Archive for February, 2008

Edward Lucas ‘The New Cold War’ in Lithuanian

Naujasis Saltasis KarasThe Lithuanian Baltos Lankos publishing house introduced its new publication, Edward Lucas’ The New Cold War’ in Lithuanian today.  The book was presented during a discussion at the Vilnius’ Book Fair.  Mr Virgis Valantinavicius moderated the discussion.  The book is already well known in Lithuania even before its official appearance.

Some of the commentators joking that the President Adamkus did a promotion for the book during his recent interview to the FT warning the West about a possibility of the New Cold War between the West and Russia.

Well, I am off to read the book, what about you?

February 23, 2008 at 9:28 pm 5 comments

‘Kosovo is Serbia!’ a slogan in Vilnius

KFOR in KosovoIt is only a matter of days before Lithuania officially will recognize the Kosovo Independence.  Meanwhile the Lietuvos Rytas basketball club supporters raised a banner ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ during a match just few days ago.  So, what is happening in Lithuania?

First of all lets talk big politics.  According to the Lithuanian Constitution such an act could be adopted only by the Parliament (Seimas).  However, some politicians argue that the President alone could do this.

Nevertheless, the President already congratulated Kosovars with their Independence and asked the Minter of Foreign Affairs to submit the recognition proposal to Seimas.Hence, Seimas will begun its spring session on the 10th of March.  Then it looks that the matter will be solved soon after.  When the Chairman of the Seimas’ Foreign Affairs Committee was asked why Vilnius is lagging behind its Baltic neighbours and does not recognise Kosovo now he replied that ‘this is not a sports race’.

Well said, because Lithuania and Serbia (maybe more accurately, ex-Yugoslavia) has a very long sports ‘love and hate’ relationship.  This is of course about Lithuania’s second religion – HM basketball.  Since the Soviet times every game between a Lithuanian team and an ex-Yugoslavian team (regardless BCs or on the National lever after we gained Independence) was a nerve rack.  Lithuanians were good but the Serbs or Croatians could also play, and sometimes win.  When the Lithuanians lost it was never our fault, it was the Yugoslavians who bribed the referees, and so on, and so forth.

We have one or two ex-Yugoslav basketball players here and our Lietuvos Rytas team is trained by a Serb Trifunovic.  As we know the sports could be very political.  A great manifestation of that was a match in Vilnius when some of the Lietuvos Rytas’ supporters raised a banner with a slogan ‘Kosovo is Serbia!’  The Serbian coach refused to comment on it.

I am not convinced that the supports thought about the politics, more likely they thought about a moral support for their coach.  Same as the Kaunas’ Žalgiris suporters raised the Palestinian flag during a game with the Tel Aviv Maccabi team.  I am quite convinced that when the Lietuvos Rytas will change the coach to not a Serbian, we will see the Kosovo flags flying during a match against a Serbian team.  The Lithuanian sports fans are notorious of their Political Incorrectness.  We should only remember when the Lithuanian national team’s football fans unveiled a large banner with a shape of African Continent in the French national colours with a slogan ‘Welcome to Europe’.

Even thought the Lithuanian media is covering the Kosovo events well, I am not sure that many Lithuanians too concerned what is happening there.  However, the media and the politicians are quite united in support of Kosovo case.  First of all, Serbia is portrayed as the last bastion of the Russian influence in the Balkans.  Hence, this automatically puts Serbia ‘on the wrong side of the fence.’  Second of all, the commentators argue that this is not an ideal solution to the problem but it is the best in this complex situation.

However, there is a feeling in the air that the Serbs put their bet on the wrong horse, starting with Milosovech and ending up with the Russians.  Nevertheless, the Lithuanians congratulated the outcome of the Presidential elections in Serbia.

But the biggest talk in town at the moment is not Kosovo, it is the Vilnius Book Fair, the International Baltic book fair.  Reading books is once again become a fashionable past time in Lithuania.  This year the Fair welcomed the acclaimed American novelist John Irving (read an interview with him) and the most popular living Norwegian writer Per Petterson.

P.S. I am not sure that many from the general public aware that the Kosovars are the Muslims.  Having in mind that absolute majority of the Lithuanians have a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the Muslims, their view of Kosovo would alter.  Paradox is that a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the other races than white does not obstruct Lithuanians’ fascination with the black NBA players.  Furthermore, my generation’s never ending ‘love affair’ with Freddy Mercury goes on despite a very ‘reserved’ view towards the gay persons. 

February 22, 2008 at 2:18 pm 8 comments

The Baltic States should unite!

February 16 in Vilnius, Presidential Palace (source President.lt)All Lithuania celebrated the 90th Independence Day.  In 1918, February 16 group of 20 Lithuanian intellectuals gathered in Vilnius and declared Lithuania’s Independence.  A week later the Estonians followed suit, the Latvians caught up in November of 1918.

I am not going to remind you importance of this day in the Lithuanian history, and would recommend you to visit the Wikipedia site.  I would like to talk about the present.

Interestingly enough but the Baltic States of Lithuanian, Latvia and Estonia has a great tradition of raising the flags of all three countries in marking each country’s Independence Day.

This was decided when the three Baltic States regained their hard thought Independence in 1990.  However, few years later our states turned into competitors, even in achieving their strategic aims of joining the NATO, and especially the EU.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with a good competition, and after all, perhaps because of that the occupied ex-Soviet provinces managed to catch up and join the EU together with Eastern European States like Czech Republic and Slovenia.

The well-deserved Baltic States acceptance to the Western political and security club almost left those states without a future direction.  There is a feeling of achievement and calmness, and an attitude that since we are in, we are safe, prevails.  Estonia is concentrated in becoming a Golden Province of the EU and completely turned into itself in perusing its goal.

The Estonians are planning to reach the top 5 richest EU nations in 20 years time.  On the other hand the Lithuanians altruistically engaged on a ‘white man’s burden’ mission of spreading democracy to the Ukraine and South Caucasus (there is no much talk about Belarus any more).  This policy according to the politicians should turn Vilnius in same kind of a Regional Centre.  Never mind that there is a plenty of room in improving the Lithuanian democracy, not to mention of exporting it.

Furthermore, Riga is experiencing the ‘eyes opening revelation’ and is conciliating of becoming a Russian advocates in the Brussels.  The influx of the Russian investment into Riga is playing its part in ‘turning’ some politicians into ‘friendly’ mood.  Of course, one has to have in mind a ‘delicate’ size of the national minority, especially in Riga.  If one is running Riga, one could run the all country.

In short the Baltic States are so pleased with themselves to such extend that we begun to forget our history lessons.  We can survive only when we stick together.  Lets remember 1920s and 1930s when we never managed to create a block together and lost our independence, and lets compare it to the 1990s.  The Economist called Latvia a ‘swing state’, which is starting to become manipulated by the Kremlin.  The same author warns that Russia is starting to retrieve the Eastern European states ‘not by tanks but by banks’.  Edward Lucas also notices that the West is loosing its influence in the Eastern Europe and is ‘rolling back’.

In short the Empire is striking back.  The Baltic States should drop an illusion that the ‘West will help us’ and start uniting its act together.  The West will not help anyone unless one is willing to help yourself.  The Baltic States should enhance their cooperation and start thinking about the Baltic region as one entity.  At least the three should begin cooperating closely in the security and information areas.  If the Finnish President voiced an initiative to begin an enhanced cooperation in security amongst the Baltic and Nordic States it should be taken as a wake up call to the region.

The Baltic States are also loosing the information war to Russia.  An average Balt knows much better what is happening in London or in Stockholm rather than in Vilnius, Tallinn or Riga.  Apart from the Baltic Times weekly there is not a Pan Baltic information outlet, which would cover all three Baltic States.  I am not talking about the City Paper that is based in Riga but writes mainly about Estonia that is not a bad think in itself.  A trouble with the Baltic Times is that, at least in Lithuania, we have very few politicians with a decent command of English, even though the young generation has no problem with that.

Despite the advancement of the IT the absolute majority of the Balts receive their main news from the TV.  Hence, what about a Pan Baltic TV channel which would broadcast in all three languages with the local subtitles.  Such a channel could ‘introduce’ all three states to each other, and hence will make us closer.  From what I understand the Lithuanian National translator approached the Latvian colleagues with such an idea.  However, the answer was negative due to lack of funding.

The Romans wisely observed that if a nation doesn’t provide for its own army, sooner of latter it will have to provide for the foreign troops.  The Baltic States already providing to the foreign troops, in the face of the Pan Baltic Kremlin’s financed Russian language First Baltic Channel, which is, by coincidence is registered in Riga. Lets hope that the New Pan Baltic and the Polish Ignalina Nuclear Plant project will be a source of growing unity amongst all four and especially amongst the Balts.  The project might take more than a decade to complete, hence we will be compelled to cooperate and get know each other better.

Lets hope that the news about the building of the plant will reach the general participant countries’ public not only via the First Baltic Channel, Regnum.ru or other Kremlin controlled media outlets but by our own media outlets.  The Kremlin is extremely skilful in manipulating information to its own needs.  Hence, lets unite, lets work together!

February 18, 2008 at 10:57 pm 12 comments

The Lithuanian President gives his blessing to the LEO LT. A busy week in the Lithuanian energy sector

LionThe Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus signed the amendments to the nuclear power plant law on February 12.  The signed amendments gave way for establishment of a national investor company Leo LT, which to be involved in construction of a nuclear plant and energy links with the West. A day before the President told to the Lithuanian media that he would be criticised if either way, so he decided to sign the document.

The President issued statement to the nation saying that “I came to this decision without any outside influences, any persuasion attempts, and having considered all the discussions, what was said and requested, I did this following my own consciousness, thinking that this is the sole best decision for the future at this time.”
The law was actively discussed in Lithuanian public.  I would like to present few pros and cons from the discussion: 

Arguments against;

There are no calculations how much it will cost

Will the electricity for the Lithuanian consumer be cheaper

Will the Nuclear plant reduce Lithuania’s dependency on Russia

The privatisation of the NDX lacked transparency

The private investor got the best deal out of it, the stata was robed

The State will held less than two thirds of the shares

The private investor will control all process since the public sector is weakThere are not enough safeguards to obligate the LEO LT to build the plant and the links with Poland and Sweden

The process was not transparent, no competition, Adamkus had met with the NDX half a year ago without an official announcement, same with PM Kirkilas. and etc.Only 63 parliamentarians out of 141 voted in favour of this crucially important project

Inviting a Vilniaus Prekyba Goupr to the the project would go against President’s warnings about dangers of oligarchy in politics and business

Unclear if this merger will not clash with the new EU legislation on separation of the energy destribution and production

Construction of the Plant will divert Lithuania’s attention away from developing the renewable energy capacity

Kuodis, Lithuanian National Bank
Everything taking place in the Lithuanian energy sector after VST privatization is, to my mind, one big affair crowned by the national investor”. The legislation stipulates two different processes:
the construction of the nuclear power plant,
studies into its necessity and a determination to solve energy problems of the country or entire region on one hand and financing issues on the other.

“Now we see the national investor project pushed into the Seimas under the disguise of the nuclear power plant,” said the economic analyst. The decision to construct a power plant is followed by a year of design works, which do not require extensive funding and can be funded by the state.

Foreign investors should not be ruled out in the solution of the financing matter.Consequences of the legislation to ordinary users, in Kuodis’ words, should be described in relevant studies that were never carried out.

He said this led to fears that the new power plant could be not competitive.

Arguments in favour:

All process was clear and transparent

We cannot wait any longer, since our partners (the other Balts and Poland) might find another alternatives

There are enough safeguards against for the state

The private partner will give all project an energy, expertise and aggressiveness

The cooperation will create the strongest company in the region

The state could not afford finically to undertake such project on its own Vilniaus prekyba  (the private investor) arguments:

We’ve spoken out our clear and rooted attitude, that Lithuania must reach independence in the domain of energy”

The VP group assured of having made a commitment to the president to review controversially acclaimed draft settlement agreements.We have very explicitly committed to participate and we confirm this. This is a firm stance of our company”

We don’t want the Lietuvos Energija to be the mother company of the investor since we don’t want to build the Plant for the Russians

We live here; we will build the plant and the links to the West since we want our children to live in a free and prosperous Lithuania.

The President noted to having written a long letter to Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas: “I signed the law and right away wrote a letter to the prime minister, expounding on the entire situation, and setting certain conditions. I hope that the government, prime minister will pay due attention to those conditions outlined by myself and will manage this whole thing with the future in mind”.

As the BNS informs the main requirement made in the letter of the president, was that Lithuania’s interests be given due consideration, no parties be given privileges and the entire implementation of the project be transparent, clear and understandable to the Lithuanian people.

The PM Kirkilas told the press that he has not yet had the time to read the letter, however promised to take all of the president’s requirements into considerations, just as long as the “possibilities and legislation allow”.  “In the short run, after the main negotiator – the Economy Minister – returns from Poland, we will all sit down at a table and definitely implement all of the president’s proposals”, Kirkilas said.

The PM said he believes that Leo LT will be created by beginning of May, and will begin negotiations over establishing a common company with Latvia, Estonia and Poland shortly thereafter: “Those negotiations will not be simple either”.

The Lithuanian PM Kirkilas on the other hand will propose that the government form a supervisory committee for the national investor, which is to be involved in constructing a new nuclear power plant and energy links with Sweden and Poland.

According to the PM press office press release the committee would supervise and coordinate the activities representing the nation’s – as shareholder’s of Leo LT – interests and make respective proposals to the government about constant improvement of this activity, the governmental press service said.

The press service also stated that the prime minister will propose that representatives from the State Security Department, National Control, National Control Commission for Prices and Energy Commission, and respective ministries get involved in the activity of the new supervisory committee.

After signing the amendments the President went to Poland were he participated in signing the documents of creation a joint company joint company, which will build a link between the two countries.

Well, it has to be said that this week was exceptionally busy in the Lithuanian energy sector. This blog will write more about the latest Lithuanian Polish deal in Warsaw.

February 12, 2008 at 9:47 pm 3 comments

Lithuania – Sweden ‘Let’s get connected!’

Adamkus and OlofssonThe Swedish Vice-PM Mrs. Olofsson visited Lithuania on 5-6 February.  The visit has attracted a wide Lithuanian media attention.  The reason for this attention was that the visit took place in the heated debates on the energy issues background.  The Law of the establishment of the National Investor the LEO LT passed the parliament few days before, there is an intensive debate about prolonging of the Ignalina Power Plant life span and a debate what will happen when (if) the plant will terminate its electricity production at the end of 2009.  Only a thought that the Ignalina provides 75% of all electricity in Lithuania and that Lithuania still has no electrical connections to the West raises the temperature in Lithuanian political scene.  Not to mention that the elections to Seimas will take place in October.In addition another important event took only a day before the Vice-PM’s visit.  Lithuanian Lietuvos Energija and its Swedish counterpart, Svenska Kraftnat, completed a feasibility study on linking the energy systems of the two countries. The heads of the two companies signed in Stockholm a memorandum stating their intentions to continue cooperation on the project on February 5.

The Lietuvos Energija CEO Rymantas Juozaitis said in a statement: “We highly appreciate this effective and mutually beneficial cooperation between Lithuanian and Swedish energy experts. The goals set for the study have been fully achieved. We have agreed with Svenska Kraftnat to continue discussions on project implementation issues.”

He also stated that that both Lithuania and Sweden viewed the project as a good opportunity to connect their electricity markets and to create the conditions for the Baltic countries’ integration into the EU’s energy market. The BNS reminded that the power connection would also help deal with issues of system reliability, safe electricity supplies and diversification of energy sources.

The study evaluated the possibility of linking the electricity grids of the two countries via a 350-kilometer cable under the Baltic Sea. If it were decided to build wind turbines and hook them up to the underwater cable, it would require a capacity of 1,000 megawatts.

Lietuvos Energija reminded that a 1,000 MW power link would allow the two countries not only to link their energy systems, but also to develop renewable electricity generation. The results of the study showed that the power link project would be feasible and economically viable and that it could be implemented by 2015.

After Mrs. Olofsson’s meeting with the President the Palace press office issued a statement, which also said that “Amid the upcoming decommissioning of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, the project carries not only a commercial but also strategic importance to entire region and Lithuania.”

The energy link was discussed also in the meetings with the Lithuanian PM and the Minister of the Economy.

However, Mrs Olofsson had to explain the Lithuanian politicians that Stockholm perceives the construction of the electrical grid only as a commercial project.  During the press conference she had to remind the Lithuanian media that the Swedish Government cannot decide for the Svenska Kraftnat what to do, this is a project between Lietuvos Energija and the Svenska Kraftnat.

The Lithuanian side sees this project as a strategic necessity and received some news about the SwedLit with a dose of scepticism.  The crux of the matter is that the Lithuanian politicians wrongly convinced the Lithuanian media and the public that the SwedLit will be built by 2012.  This date is even written in the National Energy strategy.

However, the cautious Swedes informed that Lithuanian side that the date of the grid’s completion could be 2015.  The Lithuanian media, which likes to hear what it wants to hear, exclaimed that the SwedLit will be completed only by 2015.  However, it sounds that the Vice-PM meant 2015 is the latest date of completion.  However, the biggest question ‘IF’ is replaced by ‘WHEN’.

The Nord Stream was also discussed.  The President’s press office stated that “Lithuania is particularly alarmed over the impact of the Baltic pipeline to the ecology of the Baltic Sea, therefore, we cannot come up with argumentation why the Amber Pipe project was not planned via the Baltics of territories of other EU members.”Furthermore, the press office informed that Mrs. Olofsson underscored that all matters relating to the ecology of the Baltic Sea required professional analysis and assessment. In her words, Sweden and its companies are willing to share their technological experience in generating energy from renewable sources and reduction of climate pollution.

Hence, the Swedish-Lithuanian energy cooperation is getting a shape and is intensifying, better later that never.  ‘Let’s get connected!’

February 8, 2008 at 5:15 pm 8 comments

Lithuanian parlt gives blessing to construction of new power plant

LionOne of the most significant law in the modern Lithuanian history passed in the Parliament on February 1.  Lithuanian Seimas passed amendments to the bill on nuclear power plant, which will capacitate finishing negotiations between the government and privately owned NDX Energija regarding the national investor.

It is proposed to create Leo LT, which would build a new nuclear power plant and energy links with Poland and Sweden, not through the state-owned Lietuvos Energija – as had been planned before – but through a new company, as NDX energy has bargained with the government.

This new company would incorporate the shares of state-owned Lietuvos Energija and distribution grid operator Rytu Skirstomieji Tinklai (RST) as well as Vakaru Skirstomieji Tinklai (VST), owned by NDX Energy.

This controversial law was widely discussed in the Lithuanian media and amongst the politicians.  Some 63 MPs voted in favour of the amendments, 11 voted against and three abstained.  The voting was boycotted by the Seimas opposition – Liberal Democrats, the Liberal Movement, Liberal Centrist Party, the Conservatives and a few members of other parliamentary groups.

The amendments will take effect if nation’s leader Valdas Adamkus doesn’t veto them.  Conservative Party leader urges Lithuanian president to veto amendments to the nuclear power plant.  As the BNS reported MP Kubilius notes that should nation’s leader Valdas Adamkus not veto the amendments, this would be a signal to entrepreneurs round the country that they can get away with whatever they do and however they choose to do it.

“The negotiations were not transparent, and the government has failed at defending public interest”, Kubilius said in a press conference organized Monday.

He noted that the bill is not flawless, as it was passed without presenting calculations on the expenditures of constructing the new plant and the price of energy it will produce.

The MP added that it is unclear as to how the new plant will incorporate the currently existent Ignalina N-plant’s infrastructure, and how the Kruonis pump storage power plant located in central Lithuania will function.

The government will control 61.7 % and NDX energy will control the remaining 38.3 % in the national investor company Leo LT.

The opposition voiced concerns that the Leo LT’s main objective written in the agreement is not to build the new plant and the links but to seek profit for the company and its share holders.  This aspect concerns Liberal Centrist leader Zuokas.

However, Lithuanian side has kept its promise to create a national investor to begin negotiations with its other partners of Latvia, Estonia and Poland.  The Economy ministers of all three ministers have met in Vilnius today.  The Lithuanian minister Navickas was pleasantly surprised by his Polish counterpart’s initiative.  The Polish Economy minister invited the Lithuanian Economy minister to sign an agreement in establishing a joint company, which will link the Lithuanian, and the Polish electricity grid.

This blog wrote about the negotiations between Lithuanian and Poland regarding the grid.

February 4, 2008 at 9:26 pm 6 comments


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