At the end of June 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg witnessed a political battle that was barely noticed in public. The battle was focused on the Resolution on the Situation in Belarus, which had previously been discussed in the PACE for an entire year.
At 4 p.m. on 26 June 2017, the Lithuanian delegation met with the heads and deputy heads of delegations of all Scandinavian Parliaments in its usual NB8 format. At the request of Algirdas Butkevičius, Head of the Lithuanian delegation, I was given the floor to address the Members of Parliaments of Baltic and Scandinavian countries requesting them to support the amendment initiated by myself and the entire Lithuanian delegation. My request met with unanimous support. Following a heated debate, the majority of the meeting participants at the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy voted in favour of the amendment.
Therefore, a fateful voting in the PACE plenary ensued on the following day. The amendment was adopted by 34 votes in favour, 21 against and 8 abstentions. The PACE thus adopted the following text:
“Suspend the construction of Astravets Nuclear Power Plant because of numerous violations and disrespect of international standards for nuclear safety and serious violations and major incidents during the construction of Astravets NPP, the major violation in the development of Astravets NPP being a wrongful and unsuitable selection of the site for construction of the NPP. The consequences of this wrongful project of the Astravets NPP could be of the devastating impact on safety and health of most of Europe and its people. These concerns have been raised since 2009 in all competent international organisations (International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nuclear Safety and Espoo Conventions, Aarhus and Helsinki Water Conventions, in organisations of the European Union and European Nuclear Safety Organisation (WENRA, ENSREG), the United Nations and other organisations).”
I would like to express my gratitude to the Heads of Delegations of the Scandinavian countries and in particular to Jonas Gunnarsson, Head of the Swedish Delegation; as well as Members of Parliaments of Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, and other countries; Mustafa Dzhemilev, Head of the Crimean Tatars, and all those who, with patience and solidarity, waited for this Resolution until late in the evening and spoke out clearly in favour of the call for a suspension of the construction of the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant. Members of the Lithuanian delegation made interventions from their seats and were clearly in favour of this important amendment.
There is no doubt that Russia will continue carrying out the construction of the Astravets NPP, but the Resolution we managed to adopt is a bold statement of an international organisation bringing together 47 European countries, including Russia. This creates the opportunity to use this document in an attempt to suspend the threat against Vilnius and entire Lithuania. Concurrently, this is an obvious victory of Lithuania on the international level.