Latvia and Lithuania spat over Baltic energy link

Monster and Critics
Deutsche Presse-Agenture
February 10, 2009

Riga- A diplomatic spat broke out Tuesday between neighbouring Latvia and Lithuania over competing claims to build an underwater energy link to Sweden.
Latvian foreign minister Maris Riekstins issued a tersely-worded denial after his Lithuanian counterpart, Vygaudas Usackas, suggested a decision on which country would get the link was likely to be made in a matter of days.
Riekstins also rejected Lithuanian claims that little progress was being made on the undersea electricity cable project, citing recent visits by Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt as evidence that plans were moving forward.
‘I cannot agree with the recent statements by Lithuania that there has been no advancement concerning the issue of Baltic interconnections, specifically, concerning the Baltic-Sweden interconnection.
‘It is important not to politicize the interconnections issue, but to allow experts to evaluate the technical, economic and social benefits of each interconnection project,’ Riekstins said.
A Latvian foreign ministry spokesperson told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Riekstins had been ‘very surprised’ to hear Usackas’ criticism.
Meanwhile a separate row over another energy project saw Latvia imply Lithuania was guilty of a go-slow approach to energy issues.
The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, plus Poland, are supposed to be collaborating on construction of a nuclear power plant in Lithuania to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina plant, which is due to be shut down at the end of 2009.
However, no firm plans have yet been agreed despite years of talks and experts say the new plant will not be ready until 2015 at the earliest.
Latvian national energy utility Latvenergo confirmed Tuesday that it had been approached by Belarus’ state-run energy company Belenergo about possible involvement in an alternative nuclear power plant to be built in Belarus.
Latvenergo spokesman Andris Siksnis told dpa that at a recent meeting about the development of interconnections between the two neighbouring countries, an informal approach was made by Belenergo.
‘They said they would be open if someone would be interested in working together,’ Siksnis said.

‘It’s not a priority, because the common Baltic project at Ignalina is our priority in the nuclear field. There is no way we could do both at the same time, but it means if one project doesn’t move on, we can take a look at another,’ Siksnis added, hinting that unless the Ignalina project gets off the ground soon, Latvia could throw in its lot with Belarus instead of fellow EU member Lithuania.
‘If the Lithuanians haven’t been able to decide since 2006 about their partners and crucial development points, of course those potential partners become a little bit nervous,’ he said.
A high-level conference involving governments and energy companies from across the region is due to take place in Vilnius in March in a bid to accelerate efforts on both the power link and Ignalina projects.