Such declarations, however, are just an election ploy, a pawn in the upcoming political game, and will do little to enhance nuclear safety, said a leading political scientist.
“Unfortunately, we can see once again that Lithuania’s political parties ‘wake up’ before the elections. And so begins the traditional game of the opposition which is more about visibility in the run up to the parliamentary elections, using energy” says Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University.
“The talk about extreme measures [to stop the project] will probably divert attention from safety and will definitely not foster engagement, participation via international forums in order to ensure proper level of safety in the project,” Vilpišauskas notes.
Lithuania has been protesting the building of Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant, saying it presents an environmental hazard and is to be located too close to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis has even suggested that the European Union should boycott electricity from the plant.
In January, Lithuanian opposition parties, led by the conservative Homeland Union and the Liberal Movement, released a statement, urging the Vilnius government to do everything possible to force Belarus to halt the project immediately. By buying Belarusian electricity, Lithuania would be funding a hazardous project at its doorstep, they insisted.
Vilpišauskas notes, however, that Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant has been in the works for a long time and the recent increase in hype about the plant has more to do with campaigning than anything else. Belarus announced the project in 2008 and confirmed the plant’s site in 2011, when the current opposition was in power in Lithuania.