Anti-Russia energy conference wraps up in Vilnius

The Conference on Energy Security in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, finished on Thursday with participants saying they were satisfied with the results. The top issue was finding alternatives to Russia's energy supplies.

High-ranking Russian officials were not present at the forum.  Neither were German officials represented, despite being invited.

The parties agreed to extend the Odessa-Brody pipeline linking the Baltic and Caspian seas, bypassing Russia.

Theoretically, this could pump Azerbaijani and Kazakh oil through Ukraine and Poland to the rest of Europe without crossing Russian soil, but it would take years to complete.

Also, question marks remain over the quality of Kazakh oil and the availability of Azerbaijani “black gold”.

In a separate development, another major energy project has ended in failure. Poland has rejected plans for a new nuclear plant to be built in Lithuania to provide the Baltic States with power. Partners in the project refused to accept Polish demands for a third of the electricity generated by the new station.

The failure of this plan could be seen as bad news for Lithuania. An old Soviet-era nuclear power station there will be switched off in 2009, leaving the country 100% dependent on energy deliveries from Russia.

At the last minute Polish President Lech Kaczynski announced that a deal will be struck, but analysts see this more as a face-saving measure.

But at the same time some progress was made on creating a power network between Lithuania and Poland. The Polish leader said the agreement on creating a so-called 'energy bridge', to pump electricity from Baltic countries to Western Europe through Poland and in reverse, will be signed within days.

In an unexpected move, Estonia said it would continue to use oil shale to generate energy.  The EU criticised the announcement, citing pollution concerns. But the unpopular measure will make the country less dependant on oil and gas supplies from Russia.  

Lithuanian President’s speech

Earlier, the President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus made a passionate speech warning that Europe's energy supplies could be under threat if serious challenges are not met head-on.
Mr Adamkus listed the energy hazards he sees the EU facing: “depleting traditional energy reserves, our growing addiction to oil and gas, increasing dependency on a single or unpredictable source of imports, questionable services of some of the intermediaries, rising energy prices, climate change – all of these energy challenges recognize no borders and significantly affect every country and every individual”.

Valdas Adamkus
Valdas Adamkus

The Lituanian leader went on to stress the universal nature of the problem:

“If not addressed properly, these challenges threaten our internal politics, prosperity and security, and undermine international stability. It is evident that global challenges need global solutions,” he said.

Some energy analysts see his warning as a reference to Russia and to Gazprom in particular.
Adamkus voiced concern that some European countries had chosen to deal with energy security on an individual and bilateral basis instead of building a united front.

On Wednesday, sources in Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said Gazprom has already won the support of some EU countries for its own pipeline projects, like Nord Stream.