Romas Švedas – an independent consultant and former Vice Minister of Energetic, said today that Lithuania does not understand the European Union (EU). Mr. Švedas has supervised the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) affairs for many years when he worked in the diplomatic service in Brussels for the structures of the Energy and Foreign Affairs Ministries. In the expert’s point of view, Europe has lost the institutional memory and does not want to comply with the financial contractual obligations of the INPP closure. The interview conducted by Mr. Rytas Staseliswas published in Verslo Zinios paper on 16 July.
Almost a year ago you have retired from the Energy Deputy Minister’s Office. Do you agree that during that time the critical EU assessment of the INPP closure affairs has become even worse?
I try to read the news, published in Lithuanian and European media, about the INPP. I have the impression that the EU institutions do not want to discuss this subject with Lithuania but creates a purposeful policy. The financial support for the closure of INPP is aspired to be reduced three-times, and in a public space there are efforts to create a view that Lithuania is not able to plan and manage the closing process, does not use money and spends the funding not as intended. What’s more, I see an attempt to gradually change the legal INPP problems basis.
What does this mean?
Over the past years, the point of the documents, projects and reports, prepared by the EU institutions indicate that there are attempts to turn the INPP closure problem into a simple question about the national competence of nuclear safety, considering the “EurAtom” Treaty, this issue, in a good-nature, and only till 2017, concerns Europe only because for Lithuania this challenge is too difficult. Oblivion accompanies institutional memory and the heart of the problem: Lithuania, then signing the accession to the EU contract, for the security of all Europeans, undertook to close the INPP, even though the plant could still operate and provide us with economic benefits. We have fulfilled our obligations – in spite of the losses our people experience and considering the drop in the economy that the people living in the old EU Member States could not imagine. However, the EU is trying to find arguments that would justify our unwillingness to fulfill obligations stipulated in the Treaty of Accession.
The EU is trying to find arguments that would justify our unwillingness to fulfil the obligations stipulated in the Treaty of Accession.
In response to the European Parliament member’s Laima Liucija Andrikinė inquiry, Guenther Oettinger, the EU Energy Commissioner, said very clearly that Europe, with allocating 60% of the needed INPP closing funds for the project has fulfilled its obligations. This, in his opinion, corresponds with commitment taken with Lithuania’s accession to the EU Treaty – to set aside “adequate additional support …
In 2004, when agreeing with the EU enlargement, all European nations recognized three outstanding issues: the Turkish Cypriot part of the Russian transit to Kaliningrad and INPP. From that moment they become the Europe’s problem, since they have acknowledged that their INPP burden and in case of Kaliningrad transit, this issue is unbearable for Lithuania. Now the EU politics are trying to narrow the legal field, they transfer the obligation to find solutions to EU officials, and they start to take advantage of Lithuania’s as a young State’s inexperience and aims to implicate the quagmire of the complex procedures. However, the closure of INPP is not a matter of procedures; it is the matter of the agreements and implementation of commitments between the nations of the EU.
One of the main objections, which were given by the EP budget control committee delegation this week, is that Lithuania is deliberately delaying the closing process. On the one hand, to “knock out” more money. On the other hand, in order to frighten the Europeans that they are still able to activate the INPP reactor…
Lithuania never had any intentions to update the INPP work. We cannot unload the fuel from the reactor due to delays in major construction of INPP. They had to be monitored not only by the Lithuanian authorities, but by the EBRD consultants, that have cost 40 million euro. By emphasizing the alleged threat, that Lithuania can still change their mind and re-run the INPP reactors, EU politicians behave unethical. They impose non-existing intentions for the Lithuania’s nation, even though it has fulfilled its commitments during the most difficult period of economic development.
In fact, we have politicians who asked to do so…
Let’s separate the emotional and political debates from the actual plans. The renovation works of the reactor has never been discussed in principle. How do you assess the EU’s proposal to finance the decommissioning of the INPP from the structural support intended for Lithuania?
This is yet another attempt to implicate into the procedural manipulations. We can negotiate on agricultural subsidies and EU structural assistance. However, the closure of INPP is quite another question, negotiated in 2004 and these negotiations have been completed! EU assistance is allocated to other purposes: to raise the competitiveness of the poorer members. For example, Estonia and Latvia will receive part of their structural funds and will develop dynamically. And we will use the same money to destroy the INPP? Why should we? We have already witnessed losses of billions then closing the INPP.
But in fact, as it is argued by some of the EU officials: why Brussels in these tough times should pay Lithuania’s financial applications for the closure of the INPP, in particular since it appears that we will be unable to the money that was assigned to us for 2007-2013?
Again: we can speak of why it is as it is, discuss how the existing barriers can be overcome. However, the EU’s legal obligations are very clear: to provide adequate financial support to the whole INPP decommissioning process. The EU has confirmed that we have time to present a power plant decommissioning plans and timelines till 2029. If anyone wants to argue that Brussels does not have the INPP closure plans, I can say – I presented them myself to the EC and I remember on which page you can find the schedules of the works and their financing, that are understandable to all.
If EU has any financial difficulties, we need to re-negotiate, consider which works can be given up on. But I have never heard the EC talking about a smaller amount of work.
But our politics basically recognizes the possibility that in the negotiation about structural assistance and agricultural subsidies case, we may have to bear in mind the INPP closure funding.
Moreover, in the discussions on this subject the view begins to dominate that in the issues of importance, the support for the closure of INPP is only third-rate – after structural assistance and agricultural subsidies. I reject such arguments. In that case, we would voluntarily admit that the EU might fail to meet past commitments. In other words, we will abandon one of the basic legal frameworks that are based on our shared existence with other nations in the EU. Yes, the closure of INPP has problems. Yes, the EU funds allocated for this purpose must be used transparently and efficiently. However, it is not necessary to abandon the fundamental principles. If we have doubts whether the EU still has the political will to fulfil their obligations, we should not get involved in discussions about the details, but clearly and at the highest political level raise the question of whether our accession to the EU Treaty shall remain in force
Pragmatic sceptics, especially before the upcoming elections, will tell you that only with the legal principles you will not be satiated. The EU’s money, which still accounts for one third of our public finances, is another matter…
In short term, maybe so. However, the ongoing politicking about the INPP funding will inevitably lead to much greater effect. He will knock at the foundations of our world’s society and will let Euro-scepticism in. I absolutely do not want this, because I believe in Europe and I think that EU membership is historically one of the most important events in Lithuania’s history, providing tremendous opportunities for our people.