Acting Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius met his colleagues, Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis and Estonian Head of Government Juri Ratas at the meeting of the prime ministers of the Baltic Council of Ministers in Riga on Friday to discuss the issues of regional security, transport and energy infrastructure, the Eastern Partnership, the EU agenda and other issues of regional relevance.
Acting Prime Minister Butkevičius thanked the Latvian colleague for the very close bilateral cooperation and the excellent chairmanship of the Baltic Council of Ministers in 2016, and expressed his greetings to the Estonian Prime Minister on his appointment and wished him every success in his service.
“I welcome the close and intensive cooperation between the Baltic states. We will continue the adherence to our general principles and make every effort towards stronger European Union and the transatlantic unity. The Baltic countries see it especially important to work together in the development of the architecture of the regional security and to seek common solutions in the area of joint air defence or military procurement. We also need to exploit the existing potential for cooperation in cyber security and strategic communications”, noted Algirdas Butkevičius.
The Prime Minister has welcomed the fact that the Baltic countries for the first time since the accession to the European Union are no longer an energy island due to the power interconnection via Poland to the continental Europe. Now it is necessary to make urgent decisions in the region for the synchronization and put this into practice as early as possible.
According to Acting Prime Minister Butkevičius, special importance needs to be attached to the regional gas market development and the efficient use of the existing infrastructure.
“In this context, the declaration on the regional gas market development signed today gains particular importance. The approved Action Plan creates a framework for the effective functioning of the regional gas market. Now we must ensure that our institutions and operators make timely and proper implementation of the agreed measures. This is our strategic step in ensuring competition in the regional gas market, which will contribute to greater competitiveness of our economies”, said Algirdas Butkevičius.
The Prime Minister has welcomed the position by the European Commission and the European Parliament encouraging the Member States to abstain from investments in new liquefied natural gas terminals, instead focusing on improving access to the existing ones. Klaipėda LNG terminal has the capacity to meet regional gas import needs, so Algirdas Butkevičius invited to make use of it.
Another important subject raised by the Acting Prime Minister was the nuclear security.
“It must remain an important item on our own and EU’s agenda. The Belarusian nuclear power plant being built under dubious conditions just 40 km away from Vilnius poses a major threat not only to Lithuania but to the entire region. When building the nuclear power plant, Belarus did not include into its cost the potential environmental impact and other risks, so Europe should not buy electricity from the unsafe source”, said the Acting Head of the Government of Lithuania.
He also has noted that the Rail Baltica project remains a priority for our country. In 2015, Lithuania completed the European railway track from the Polish-Lithuanian border to Kaunas. This track is already used in passenger traffic between Poland and Lithuania. Lithuania is committed to continue working with the Latvian and Estonian partners in this project.
The Prime Ministers agreed about the need to put more efforts in the Eastern Partnership to keep it dynamic and viable. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia must remain a model of close cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries, and strengthen the political and financial attention by the European Union and its Member States to this partnership.
It was agreed that sanctions against Russia must be extended and maintained until the implementation of the Minsk agreements. “So far we do not see any slightest effort from Russia to do so. Lithuania, together with other partners, will continue to fully support Kiev, so that Ukraine could accelerate the implementation of its key reforms”, noted the Acting Prime Minister.
“Once again, I would like to reiterate my appreciation of the Baltic unity and common approach as regards the response to geopolitical events. We are and we will continue to be strong as regards our values, the achievement of good neighbourhood, respect for human rights, strong democratic institutions, and our contribution to the international peace and security”, said the Acting Prime Minister following the meeting.
The three Baltic Prime Ministers signed a joint statement covering regional security, energy, transport, European Union issues, and a declaration on the development of the regional gas market.