Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says that an agreement has been reached with Latvia to appoint a group of experts to look at possible ways of blocking electricity from Belarus' Astravyets nuclear power plant, which could signal a positive shift in the neighboring country's more reserved position toward the facility under construction some 50 kilometers from Vilnius.
Žygimantas Vaičiūnas
© DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

"We have Latvia's political support. We have agreed on the need to have a common stance on this issue as well, including on the restricting of access for electricity. We have agreed to appoint a joint group of experts to assess technical possibilities of implementing all these measures. It should start working as soon as possible," the minister told BNS by telephone from Riga after meeting with Latvian Economics Minister Arvils Aseradens on Wednesday.

Vaičiūnas said that this did not mean that Latvia agreed to boycott Belarusian electricity, but rather that it wanted to evaluate the possible technical and economic consequences of such a move.

Nevertheless, the Lithuanian minister regards the position of the neighboring country as a positive shift.

"I presented in detail (Lithuania's) law on blocking access for electricity to our market, as well as the parliamentary parties' agreement (on the Belarusian project), which is a clear signal that we have a clear national position and that it gives a stimulus to have a common position in the region as well. I regard this as a certain shift, but as to specific decisions, it remains to be seen. However, there is consensus that we must immediately seek agreement at the level of the whole region as well," he said.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said in an interview with BNS in mid-January that Latvia backed Lithuania's position to insist on the highest safety standards at the Astravyets plant, but he added that is country was not considering restricting electricity imports from the facility under construction just 50 kilometers from Vilnius.

The Latvian minister also said that discussions over the Astravyets project had become a domestic policy issue in Lithuania.

Lithuania maintains that the Astravyets facility falls short of safety standards, but Minsk rejects the criticism as unfounded, saying that the power plant will meet the highest standards.

Belarus is building two nuclear reactors of 1,200 megawatts each in Astravyets, with the first unit planned to be switched on in 2019 and the second one in 2020.

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