19 April 2019, Friday, 10:28
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Belarus Violated International Convention When Selecting Site For NPP Construction

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PHOTO: TASS

The Belarusian environmentalists have come up with a statement.

Parties to the Espoo Convention believe that Belarus violated the convention when it did not justify the final decision to pick Astravets as the site for the construction of a nuclear power plant. This is stated in the decision taken at the meeting of the parties to the convention in Geneva.

The Espoo Convention - (Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context) is an international agreement initiated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, signed in Espoo (Finland) in 1991 and entered into force in 1997. According to the convention, an environmental impact assessment procedure (including public discussions) of potentially hazardous projects should be carried out not only within the state, but also in neighboring countries that may be affected by the impact of these objects.

The Committee on the implementation of the Convention concluded that the environmental impact assessment of the Belarusian NPP “refers to alternative locations for the nuclear power plant and site selection criteria, but does not provide sufficient information to support and justify the choice of the Astravets site to make a final decision on this activity in accordance with the convention.”

Belarusian environmental activists made a statement on the decision of the Espoo Convention. Their delegation demonstratively left the hall and later stated that it did not recognize this decision, since the Convention did not oblige Belarus to do something about the Belarusian nuclear power plant issue. The activists sent the text of the statement to the editors of Charter97.org:

- A statement by representatives of the Belarusian civil society in connection with the decision of the Espoo Convention on the case of the Belarusian NPP, adopted on February 7 at the extraordinary Meeting of the Parties.

We welcome the decision on the Belarusian NPP adopted by the Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention of the UNECE on February 7, 2019. We are grateful to the Committee for the Implementation of the Convention for the difficult work, which, in particular, revealed new facts of violations during the implementation of the Belarusian NPP project when choosing the Astravets site for the construction of a nuclear power plant. This violation for us, the society of Belarus, remains evident and confirmed by a number of facts that we voiced before, and which are also confirmed by the decisions of the Aarhus Convention of the UNECE and the results of the partner test of the stress tests of the Belarusian NPP. We have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that the decision on the choice of the Astravets site was made prior to the start of consultations with the affected countries, and also before the completion of all the necessary studies - this is why the Espoo Convention Committee could not find in the EIA documentation the sufficient justification of this choice by the Belarusian NPP!

These are far from all violations that, in our opinion, the Committee should have noted in its decision, and the Meeting of the Parties should have approved. Thus, Belarus did not comply with the decisions of the 6th Meeting of the Parties on the Belarusian NPP, and also did not provide information on five technical issues raised by Lithuania during the consultations. Today, both civil society and the affected party have comprehensive evidence of this.

The Implementation Committee and, behind it, the extraordinary Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention, in our opinion, made an overly mild decision on the Belarusian NPP, without actually imposing any additional obligations on the country.

In this situation, Belarus’s rejection of this decision causes particular concern, as does the obvious sabotage of negotiations and statements about procedural violations and political manipulations. We emphasize that today there are enough confirmed facts proving the violations, and many others that Belarus is trying not only to deny, but to aggressively influence the course of negotiations and the Espoo procedure.

Today, this influence has led to the fact that the mechanisms of the Convention are no longer fully open and democratic for all, and its bodies are making ever greater concessions to the nuclear lobby.

However, the official Belarus does not accept these concessions either, since it requires deciding that it fully complies with the Convention, although this fact is completely untrue.

We believe that such state policy has led not only to a deterioration in the practice of applying the convention, but also marred the country's international image, in particular in the European arena. In this situation, Belarus, to restore its image, as well as healthy partnerships and good neighborly relations, should think about freezing the construction of nuclear power plant, which will lead to the exhaustion of international disputes and tensions within the country, and also give the economy a chance for healthy and independent development!

February 8, 2019, Minsk-Geneva

Observers over the negotiation process of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties to the UNECE Espoo Convention from Civil Society, including NGO Ecodom.