Latvia will not join Lithuania in blocking Astravyets NPP electricity
Friday, Aug 04, 2017
Ahead of his working visit to Belarus, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics announced that Latvia would not block electricity from the Astravyets nuclear power plant (NPP) when it is launched.

In Minsk, the Latvian minister met with high-ranking officials of Belarusian government, including Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov and Minister of the Economy Vladimir Zinovski. The parties expressed satisfaction that after a two-year decline, goods turnover had increased by 11% in the year’s first quarter.

It is namely improving economic relations that, many believe, have made Latvia change its tune on the NPP, although only in early June Latvia had promised Lithuania it would boycott Belarusian electricity.

“I would think the change in position has to do with economic collaboration between Latvia and Belarus. Specifically, the former’s resolve to enhance economic activity in the Ventspils seaport. I do not see the issue (of Astravyets) as part of our relations with Latvia – it has to be viewed in a much broader context, not only regionally, but through the interests of the entire European Union,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said.

According to him, the flip-flopping was “quite understandable” from the point of diplomacy ahead of the Latvian minister’s visit to Belarus. “It is common to positively comment [on] things expecting that it can produce some economic gains,” Linkevicius noted, emphasising that he wanted a “stricter position” by Latvia on the issue of the Astravyets project.

“One that not only would raise issues of its safety, but also one that would consolidate the regional politics…I met my Latvian counterpart (Rinkevics) quite recently and he promised that he would raise the issue of Astravyets NPP safety during his visit to Minsk (media reports do not mention, though, whether the topic of Astravyets was raised in the meeting). He assured me that our position is “understandable and acceptable,” the Lithuanian Foreign minister recalled.

He expects that Latvia’s position may change provided the other countries in the region come out in support of Lithuania in its bid to halt the Astravyets project. Lithuania’s parliament, the Seimas, has recently passed a law prohibiting Astravyets NPP electricity imports, deeming the facility unsafe and posing a threat to Lithuania’s national security, environment and public health.

Minsk has been rebutting the complaints as unsubstantiated and biased.
Reinis Aboltins, a Latvian energy expert, told NewsBase Intelligence (NBI) he doubted whether Lithuania could halt the Astravyets project.

“All it can seek is as much transparency in the construction, maintenance and operations of the plant as possible,” the expert underlined. Explaining Latvia’s position, he opined that Latvia’s neutrality regarding the Belarus project was owing to economic calculations.

“Latvian and Belarusian economies are very intertwined, especially in the transportation system, I mean the railroads first of all,” the expert emphasised. “The Latvian Foreign minister assumed a very pragmatic stance and it is understandable to us Latvians, not to Lithuanians though, which is, again, very understandable too.”

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