was very strong, so Brussels said, 'Okay.'"
"We support this referendum because it is the good voice of the Lithuanian people and they need this to discuss Ignalina with Brussels," Masiulis added.
The government is seeking to agree with Brussels on a gradual shutdown of the facility, thus extending its operations to at least mid-2012, by which time alternative energy measures would be in place.
On this point, Masiulis and Adamkus agreed. "We need Ignalina to stay open until 2012 and that is our position. Of course, we have to close it down in 2009, but we should do everything we can to keep it open," Masiulis said.
There are various plans for the energy shortage that would result from closing the plant. Adamkus has spoken of a plan to merge all Nordic and Baltic countries into a single energy network and to build a power link with Poland.
Currently the Baltics are reliant on Russian energy. Adamkus' plan would be to distance the region from Russia's energy monopoly.
"I believe we shall talk. And [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, she said before that this was not a subject to discuss, yet today she says that there is a reason to look and adapt to changes," Adamkus said.
The latest and seemingly most viable solution, a power link to Sweden, has been delayed by squabbling said the former Swedish ambassador to Lithuania, Malin Kerre.
Kerre, who finished her tenure last week, said that Lithuania and Latvia had acted like "boys competing for toys in a sandbox," and that a united Baltic front is needed if energy solutions are to be reached.
The 2004 EU accession treaty requires Lithuania to shut INPP down by the end of 2009.
The referendum will take place alongside the elections on Oct. 12.