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2020.06.30 08:00

Estonia criticises Lithuania's position on Belarus nuclear imports – 'worst time to show our differences'

LRT.lt2020.06.30 08:00

An Estonian official has criticised Lithuania for alleged incoherence, saying “it’s hard to keep up” with Vilnius' changing positions on energy imports from Belarus.

In a statement published by ERR News on Saturday, Estonian Deputy Secretary General for Energy Timo Tatar said that “a few years ago” Lithuania “was trying to convince Estonia and Latvia that maintaining a priority trade corridor (200 MW) between Belarus and Lithuania was absolutely necessary to ensure its security of supply”.

For the past several years, however, Lithuania has been trying to rally Estonia and Latvia to join a boycott of Belarusian nuclear energy imports.

Read more: Critics fear Lithuania may ‘capitulate’ in the fight against Belarusian nuclear plant

Last week, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda snubbed the annual meeting of the Baltic leaders over a failure to agree on a joint position. He also turned to the European Commission for mediation in the Baltic dispute.

Estonia’s Tatar criticised the timing of the negotiations, saying discussions involving the European Commission “should have been held a couple of years ago”.

The Baltic grid operators “have just recently submitted their investment request to the European Commission for the second stage of Baltic states synchronisation” project, “making it the worst timing to demonstrate our differences in public”, he said.

The only way to mitigate the safety issues with the Belarusian nuclear plant is “to accelerate the synchronisation project”, added Tatar.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are gearing up to switch from the Soviet-era BRELL power grid, which is controlled by Moscow and includes Belarus. By 2025, the Baltic states are due to connect via Poland with the continental European network.

Meanwhile, implementing a ban on Belarusian nuclear imports is technically “extremely difficult”, said Tatar, as “technical flows follow laws of physics”.

Critics in Lithuania have also said it would be difficult to prove the origin of imported electricity. Even if Lithuania blocks energy trade with Belarus on its border, the electricity can still enter the common market via Russia.

However, Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says energy grid operators will have to establish a certification procedure.

Lithuania says the Astravyets nuclear power plant in Belarus some 50 kilometres from Vilnius is being built in breach of international safety standards and is a tool for Moscow to apply pressure on the Baltic states and Minsk.

Belarus denies all allegations.

Read more: Kremlin may threaten nuclear incidents in Belarus to blackmail Lithuania – MP