Vilnius BNS
May 2, 2006

[“Lithuanian Defmin Approves Of His Polish Counterpart’s Criticism About Russian-German Gas Pipeline” – BNS headline]

VILNIUS, May 02, (BNS) – Lithuanian Defence Minister Gediminas Kirkilas says he approves of strong criticism expressed by Polish Defence Minister Radoslaw Sikorski about the Russian-German project of laying a gas pipeline via the Baltic Sea.

“The decision, which excludes the Baltic region countries, is not the best solution. Both Russia and Germany should have held consultations with the Baltic states and Poland. On the other hand, the European Union still does not have a single energy policy and, with individual countries trying to act on their own, Russia is making use of that,” Kirkilas, one of leaders of Lithuania’s ruling Social Democratic Party, told (BNS) on Tuesday [ 2 May].

“Maybe Sikorski’s metaphor was too strong, but it reflected the essence of the problem precisely,” Kirkilas added.

Speaking at an international conference in Brussels, the Polish defence minister expressed severe criticism about the project of laying a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the bottom of the Baltic Sea, which Moscow and Berlin had agreed upon without holding any consultations with Poland. According to media reports, Sikorski equated the agreement, signed last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the then German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that had divided Europe into spheres of influence almost 70 years ago.

In Sikorski’s opinion, such a decision of the German government makes one seriously think about the need of a common European foreign policy.

Sikorski said important European countries, such as Germany, spoke in favour of Europe’s unity on foreign policy and security issues, a common attitude towards all issues, except for relations with Russia and China, an attitude towards reforming the United Nations and relations in the field of energy, asking what would be coordinated jointly in such a case.

The Polish minister does not agree with the opinion that first of all a decision has to be made and only then consultations should be held.

Poland and the Baltic states, which are dependent on eastern energy sources, have criticized the project of North European Gas Pipeline for disregarding the region’s needs and giving Russia a possibility to blackmail Eastern European countries.

Russia and Germany signed the gas pipeline agreement in September last year. The main declared aim of laying the pipeline is to ensure uninterrupted gas supply to Western Europe.

A joint German-Russian company has been established for the laying of the pipeline. Russia’s Gazprom holds a 51 per cent stake in the company and Germany’s concerns E.ON and BASF have 24.5 per cent each.

Schroeder, who supported the gas pipeline project, has recently become chairman of the board of observers of the North European Gas Pipeline.