|Author (Person)||Cronin, David|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.31, 2.8.01, p6|
Major EU funding will be required to help Lithuania close one of Europe's most dangerous nuclear plants, the country's new prime minister has said.
During his first visit to Brussels since taking office three weeks ago, Algridas Brazauskas told European Voice he will be asking the European Commission to cover some of the cost of decommissioning the two Chernobyl-type reactors at the Ignalina plant.
Vilnius has pledged to close one of the Soviet RBMK reactors by 2005 and to announce when the second can be closed in 2004. "We understand that the second unit will have to be shut down sooner or later," said Brazauskas. "But there is no ground to believe that Lithuania will be capable of shutting down the plant with its own financial resources. That would be unrealistic."
It is estimated that €250 million will be needed to put the first reactor out of commission but it is unclear how much will be required for the second. As Ignalina provides 70 of the country's power, it is due to be the dominant issue when discussions on bringing Lithuania into line with EU energy policies get under way in the autumn.
The future of the plant and Russia's Baltic enclave Kaliningrad were identified as the two priority questions which need to be addressed in the talks over Lithuania's EU membership bid, when Brazauskas met Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen.
On Kaliningrad, a naval base plagued by organised crime, pollution and health problems, Brazauskas has pledged to introduce rules requiring its citizens to apply for visas before crossing the border into Lithuania. Union negotiators have been adamant that these are needed to combat smuggling and to comply with the terms of the Schengen agreement on border controls.
A former Communist leader who was Lithuania's president in the 1990s, Brazauskas came to power following the recent collapse of the coalition led by Rolandsas Paksas. Although Paksas' fall has been partly blamed on his drive to privatise state-owned industries, Brazauskas favours furthering the privatisation process to fulfil the criteria for joining the EU.
The 68-year-old's Social Democratic party remains steadfast, however, in arguing that a public stake in certain key industries must be maintained. For example, it has recently been defending the state's interests in the national oil company, which is partly-owned by US-based Williams International. "The Lithuanian public is not against privatisation per se," he said. "It is only against privatisation if it is illogical. We realise that the privatisation process has to be transparent and that certain rules of the game have to be followed. And that's what we will be doing."
Major EU funding will be required to help Lithuania close one of Europe's most dangerous nuclear plants, the country's new prime minister has said. During his first visit to Brussels since taking office, Algridas Brazauskas said he will be asking the European Commission to cover some of the cost of decommissioning the two Chernobyl-type reactors at the Ignalia plant.
|Countries / Regions||Lithuania|