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2021.01.15 16:42

Lithuania to look for long-term strategy on Belarus

BNS2021.01.15 16:42

During a meeting of experts on foreign policy issues, the Lithuanian president’s office has proposed to develop a long-term strategy on Belarus.

“It was agreed that support to Belarusian civil society [and] to democratic processes is very important,” said Asta Skaisgirytė, adviser to Lithuania President Gitanas Nausėda.

The Foreign Policy Coordination Council, consisting of senior Lithuanian officials and members of the civil society, held a meeting on Friday to discuss developing a policy based on a “national consensus”, according to Skaisgirytė.

According to the adviser, the participants of the meeting also discussed the Belarusian nuclear power plant in Astravyets, which Lithuania says was built in breach of international safety standarts.

Lithuania has been seeking an international ban on electricity produced at the nuclear plant. Although reaching an agreement on a joint Baltic boycott, the Lithuanian energy regulator has refused to endorse it. Latvia has now upped energy trade with Russia and Lithuanian officials say that electricity produced at Astravyets now reaches the Baltic grid via Moscow.

Read more: Lithuania's feud with Baltic states over energy trade – explainer

"The safety of Astravyets has become a pan-European issue and not just Lithuania’s headache," said Skaisgirytė. "All EU leaders agree that the European Commission should look at legal aspects [on] how to prevent access to the EU market for Belarusian electricity."

"If Lithuania bars [direct] access, it does not mean that it [Belarusian electricity] will not reach [the country] through other countries,“ she said, adding that a solution should be found on the level of the European Union.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said he will to Latvia to continue talks on energy trade with Russia.

“Our stance is very clear: the methodology [on energy trade] has not yet been agreed. Now we have invitations from Latvia’s prime minister and [energy] minister to come to Latvia for a meeting once it‘s possible,” he said.

Read more: Tikhanovskaya compares Belarus protests to Lithuania’s independence struggle

According to Skaisgirytė, this particular format had been initiated to find a “national consensus” on Lithuania’s foreign policy. The council, therefore, “acts as a platform for foreign policy discussions both among policymakers and experts”, she said.

In addition to the Lithuanian president, the remote meeting of the Foreign Policy Coordination Council was also attended by Speaker of the Seimas Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, chairman of the parlimanetary committee on foreign affairs, Žygimantas Pavilionis, and chair of the parlimanetary committee on European affairs, Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė.

Members of the civil society to join the forum included Linas Kojala, head of the Eastern Europe Studies Centre Linas Kojala, Margarita Šešelgytė, director Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science, and Šarūnas Liekis, dean of the faculty for Political Science and Diplomacy of Vytautas Magnus University.

Read more: Belarus nuclear plant – safety threat or Kremlin's tool to keep Baltics close?

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