4 December 2020, Friday, 1:31
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Linas Linkevičius: We Won’t Allow Compromized NPP Construction In Belarus

Linas Linkevičius: We Won’t Allow Compromized NPP Construction In Belarus

The head of the Lithuanian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has responded to the sharp statements of the Belarusian officials, in an interview to charter97.org.

Belarusian MFA Uladzimir Makei responded quite abruptly to the claims regarding the Belarusian NPP, speaking with journalists on May 27.

“Belarus, being the country that suffered from the Chernobyl disaster the most, will never build an unsafe NPP. We wouldn’t want to have a “delayed action fissile bomb”, as vividly said by one of the Lithuanian politicians, again. We are not such, if you excuse me, idiots,” – Makei stated, and characterized Lithuania’s position with regard to the NPP under construction as “political Bacchanalia” and “anti-Belarusian hysteria”.

Lithuania intends to speak directly and precisely as for construction of the Belarusian NPP in Astravets, leaving emotions aside, as stated by Lithuania’s MFA Linas Linkevičius in an interview to charter97.org. According to him, the Lithuanian side still has not received answers to the questions with regard to this construction, and the whole NPP project crosses the line of the bilateral relations as it brings danger to the whole region.

– How would you comment upon the latest statements made by the Belarusian MFA as for the NPP and Lithuania’s position on the subject?

– I would like to speak directly and precisely. In fact, we have been holding this uneasy dialogue for a long time. I would like to underline that we are in no case going to escalate or exacerbate the situation, but we will stick to our principles and react to the untrue statements, made in public. In the first place, the whole situation occurred because, since 2009, Belarus has been holding an NPP construction with violation of international requirements. This is very difficult to correct, at least, at present moment. The statements were emotional, but we don’t think of our neighbors as idiots, we don’t call them any words and we don’t think they really want to create a bomb at their territory, as they claim. Still, we do not understand why it seems impossible to build an NPP accurately, doing everything with a strict compliance with the standards. We don’t get answers to our basic questions, and reproaches to our address should be grounded. There is an obvious attempt to reproach us with regard to choosing the ground for the Visaginas NPP. I would like to remind that we had conducted all the international procedures in accordance with the requirements; the ground had been coordinated with all our neighbors including Belarus. We had provided the information about the storages for the used fuel many times. So, it’s no good to blame us.

Meanwhile, Belarus will have to answer our questions on choosing the ground. We read in the public space that everything has been done in compliance with the international requirements of the Atomic Energy Agency. However, once again, it wasn’t done, and the commission for the specialized assessment of the quality of choice of this very ground never came. Thus, we will demand it should be done.

Let us take stress-tests. We have been demanded to conduct them for a long time. Sometimes, the Belarusian side says they will do it. However, as far as we understand, Belarus will conduct the tests without participation of the experts from the EU. We realize that the stress-tests will be held by the Russian agencies. Thus, one agency of Rosatom will check the quality of work of another agency of Rosatom. What trust can we talk about here? We are asking simple questions, and we will demand answers.

– The statements of the Belarusian Foreign Minister sounded quite aggressively – “political Bacchanalia” etc.

– He was being emotional.

– Why?

– This is connected with the fact , that, as they see, we are not changing our position. And we will not change it, as we told many times. If the object is constructed with violation of international norms, we will, to the possible extent, stop the construction of this object, or its functioning, or try to prevent trading of electric power produced at the unsafe object.

We spoke about it publicly. It’s no good feeling angry about it. You know, when we hear from the Belarusian leaders that the construction should go fast and cheap, such calls do not inspire trust in us. What does “fast” or “cheap” mean? Quality should be the first priority, and then comes all the rest.

When we read information about stealing of building materials, or accidents, in the Belarusian media – this does not inspire any more trust in us either. Summarizing, I would like to say we leave our emotions aside, we will not escalate tension, but we will react principally and consistently to every public piece of news which would not correspond with the reality, and will irrevocably demand that the quality requirements should be satisfied, admitting that our neighbors do not want to do anything bad. Therefore, we still have hope they will start doing everything in a different way and provide detailed answers to our questions, and their actions and the process of construction will 100% meet the requirements, set by the international institutions on control over construction or nuclear safety.

– What is Lithuanian going to do in this respect at the international level?

– This is not a secret. Yes, we raise these issues in the European Commission. I talked to the leaders of the EC personally, with the authorized Commissioners, we explained our wishes, criticism and hope not just for their understanding, but for the active participation. This is not our national problem. This is not even a bilateral issue. This is a regional problem, and, the object being sensitive, there must be attention coming from the international organizations.

– Can the whole situation affect the universal tone of the relations between Belarus and Lithuania?

– We are not changing the universal tone, we do not recant our convictions as for the sanctions withdrawal. We heard criticism to our address in this respect. But we do understand that certain steps were taken and we acclaim the steps aimed at the dialogue with the EU, modernization of the country, simplification of the visa regime. All these are positive moments. We do not want the issues that stood in the way of the relations between the EU and Belarus, to appear again.

Our position is clear. This doesn’t change the particular NPP issue in this case. These things should not be directly connected, but failure or success in solving this issue will also demonstrate the political will of Belarus as for whether to cooperate constructively or not.

– Is there a chance that the Belarusian authorities will cooperate on the NPP issue in the future?

– There are certain signs, willingness to talk, to communicate, but we want to see the results. There are none at the moment. No answers to the questions. We don’t get answers, don’t get assurances that the process will be of high quality and will meet all requirements.

I want to repeat the demands we sounded. One of them is connected with the committee on the Espoo Convention - to create an international commission of experts, which would see the construction process and assess what has been done until now. This is the suggestion of the Committee on the Espoo Convention, and we support it, but the Belarusian side has objected so far.

The second point is related to the mentioned stress tests, which must be carried out according to the European standards with mandatory participation of the European institutions for the reason I mentioned – so that Rosatom would not test itself.

And the third point is the choice of the ground. The organization TATENA has different teams of experts and one of them is just designed for the study of the ground selection. And it had to be done before the start of construction, but it's still actual. We demand this should be done. We enlisted all those moments in the note we sent.

– There is no dialogue, but the construction goes on…

– There are promises to carry out the conversation, but we want this conversation to be real and to provide us the answers to our questions. As, when they don’t answer the questions and claim in the public space that they did, this induces certain obscurity and mistrust. In such case it is difficult to hold a conversation. The emotions are easy to understand but it’s not the time for them.

If we all realize, at least, in word, that this is a very important object, and its safety is a very important issue of the first priority, there will be quite a different conversation.

If something substandard is built here, we will punish no one but ourselves. This is also an argument which inspires hope we will be able to constructively cooperate someday.