Archive for August, 2007
This blog writes a lot on the New Nuclear Plant project in Lithuania. A weekly tabloid paper of the Russian minority in Lithuania Express Nedelia has published a commentary by Yuriy Dolinskiy: “New Nuclear Power Plant Still in the Mist”. Lets have a look at the doubts of the Russian tabloid regarding the project of the century in Lithuania. The BBC Monitoring Service translated the text.
The changes in the situation surrounding the construction of the new nuclear power plant at Ignalina show that serious disruptions may interfere with the process of solving the problems. If this happens, it will mean that Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas has not thought out the strategy for dealing with the problems and the line of his own behavior thoroughly enough.The situation is fraught with serious consequences, such as delays in the construction works at the new nuclear power plant, problems with Lithuania‘s economy, and also serious changes in the balance of political forces. And all that could happen not just because of the active opposition, which, of course, uses additional social problems in its political fight. Actually, it has the right to do that. If the prime minister has made serious mistakes, his further political career may become complicated, and he will have to give way to another leader, possibly a representative of another party.
In the 28th issue of Express Nedelia from 12 July, we presented a theory that the Lithuanian elite, namely its top business representatives, are gambling on this politician to become president in 2009. The suspiciously rapid movement up the political ladder of a former official of the Communist Party Central Committee Ideology Department, the number two person in the Social Democratic Party, the person who represented the president during the negotiations with Russia on Kaliningrad transit, a defense minister, and now the prime minister and leader of the LSDP, makes us come to this conclusion.
We assume that his career is based on close contacts with the biggest financial structures with a Euro-Atlantic orientation. This theory is based on the observation of the prime minister’s energetic lobbying for the law on the construction of the new nuclear power plant, a project in which the biggest business structures are certainly interested; after all the funds in the project will amount to many billions of euros. And if we are right about our assumptions, then the conclusion is as follows: For Kirkilas, the price of this issue is the presidency, therefore any serious problems in the implementation of the project are dangerous also to the party (LSDP), whose authority may be challenged because of the additional difficulties in the lives of the Lithuanians that may be caused by the decommissioning of the old Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant.
Another thing that draws our attention is the haste with which the law on the construction of the new nuclear power plant was adopted. The countries that are planning to participate in the construction project had asked for the adoption of the law to be postponed. Not all of them were happy with the distribution of the stock in favor of Lithuania. The prime minister had promised there would be no complications. The parliament voted in favor of the law. But the first problem immediately arose, which perhaps would not have been very important if it was not for the other ensuing problems.
Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski did not arrive for the symbolic meeting in Vilnius of the prime ministers of the countries that were planning to participate in the new nuclear power plant construction project. He gave a conventional explanation to his absence; he said he was very busy. However, we know that Poland is one of the major skeptics as far as the new nuclear power plant’s stock distribution is concerned.
The further it goes, the worst it gets. Estonia, whose participation in the project was not even doubted, suddenly decided to have a referendum on its participation in the project. Does this mean that Tallinn has started to have doubts and that it is going to use the referendum as an excuse to withdraw from the project or, at least, to review its conditions?
Actually, why should the new nuclear power plant be built in Lithuania? It will have to be built almost from scratch anyway. Could this be the logic of the Estonians, who are famous for their pragmatic attitude toward the economy?
Unlike in Estonia, economic decisions in Lithuania are often influenced by politics. This is quite obvious when we look at the Lithuanian oil sector, in which the country tends to complicate the situation so as not to broaden economic cooperation with Russia. The nuclear power plant project also took an unexpected turn: President Valdas Adamkus invited Ukraine to participate in the project. One thing here is very telling: The president did not invite Russia, which has world experience in the construction and operation of nuclear power facilities.
It is very strange, because it was not in Russia but in Ukraine that the Chernobyl catastrophe took place. Since Russia is blamed for the negative things that happened in the USSR, why should not Ukraine assume its part of the responsibility for the Soviet period? However, the main thing here is, that the law on the construction of the new nuclear power plant has already been adopted. The stock has been distributed. How is it possible to invite in a new partner? Or does it mean that the president has started doubting the participation of one of the partners and has decided to find a substitute for a possibly withdrawing partner?
There has been talk about the Swedes, who would also like to participate in the project. It looks like we should not have adopted the law in such haste. Poland is quite capable of reckless behavior, and the reason for that is not just their ambition to change the stock distribution. This country is in a political crisis; new parliamentary elections are imminent. It is not clear who will rule the government and what decisions they will make. Estonia, for example, has actually started to have doubts…
Moreover, not everything is clear about Latvia. It seemed that everything was decided, but the country has started public discussions of the Program of the Evaluation of the Impact of the New Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania on the Environment, prepared by the Lithuanian Energy Institute. This is reminiscent of the referendum idea in Estonia.
We should pay attention to the fact that this document does not rule out the possibility that, under certain negative circumstances, the project might be abandoned! If even Lithuanian experts are taking such an option into consideration, we should remember how the Latvian Greens protested against the construction of an oil terminal in Būtingė. They tried to stop its construction, citing only environmental danger. Whereas they were actually fighting for the primacy of the Ventspils terminal, an enterprise that did not need any competition. Again, could it be that Latvian politicians are questioning why the new nuclear power plant has to be constructed in Lithuania.
The Lithuanian opposition has already used the potential of these doubts to their own benefit. Labour Party leader Kęstutis Daukšys has publicly declared that the situation surrounding the construction of the new nuclear power plant in Lithuania is not clear. In his opinion, it will be completed not by 2015, as planned, but by 2017 at best. We have also heard about other dates, for example, 2020. A number of organizational issues, without which it is impossible to start the construction works, are actually only in the initial stage.A big financial-political game is under way. However, for the Lithuanian residents the price of his game is actually their own wellbeing.
The Civil Society Institute presented a pool conducted by the market research centre Vilmorus. The opinion all was done in October 2006. The Institute has presented a study ‘Lithuania between East and West’.
According to the survey the majority of the Lithuanian consider themselves pro-western, however, quite a few do not have a clear opinion as to what political regime they prefer.
The respondents prefer the western European and US political regimes most — they have the favour of more than 60 percent of the people polled. Lithuania’s political regime was approved by some 25% of the respondents, 30% were negative about it.
On the other hand 10% acclaimed the political regime in Russia, 50% gave a negative estimate to it, the Belarusian political regime was seen as a positive thing by 10% percent and as a negative thing — by 60% of the people polled, while 23% gave a positive estimate and 40% — a negative one when asked for an opinion about the political regime of the former Soviet Union.
The people polled believe the countries that are most friendly to Lithuania are Latvia (61% of the respondents), Poland (53%) and Estonia (45 %t), and the countries that are least friendly are Russia (62%) and Belarus (50%).
As the BNS reported, the opinions of the country’s residents of different nationalities differs — the Russians and the Poles in Lithuania tend to favour Russia and Belarus more than Lithuanians do. 40 % Russians in Lithuania believe their ethnic motherland is hostile towards Lithuania, 38% believe so about Belarus. Among the Polish residents of Lithuania, the opinions are quite similar — 39% and 37%, respectively.
People with above-average income who do not feel any nostalgia towards Russia have even less love lost for Russia and Belarus.
According to the survey If it become public that some Lithuanian political power or figure is supported by representatives of US capital, this news would be seen as a positive thing by 40% and as a negative one — by 24% of the people polled. On the other hand if a Russian capital was used by a political party, 20% of the respondents would favour and 45% would oppose that, this figure standing at 38% and 25% for Polish capital, 46% and 17% for western European and 16% and 48% for Belarusian capital, respectively.
As the Rresident’s press office informed the President met the Minister of Economy on the 21 of August. The Head of State discussed with the Minister of Economy another process of high importance which should not be delayed – the energy project on building the electricity bridge between Lithuania and Sweden. The feasibility study which should have been finalized by the end of August has been delayed and there are questions voiced regarding the benefit of the future electricity bridge.
President is convinced that Lithuania needs power connection with Sweden taking into consideration plans to build a modern Ignalina nuclear power plant. The Lithuanian President hopes that the feasibility study will be finished in time and the implementation of the project will not be delayed.
President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus received Mr. Carl Eric Stålberg, Chairman of the Board of the Swedish Bank Swedbank.As the Presidents office press relies revelled the meeting focused on the electricity bridge to be built between Lithuania and Sweden.
According to the President of Lithuania, the building of this bridge is of particular importance for creating a common European Union energy market. The Head of State expressed his belief that Swedish companies would become interested in investing into such energy projects.
At the meeting, the President and Chairman of the Swedish bank also discussed about the building of a new Ignalina nuclear power plant reactor. Private investors are to be involved in the project as well.Mr Stålberg is also going to have a working meeting with the Prime Minister of Lithuania Mr Gediminas Kirkilas
As the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry announced during the official visit to Serbia Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Petras Vaitiekūnas encouraged Serbia to enter into negotiations on the status of Kosovo constructively and seek for a compromise.
“Lithuania supports the resumed negotiations on the status of Kosovo between Belgrade and Priština, which are mediated by the European Union, the USA and Russia. We expect that the compromise on Kosovo’s future will have been reached by December of this year,” said the Head of Lithuanian diplomacy during the meeting with Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremić. According to P.Vaitiekūnas, Serbia should be interested to solve the issue of Kosovo as soon as possible.
“The solution regarding the status of Kosovo would allow faster integration of Serbia into the EU,” said Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs P.Vaitiekūnas.
As the Statistics Department reported annouced Lithuania’s gross domestic product grew by 8 percent in the second quarter of this year compared with a year earlier, to reach EUR 6.87 bln.
The growth was propelled by a 17.3 percent surge in construction, 10.7 percent growth in retail, hotels and restaurants, transport and communications segments, and a 8.8 percent increase in financial mediation, real estate and other businesses, the department said in a statement.
As a Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Zinios wrote that the most often proposed name in the contest on the name of the new nuclear plant to be constructed by four states in Lithuania is the Baltic Nuclear Plant.
The second often was the idea to call the nuclear plant by the name of Visaginas, in which it will be situated. The third was the name of Drukšiai Lake situated nearby.
According to the Visaginas Municipality some participants proposed to call the Nuclear Plant by the name of the member of the European Parliament, former leader of Lithuanian Conservatives Vytautas Landsbergis.
But, according to Lietuvos Zinios daily, the contest organized by Visaginas municipality also received a proposal to name the nuclear plant. “We understood that as a joke,” told the Visaginas’ Municipality official.
The speculations by Russia that it would deploy the nuclear bombs in Belarus are ” next door to hallucinations ” the Director of the International Relations and Political Sciences Institute of the Vilnius University Raimundas Lopata told to the BNS.
In the opinion of the Director, such actions would contravene the 1968 Treaty on Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, other international commitments, including the 1992 Lisbon protocol to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
As the Lithuania’s President office informed Lech Kaczynski confirmed Poland’s interest to participate in the building of a new nuclear power plant. Presidents expressed hope that advanced technologies will be used ensuring integration of all Baltic States into the Union for the Co-ordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE).
Presidents agreed that a joint Lithuanian-Polish enterprise will be set up in the nearest future for the purpose of building the electricity bridge.
In an interview to the Bloomberg The Lithuanian PM Kirkilas said that Lithuania should adopt Euro in 2009. `The main point of our policies is that we will have a balanced budget in 2009 or the latest in 2010 and when that happens we will be ready to adopt the common currency.”
As Bloomberg reports the three Baltic states are under threat of an economic collapse because they their growth is among the fastest in the 27- nation EU. Lithuania’s economic growth slowed to a preliminary 8 percent in the second quarter from 8.3 percent in the first quarter, but according to Kirkilas “I do not see that danger as economic growth will slow to 6.5 percent next year, then 6 percent in 2009 and around 5 percent in 2010.” The main Lithuania’s obstacle to qualify for the Euro criteria was and remains a rising inflation. It should be remembered that Lithuania missed the Euro criteria inflation target of only by 0,1% in 2006. Many in Vilnius saw the refusal to allow Lithuania to adopt Euro as a political decision. However, the inflation is on the rise still. At the moment the inflation is about 5,1% in July, highest since 1998.
The PM said to the Bloomberg that `We had a pickup in inflation because of taxation and higher prices for alcohol and tobacco,” Kirkilas said. “Energy prices have been the main driver of inflation and have increased on average between 25 and 30 percent from the start of the year.”The rising wages are also to blame for the rising inflation. As the BNS reported an average monthly gross earnings rose by 20.2 percent in Lithuania in the second quarter of this year and the average net salary soared by 27.6 percent, year-on-year bases.
However, it needs to be noted that some of the Lithuanian business commentators are convinced that it would be impossible to join Euro by then.