at the JBANC 7th Baltic Conference: „Oil and Blood: Baltic Energy and the Legacy of Communism“
Honorable Senators, Your Excellencies Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends of Lithuania and All Friends of the Baltic Nations,
I am delighted to be here today among our true friends, supporters of Lithuania and the other Baltic States, who walked together with us down the long road to independence and national rebirth, to Lithuania‘s return to the family of European nations and its establishment as an active promoter of democracy further into the East of Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Vigor and dynamism define the best the people of Lithuania and its economy today. Lithuania is not yet as prosperous as we would like it to be. Lithuania is not rich in natural resources but its people are ambitious, industrious and success seeking. We have already achieved excellent results: Lithuania’s annual rate of economic growth runs at 7 percent. Successful privatization in the financial, communications, energy and other sectors significantly improved service quality, increased industrial productivity and expanded commercial markets. Legal, public administration, tax administration and other reforms simplified the establishment of new businesses. Several years ago, Lithuania received a very favorable report from the World Bank, which ranked it as the sixth country in the world in terms of improving business conditions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Having traversed the long and difficult road of restoring our statehood and having resolved the complex dilemmas of economic transformation, we have not as yet settled regional energy problems. The Baltic States have managed to break away from the post-Soviet space but their liberation from energy dependency is slow and painstaking. The forced integration of the Baltic States into the Soviet system has resulted in today’s dependency of our energy sector on monopolistic Russian oil and gas, while Lithuania’s electricity sector in major part depends on the power produced by its only nuclear power station built in the Soviet times and scheduled for closure in 2009.
Today we have to admit that Lithuania, and perhaps the entire Baltic region, is an “energy island” with no effective alternative gas supplies, an undeveloped electricity linkage with the West, and extremely vulnerable because of its technically and politically unreliable energy infrastructure.
This is a reality that relates to the whole of Eastern and Central Europe, suffering from unresolved energy security issues and inadequate supply of resources. The absence of supply alternatives allows major energy suppliers in our East to transform even minor technical problems into tools of political pressure. All this is well known to the people of Ukraine and Georgia; similar pressure has been exerted even on Belarus and even on some European countries.
Today Lithuania and the other Baltic nations are taking action to reduce energy dependency. A direct power grid has connected Tallinn and Helsinki. Supported by the European Union and in collaboration with our strategic partners in Poland, we have set a goal to link Lithuanian and Polish power systems by 2012; we have also initiated plans to build a new and modern nuclear power station in Lithuania. I hope that this four-lateral project, involving Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, will serve as an excellent example on how to design real-term alternative energy projects and seek competitive and ecologically clean energy production. The construction of a new nuclear power station poses a serious challenge to us all: energy specialists, politicians, and society. It also serves as proof that the Baltic States and neighboring Poland are dealing with energy dependency, energy islands and energy supply alternatives on a pragmatic basis. I do also hope that we will have enough of determination, resolve, and resources to address similar problems in the gas sector.
The Lithuanian parliament has recently approved the National Energy Strategy designed to bridge Lithuania’s and Poland’s gas supply systems by applying new LNG technologies in the near future. We also plan to build a new gas terminal on the Baltic coast.
Distinguished Energy Policy Experts,
The efforts made by Lithuania and the Baltic States are aimed at creating the lacking technical infrastructure and building a free energy market; they reflect our desire to break away from the “one pipeline” and “one network” system. These are real projects on the verge of practical implementation and actual strategic goals to be translated into action.
But will these efforts enable Lithuania, the other Baltic States, and the entire Europe to cut their dependency on politicized and monopolized energy supplies from the East? Will the infrastructure and restored natural linkages liberate the Central and Eastern European energy sector? I would say that these efforts, although necessary, are insufficient.
Only the establishment of an effective alternative choice of suppliers will allow the region’s largest consumer – the European Union – to enhance its negotiating powers and reach an agreement on prices and non-stop supply guarantees.
The United States and the European Union are making joint and consistent efforts to help strong and independent energy suppliers emerge on the international scene. Therefore, the integration of the South Caucasus and Central Asian countries into the global energy market is in the interests of us all. In this way, consumers in the West would be able to find a viable alternative to Russia, while energy suppliers would embark on the road of regional economic integration and use tools of their own choice to create national energy strategies, infrastructures and, unquestionably, economies.
Nabucco, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, such are the names of oil and gas pipeline projects in the South Caucasus and Central Asian countries tentatively searching for alternative ways to sell their resources. It proves that western investment and regional political efforts linked together would de facto create alternative monopolies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The disruptions in energy supply of the past several years have provoked heated discussions among European leaders about real, possible and critical problems relating to energy monopolies. Last year in Vilnius, I had the pleasure and privilege of discussing our regional issues with US Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney delivered a speech at the Vilnius Conference which gave yet another strong impetus to focus on energy security in Eastern Europe. Simultaneously, the European leaders and Finland, which held the EU presidency at that time, were engaged in an active discussion about a one-voice European energy policy. As a result, EU member states have embarked, slowly but decisively, in the direction of a common European energy policy, while the establishment of transparent, rational and regional rules has become the cornerstone of the energy dialogue between Europe and Russia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is only through joint efforts and open discussions, much like the one we are having today, that we will reach an agreement on the possibilities, ways and principles of energy cooperation and find the route for expanding democracy in the East of Europe.
I sincerely thank you all for your constant input and intellectual contribution to transatlantic discussions on energy. Such discussions are further support to Lithuania and the other Baltic nations on the path of liberation from the authoritarian and monopolistic rules that had dominated our region.
I know that many of you are frequent participants of discussions on energy in the Baltic States and Europe. I therefore invite us to continue working together in promoting, supporting and enhancing the values of freedom, democracy, transparency, and competition, which are common to all of us.
H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania
Octobr 17, 2008 - President Bush Discusses the Visa Waiver Program
Office of the Press Secretary/
White House News
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated, thank you. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to stand with the representatives of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without a visa. I congratulate these close friends and allies on this achievement, and I thank you for joining us here.
I also thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for working hard to make sure this day has finally arrived. Appreciate other members of the administration here and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
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