The Baltic Times
Wire Reports, VILNIUS
April 20, 2006

MP Gediminas Jakavonis overcame bureaucratic obstacles at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last week, pushing through a resolution he initiated over chemical weapons resting at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Jakavonis, a member of the assembly”s committee on the environment, agriculture and regional affairs, said that the assembly”s bureau supported the Lithuanian initiative to draft the resolution at a meeting in Strasbourg on April 11.

Jakavonis, who is a member of Parliament”s Social Liberal faction, said the decision was made after a heated discussion with PACE President Rene van der Linden.

“The bureau”s policy aroused the indignation of PACE parliamentarians, and a decision was made to stop tolerating the quiet demonstration of “bureaucratic power” and invite the assembly”s president to the environmental committee”s meeting,” said Jakavonis.

Two months ago, the initiative, which focused on ecological threats to the Baltic Sea caused by WWII-era chemical weapons, was named among this year”s PACE policy priorities in the sphere of environmental protection.

However in mid-March, the PACE bureau failed to pass a decision on the matter – for the fourth time.

In Jakavonis” opinion, the bureaucratic impediment was influenced by the economic interests of two influential countries – Russia and Germany – to build a gas pipeline on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Last fall, Russia and Germany signed an agreement on constructing a $5 billion gas pipeline via the Baltic Sea. The Baltic states, however, fear this could pose a threat, since chemical weapons have been resting at the bottom of the sea for half a century.

Lithuanian environmentalists believe there is a real threat of hitting the chemical weapons that are scattered throughout the sea. International scientists have not yet agreed whether the weapons, which have been submersed under water for 60 years, are still dangerous, though many think the threat of an ecological disaster is great.

Shortly after World War II, the U.S.S.R. and its allies sank several thousand tons of bombs and cannon shells with chemical charges in the Baltic Sea. In 1993, the Helsinki Commission set up a special task force to investigate the chemical weapon dumps in the Baltic Sea. In its conclusions, the group stressed the possible ecological threat that could arise from intensive fishing, and prepared recommendations and warnings for fishermen.