2019.07.24 17:00

Baltic presidents reaffirm 'brotherhood', but fail to settle several key issues

LRT TV naujienų tarnyba, LRT.lt2019.07.24 17:00

Brotherhood was mentioned frequently during this week's meeting of Lithuanian and Latvian presidents. Yet, while both leaders reiterated that the neigbouring Baltic nations should cooperate closely, agreements on concrete issues – such as a joint position on a nuclear power plant in Belarus and maritime border in the Baltic Sea – are nowhere near being settled.

For both Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and his Latvian counterpart Egils Levits, Tuesday's meeting in Riga was among their first – both were inaugurated earlier this month, within days from one another.

Nausėda has said Latvians were “brothers” and called on reviving regular meetings of the three Baltic presidents, also to include Poland.

However, Vilnius has so far failed to convince Latvia to support it on one of its key foreign policy initiatives: boycotting electricity from Belarus' Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant that Lithuania deems to be too close to its border and unsafe.

“We stick to our principled decision not to buy electricity from [Astravyets NPP]. We found understanding in Poland, which has a similar position. I hope that, after further discussions, we will harmonize positions with the other Baltic states, too, but today I do not want to make any pressure,” Nausėda told reporters.

A month ago, the Baltic states agreed to unlink their electricity grids from Russia and synchronize them with Western Europe's network within six years. It will limit electricity trade with Eastern Europe, even though Riga and Tallinn have previously said they would prefer to be able to buy power from both East and West.

Latvian President Levits said that safety of the Belarus NPP, located some 100 kilometres from Latvia, was key, but came short of promising to boycott Belarusian electricity.

“We are building an infrastructure for a common market and will look at where electricity can come from. Security is a priority and, unless it is followed, we shouldn't talk any further,” Levits said.

Border issues

Another contentious issue is the maritime border which Lithuania ratified two decades ago, but Latvia has stalled to do the same.

Riga first wants to reach an agreement on economic cooperation on the continental shelf where an oil field has been discovered.

Latvia has been conducting exploration works close to the border, to Lithuania's slight annoyance.

“It would be great if the [oil] scouting plans were coordinated with the Lithuanian side,” Nausėda said. “We would be happy to get more information about the essence of the explorations.”

All his counterpart said was that the Latvian government had well-meaning intentions and the issue could be settled “in the near future”.

Asked after the meeting to summarize the degree of alignment between himself and Levits, Nausėda offered the following: “We completely agreed on some issues, and on others we left some space for ourselves to agree more in the future.”

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