Die Welt – New Lithuanian PM favours cancellation of Baltic pipeline project
The German newspaper Die Welt on 24 November published an interview with the Lithuanian new Prime Minister Mr Andrius Kubilius
(Die Welt) Lithuania holds a record in the EU – in emigration. According to estimates, up to 10 per cent of the entire population are working abroad nowadays. Why?
(Kubilius) We have seen a high degree of emigration since the mid-90s. It is difficult to capture it in statistics and to explain why more people are still emigrating from Lithuania than from Estonia or Latvia. I have my own explanation: the Lithuanians are courageous people. They do not seem to mind much packing up and moving to Ireland or Great Britain. We will see what will happen now that the destination countries are suffering from a crisis.
(Die Welt) You have two grown sons. Will they also have to look for work abroad?
(Kubilius) No, they still live with us, in the “Mama Hotel,” as we say. They are working in public relations.
(Die Welt) In Latvia and in Estonia the economy has shrunk by more than 3 per cent recently. Latvia has asked the IMF for a loan. . . .
(Kubilius) We have not been hit quite so hard by the crisis. However, this is probably just a matter of time. We are all on the way into a recession. Our coalition has drawn up an anti-crisis plan. We want to reduce the budget deficit from the predicted 5 per cent to 1 per cent. We want to reduce salary payments by the state by 15 per cent. And we must also deal with social expenditures.
(Die Welt) When it joined the EU in 2004, Lithuania committed itself to closing down the Ignalina nuclear power plant by the end of 2009. Is this realistic?
(Kubilius) If the current financial crisis were joined by an energy crisis, this would be a disaster. There is a very good dialogue with the EU Commission, in which a solution is to be found – above all, an energy bridge to Sweden or Poland. I would also support a Baltic nuclear power plant, which the three states and Poland could build together. All this will become topical in 2012 or 2013 at the most. Let us be honest: at the beginning of 2010 we will have an energy gap. By the way, when we joined the EU, the EU, too, incurred obligations. We need solidarity of deeds, not just of words.
(Die Welt) Russian Prime Minister Putin has indicated that Moscow might withdraw from the project of the German-Russian Baltic Sea pipeline. What does this mean?
(Kubilius) We have been sceptical about this gas pipeline right from the start – for ecological and political reasons as well as for reasons of energy security. The costs of the construction would be very high. And there are forecasts – Russian and foreign ones – that Russia will not be able to supply the promised amounts of gas in the next decade. Russia has not invested enough in new gas fields. When Putin says Russia might withdraw, the country obviously is in a crisis itself and is coming to a more realistic position. I would be pleased about an end to the project.
(Die Welt) The only Baltic oil refinery is in Mažeikiai. Russia has ceased oil deliveries, claiming that the pipeline has been damaged.
(Kubilius) Lithuania has suggested itself to carry out repairs on Russian territory. However, I do not know whether Russia wants to see this pipeline back in operation. The closing down is a punitive political measure, because Lithuania has sold the refinery not to a Russian candidate but to the Polish Orlen Corporation. This is a mixture of politics and business. Russia is losing profits by doing this. However, the refinery is in a good situation. It buys oil on the world market and gets it delivered by tankers.
(Die Welt) Most recently, Lithuania was the only EU state that opposed a new partnership agreement between the EU and Russia – because of Georgia. What will your government do?
(Kubilius) I hope that a clearer strategic thinking will begin in Europe. Europe must understand that it has a responsibility: Russia needs help, help that prevents the country from making the same mistakes again as it made in connection with Georgia or Estonia (when moving a Soviet war memorial caused a crisis – the editor). If Europe says: these mistakes are forgotten, let’s do “business as usual,” this would have harmful effects not only on European interests but also on the development in Russia.
(Die Welt) Could the large Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia become a problem?
(Kubilius)The rights of these minorities are at the highest European level. However, Russia’s actions in the northern Caucasus and in the Crimea show: there are attempts to use minorities for political goals. In the end, this makes the life of the minorities themselves more difficult, because political tensions develop around them.
(Die Welt) If the United States builds the missile shield in Poland, Russia intends to station new missiles in Kaliningrad. Does this frighten the Lithuanians?
(Kubilius) This would not necessarily promote security in the region. I do not understand at all how anybody can believe that the missile shield is aimed against Russia.
Source BBC Monitoring