VILNIUS - Lithuania's foreign minister has called for the Swedish energy link, which will help the country diversify its energy sources, to be made part of the European Union's top priority list.
"The European Commission on [Jan.28] will approve the list of priority projects it proposes to co-finance so as to vouchsafe links within EU member states," Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas told the Baltic News Service from Brussels.
"I underlined both in the plenary session of EU ministers and the meeting with Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner that the Baltic links plan is of utmost strategic importance to the entire region, and urged the EC to include this plan on the list of priority projects," he said.
Member of the Leo LT board Darius Montila, who is in charge of implementing the cable-link to Sweden, told The Baltic Times that he is delighted about the minister's actions.
"The Swedish link is in the Baltic Energy Link plan and has been identified in Brussels as very important. I am very positive about the minister's comments," he said.
Montila said that Lithuania is ready to begin construction as soon as all agreements and documents have been signed.
"This is a project that can be realized in a short time if everything goes ahead. Lithuania is ready to do the link. We have already created a special purpose company to manage it and the landing on the Lithuanian side has been decided," Montila said.
We will use a route that does not require any new land to be purchased and we have the finances reserved to go ahead. We are just waiting to see if the link will be allocated funds from the 5 billion from Brussels," he said.
While he wouldn't say how long the cable would take to complete, Montila compared the project to a similar link in the Baltic Sea.
"A cable twice as long between Norway and the Netherlands took four years to build," he said.
The Lithuanian foreign minister discussed the intentions on Jan. 26 with European Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite.
"Ensuring an alternative provision of energy resources and reducing the dependency on the monopoly of the provision should be not only sounding slogans, but also concrete work, based on clear financing. I hope that the EU will duly support the priority project for Lithuania of the Baltic-Swedish energy link," Usackas said. The final list of projects and sums allocated for their implementation will be confirmed by the beginning of March, said the minister.
Latvia and Lithuania have been fighting over the landing point of the cable since the idea was tabled, both vying for the contract.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis agreed in their recent meeting in Riga to have experts of both states prepare a draft address to EC President Jose Manuel Barroso on the issue.
The address should underline that both of the Baltic countries agree on the necessity of the power link with Sweden and request the EC to ensure adequate co-funding for the project.
Lithuania is aiming to have the 400-megawatt capacity power cable join Lithuania and Sweden together to help diversify energy supply after the shutdown of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant at the end of 2009.
The project will cost between 1.78 and 2.55 billion litas (516 to 739 million euros).