Baltic States and Poland will work together on energy issues

  • 2010-09-15
  • By Raquel Dura Lahoz

FAB FOUR: Baltic and Polish presidents get together to work out plans for energy independence.

RIGA - The Baltic States and Poland must work together on energy agreements and common policies, agreed the president of the Republic of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, the president of the Republic of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, the president of the Republic of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, and the president of the Republic of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, in the second discussion at the Riga Conference 2010, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in the Riga Small Guild during Sept. 10 - 11. Grybauskaite said “We have to join our efforts to create a common energy policy of the European Union. The creation of the common electricity market in the Baltic States is the first step in this direction. One of the most challenging tasks for us, if we want to make this happen, is to build energy connections with Poland. In addition, we must use all possible alternative sources of energy: wind, solar and nuclear power.”

According to the presidents of the Baltic States, the common policies with Poland will make the countries independent of energy and gas from Russia, although still, the significance of Russia in this market is huge. They pointed out the importance of the active participation of Poland in promoting the development of the entire Baltic region and the relevance of the neighboring country on Baltic energy issues.

Grybauskaite was very interested in the energy market: “The Baltic region and Poland is an important network in Europe’s energy route from Russia, this must become an advantage, instead of something used against us like it is at the moment. The European Union has never had a common energy policy, which is quite unfair to the Baltics and Poland, thus we must continue to work to change this.” She also said that the collaboration between the Baltic States and Poland to start new common projects targeted at energy independence will bring benefits to the entire European Union, and that the electricity connection with Poland will help Lithuania to get out of energy isolation and to create a functioning national market.
For his part, Bronislaw Komorowski, the new president of Poland, said that Poland will try to help the Baltic countries to solve their energy problems, and he stated that one of the objectives in terms of foreign policy is to expand and improve relations with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The discussion between the four presidents also included an evaluation of the economic crisis in their countries and the effects on the different economies. Zatlers said that Latvia was in a desperate situation, but now with the help of the EU and the economic policies laid out, the country is slowly recovering. In fact, a few hours before, during the discussion that opened the Riga Conference 2010, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (New Era) said to journalists: “Even though it was previously forecast that Latvia’s economy will fall by four percent this year, currently the Finance Ministry figures show that Latvia’s economy will fall by two percent this year, with some experts predicting only a 1.5 percent reduction. During the past 18 months, we have tried to change Latvia’s economic structure with the help of European Union funds and other means. We have seen the fastest growth in industrial production and exports.”

During his speech at Riga Conference 2010, Zatlers emphasized that this positive direction is not going to change, no matter what happens in the close parliamentary elections, on Oct. 2, in Latvia.
Ilves noted that in his country the financial crisis was not as severe as in Latvia and Lithuania, but he said that to overcome the economic problems the three Baltic countries should act as a region. Talking about the financial crisis in Lithuania, Grybauskaite added that the crisis has highlighted the weaknesses of each country, forcing them to think more creatively, and that the Baltics need more openness: “Baltic integration alone is not enough. Our economies are too open, and free and deeper regional integration is therefore a must. This means that Poland, Germany, and Baltic and Nordic countries must coordinate their actions more actively and deepen their cooperation.”

Finally, the four political leaders discussed the need for the European Union to cooperate with Russia. In this line, Komorowski said that the recent membership of Poland and the Baltic States in the EU have created better conditions for more cooperation with Russia and the creation of common projects. All the leaders agreed that the European Union should establish a unique dialogue with Russia; the different countries should speak with one voice to have cooperation with the country even when they have their own national interests.