The Baltic Times
Wire Reports, VILNIUS/TALLINN
May 18, 2006
Once again, Baltic leaders have brought international discussion back to the subject of energy. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis said the government should bring its energy strategy closer to foreign policy, while his Estonian counterpart Urmas Paet emphasized the EU”s need to exhibit a clear policy line on energy in its ties with Russia.
During a conference titled “A New Look at the Global Map: Lithuania”s Energy Security,” which was held in Vilnius on May 15, Valionis described energy security as one of the state”s most topical issues.
International energy policy has a much higher influence on Lithuania than most expect, he said. As an example, Valionis pointed to multilateral coalitions in the Middle East and other energy “hot spots” that determine oil and gas prices. Eventually, he said, the energy policy of these areas affect Lithuania”s economy, in particular its hopes to introduce the euro.
Valionis emphasized that those present at the annual meeting â€“ the heads of Lithuanian diplomatic offices â€“ were specialists who had often spoken about Lithuania”s energy policy and played a significant role in the issue.
With oil and gas prices going up, Lithuania”s attitude toward nuclear power is changing, he said, adding that the Baltic state had arrived at “a new period of opportunity.”
Above all, Lithuania must develop its energy policy alongside foreign standards, Valionis concluded. In order to accomplish this goal, a joint effort between energy specialists and diplomats was necessary, he told the conference.
Taking part in a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels that same day, Estonian Foreign Minister Paet urged Russia to ratify the international Energy Charter. His words were a prelude to the EU-Russia summit scheduled for May 25, which will deal primarily with energy cooperation and the development of EU-Russia relations after 2007. The meeting will be held in Sochi.
“The European Union must maintain a firm and clear line on its energy policy and remind Russia that if it wants to be a reliable partner, it has to ratify the Energy Charter and join the transit protocol,” Paet said.
The Baltic states, alongside the rest of the EU, have recently drawn special attention to the subject of energy security, and dependence on Russia in particular. The issue became extremely topical last December, when Russia terminated its gas supply to Ukraine and, to a lesser degree, the rest of Europe.
The European Union buys a major part of its energy supplies from Russia. Therefore, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are considering the construction of a new reactor at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, which would replace the RBMK reactor to be closed at the and of this decade.