Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 211

The annual meeting of parliamentary chairmen of European Union associate countries, just held in Vilnius, prompted Lithuanian leaders to express angry disappointment over the EU’s indefinite postponement of accession negotiations with their country. Lithuanian Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius argued that the European Commission (EC) had ignored Lithuania’s strong economic performance in 1997-98. They complained that the EC failed to specify the grounds for the negative recommendation or to list clear demands for corrective action, merely using “generalities” instead. According to Landsbergis, policy in Brussels on admission to the EU has come to resemble Franz Kafka’s novel “The Trial,” in which the court, using vague language, reduces the victim Joseph K. to “guessing what he is guilty of.”

Lithuania’s Ignalina nuclear power plant emerged as a major issue at the Vilnius meeting. EU officials, citing safety risks, had demanded the closure of Ignalina during the talks which led up to the EC’s negative recommendation. Yet the EC did not pose that requirement in its final report. European Parliament Chairman Jose Maria Gil-Robles, who chaired the Vilnius meeting, demanded of Vagnorius an early “political decision” to close Ignalina, but did not present that demand in his talks with President Valdas Adamkus, who is an ecology specialist. Adamkus and Vagnorius ruled out a “political decision” to close Ignalina without waiting for the report of an international commission of experts, which is currently assessing the plant. The total costs of closure and compensatory measures are estimated at almost US$4 billion. The EU has made no commitment to help finance the closure.

The Vilnius meeting followed on the heels of the November 9 conference of Nordic and Baltic prime ministers. At that meeting, Vagnorius and his Latvian counterpart Guntars Krasts argued that postponement of accession talks with their countries creates artificial divisions among Baltic states (of whom Estonia has been invited to the talks), discourages reformers, saps their internal political base and inadvertently signals to Russia that the Baltic states may be open to pressure (BNS, November 9 through 12; background and Latvian reactions in the Monitor, November 5).