In a speech to delegates at the European Union 2020: “Enlarging and Integrating” conference held in Bled, Slovenia Aug 27, Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas defended his country’s commitment to nuclear power and voiced strong criticisms of Russia.
He defended the EU against accusations that it is merely a “handful of eurocrats and directives”, instead characterizing it as “solidarity, peace, prosperity, freedom [and] democracy… It is becoming universally accepted that EU enlargement is a success story if not a little political miracle for us.” “In my opinion the European Neighborhood policy is a relevant part in the enlargement. We all must, therefore, continue to actively support reforms in the South Caucasus, Ukraine and Moldova, let alone, in Belarus,” Kirkilas said.
Having talked up Europe, the prime minister then talked down Russia.
“The political and democratic situation in Russia worries us: abolished media independence, continued violations of human rights and manipulation of energy resources [the unexplained stop of oil supplies via the Druzhba pipeline to Lithuania], aggressive rhetoric as well as recent events in Estonia, UK and Georgia raise serious concerns.” Finally, Kirkilas re-affirmed Lithuania’s commitment to nuclear energy, justifying it as both a necessity and – more contentiously - an environmentally-friendly move. “I would like to specifically underline the importance of nuclear energy, which reduces the greenhouse effect,” he said.
“Nuclear energy is not an Ugly Duckling any more. It can be an alternative to traditional energy resources. Lithuania opts for nuclear energy since it is very important for our energy security. Our dependence on imported gas from the monopoly supplier will significantly increase due to the closure of Ignalina nuclear power plant by the end of 2009. Unfortunately, we have no energy links with the rest of the EU. “Therefore, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland decided to build a new modern Western type nuclear power plant in Lithuania by 2015. It will diminish dependence on almost 100% imported hydrocarbons and make our primary energy consumption mix more balanced. In parallel, implementation of the nuclear power plant project will strengthen the commercial attraction of power grids with Poland and Sweden and join the Union for the Co-ordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE),” he concluded.