– How does the lack of former communists lustration (like in Czech Republic or Poland) influence on social and economical development of Lithuania? And would it accelerate the growth?
– Actually, this process in the past was quite complicated, it’s already finished. I cannot see any big influence on the social or economical development. It was mostly for the people which worked for the ministry of foreign affairs, the ministry of defense, of course, which worked with confidential information and ambassadors mostly. And we have a special institution for that, it’s called the Genocide Centre, which have full information and the part of this information, according the decision of the Parliament, can be published. And that is.
– So, you can say, that the lustration in Lithuania couldn’t make the development of your country faster?
– Of course, it influenced. It was for people involved in such activities in the past, as I mentioned mostly for the ambassadors for instance. Sometimes, of course, such information was used during the election discussions, discussions within political parties. Of course, it used. But today, I would say, for example, last elections there was no energisation.
– Lithuania is a member of the European Union and isn’t because you solved one of the main problem of Eastern Partnership countries, when many soviet-minded people are still not ready for real responsibility and the freedom?
– Eastern Partnership idea was raised during our presidency for the European Council, as you know. It was 3 years ago, 2013. And there were some countries, our supporters, like Poland, Latvia, Estonia and some others.
If we look to Ukraine, from my point of view, for Ukraine the biggest issue – they are a bit later! Not a bit, but later by decision a lot of complexities.
Is the EU ready today for the enlargement, for example? Eastern Partnership is not enlargement, of course, actually. From my point of view, today after Brexit, after many crisis, which make the European Union suffer, enlargement would be a good alternative. But, speaking frankly, the biggest EU member countries like Germany, France and others, of course, still by the way the United Kingdom as well, they are not ready for the enlargement. Last enlargement as you know was NATO enlargement, Montenegro, and that is.
– Yes, but we don’t speak about the enlargement of the European Union, but we wanted to ask you about the values. So are the European people more ready for responsibility and freedom and maybe people from post-soviet countries are not ready for these values?
– I think, that post-soviet countries are ready, of course, for these values. But when you are discussing about the enlargement, or possible enlargement or other forms the union associate members, we have to understand that it’s need some financial resources also. After economic crisis 2008 speaking frankly we are, I mean, the European Union, still in financial crisis. Because economic growth in some countries, the biggest countries first of all like Germany, France very slow. Lithuania in this year for example with 2.2-2.4% probably economical growth we are among the leaders. Other countries have 1%, 1.2% like Germany and so on. We have not today real financial resources. Our historical moment was when it was quite big economical growth. It was in Lithuania this time 2003-2006 it was average per year 6-7%, sometimes 8%. And other European Union countries also. Today we have not such economical growth, we have not financial resources, we have not political will, many and many problems within countries. Populism rising, as you see, Euroscepticism rising also.
– I’m sorry, but we wanted to ask you more about the way of thinking people. For example, do you feel European?
– Yes, of course.
– But you were a communist functionary and after you started work with NATO and how did you throw away all this ideology? Because there are big differences between the moral codex of communist-builders and European values.
– I was born in this country in 1951 and there was only one political party. I have not any choice. Either I have to be a member of communist party or I didn’t have any possibility to be active. As a citizen, as a person you didn’t have any possibility to make career and so on. I would say about quite exceptional cases. Because Lithuanian communist party split from Soviet communist party before our independence. That happened in 1988-1889. Actually, that was a first step to the independence.
And we decided that Lithuanian communist party have to go and to reform as the social democratic party. In that time there was more than quarter million members of the communist party in Lithuania. We had to reform those values to the social democratic. Finally in 2000 we are joined to the one party. Other political parties raised or created as a new parties like conservative.
Before II World War we had no conservative parties. He had a peasant’s party and christian democratic party and nationalists party. That was very specific way. In Lithuania we have quite strong left parties. We haven’t today, by the way, any members of social democratic parties in Poland or in Latvia. but Lithuania, i believe, was exceptional.
– You told a lot about changing but the main question is how to change the way of thinking, is it necessary? In our countries there is a majority of population who doesn’t accept those values. For them it is not possible to understand it in a full way.
– There is no any special recommendations, because each nation has theirs own way with the people, with the leader’s mentality, with historical obstacles. I haven’t any recommendation for that. Today if you would ask for recommendation, i have to say that you are, i mean young generation, have to take responsibility on your country. There are no any other ways. And of course in the real politics, real political practice, you have to understand, that we have to make some compromises with other nations. But your responsibility is the biggest one. Believe me.
And Ukraine also has a very specifical geopolitical situation and historical too. You’ve been longer in soviet empire, comparing with Lithuania and The Baltic states. As you know, Baltic states recognize this time as a soviet empire there is many different obstacles.
– Does LNG terminal gives Lithuania more advantages?
– Of course. What does mean energy terminal for us? It’s a real energy independence. we can use it for hitting, for our producing electricity. Before, when i was a prime-minister i remember it was in 2006, and for every prime-minister before New years it was a real challenge. We can not to understand: Belarus agreed with Russia on a gas transit, which is goes to Lithuanian territory, or not. So we have only one possibility and Russia have a possibility to negotiate on the prices. Can you imagine that in 2006-2008 we paid for 1000 cubic meters of gas more than 500 dollars. Today we reduced the half.
– If we omit the question of national security what benefits gained an average Lithuanian?
– There is a huge benefit for people, for economy, for factories, for producing, etc. Let me explain, when we had possibility to use only russian network on that, not only gas but also crude oil, during my time as a prime-minister, when we were selling our crude oil factory «Mažeikių Nafta» to the polish company, Russia suddenly closed «Druzhba» pipeline and that is. They believed they had a possibility to destroy our producing. Since this time we already had an oil terminal. There was a very very small possibility for the energy independence. Today we are in the same electricity networks and also we have an electricity line from Sweden. This 500 megawatts it’s not enough for Lithuania, because we are using 2000-2500, but it’s also a possibility to be independent. And also we are building today two lines to Poland and the plan is to join the EU countries electricity network. It’s can happened approximately to the plan of energy strategy between 2020-2025. When we will fully join the european networks, we can break with russian networks. We are still in Northern-West electrical grid. Despite the fact we have possibility to have electricity from Sweden, Estonia and Latvia. And two cables to Finland. It’s a real steps.
– What are you going to do with Visaginas? Are you disappointed with freezing of the project?
– Am I disappointed? No. One of the conditions to start negotiating with EU was to close old Chernobyl-type reactors. We have two reactors in Visaginas and particularly first reactor was the same like Chernobyl. EU wanted to close all Chernobyl-type reactors at all EU territory. It was one of the conditions to start negotiating. Second condition was Kaliningrad transit. Of course we have some negotiations about prolonging use of second reactor, which was a bit more modern, but it was unsuccessful. Today we are negotiating about the biggest support for the ignoring nuclear power. We need approximately 1 billion euro for this project, we already started and geo 300 millions for that. The problem is that it is Russian technology. In our situation there is no any other real technology. It is quite hard issue for us. Firstly financial and secondly technological. EU has some examples: Sweden and UK.
– Bit we have the question about Ostrovec, you told it is too late to freeze this project, what is the best compromise?
– There is no a lot f compromise, speaking honestly. One compromise could be if there is no so many sanctions to Belarus. We have big trades and economical relations as neighbor countries. It is quite difficult to convince difficulties. Belarusians build something bad for them. Lots of EU countries have many nuclear power stations, for example France and Belgium.
– But the problem is because it is building by Russians?
– For instance there is the same project in finland. The price is raising and raising. They are trying to share financial responsibilities with the private companies, but technologies are not new. Many people in EU believe that all Russian technologies are good except Chernobyl. What is compromise? I would say, during Lukashenko time it is difficult to do that. To convince and even to ask. The construction of this power station is financial and economical question, it is not only about policy. The main goal of the project not only in Ostrava, but also in Kaliningrad as you know the already started to build the same in Kaliningrad is policy, The don’t need these stations! They are are started to build it inspite for the Lithuania. They are say many time to us: if you ass us for the tender, if not we will destroy your project.
– Was that possible that Belarus and Lithuania would cooperate and build the station in cooperation?
– Yes, I mentioned it, but it is not possible if you have the dictator. We can not negotiating with them today.
– Did you tried in the past?
– Yes of course. They also have this possibility. There is no need to choose the place in the border with Lithuania, but they are talking “out plan was to build as close to Ignalina power station as possible” But geologically, as we know it is not the best place.
– If Belarusian President were more predictable could nuclear power station’s workers from Visaginas work in Ostrowiec?
– They work there. Some of former workers work on the decommissioning of Ignalina nuclear power station, but the other part has no work in Lithuania. There are no places for them to work at. Two years ago before Russians froze the project of Baltic nuclear power station in Kaliningrad there were many specialists from Ignalina in Russia. They speak Russian language rather well. Many of them came to Lithuania during The Soviet period.
– Do you have any ideas how to alive Visaginas region? We know that Visaginas is very depressive part of Lithuania.
– Only new project can give life and development to this region. But there’s no consensus among political parties in Lithuania on this very question. We discuss energy strategy, although today the effectiveness of these discussions at the level zero.
– At the beginning of our talk you mentioned that it’s not time to enlarge European Union.
– There’s bad mood within European Union. We also face financial crisis. But I didn’t say there is no opportunity for some countries to unite in future.
– Do you agree that Eastern Partnership is dead today?
– No. There are no any official decisions but we know priorities in this Partnership. It is extremely important to solve the Ukrainian question. We have some programs that really work. We, and personally me, send signals to EU Parliament and try to solve the problem despite the Netherlands reaction. Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania ask the European Parliament to be more active in the dialogue with the Netherlands. We need more efforts.
– What’s the place of Eastern Partnership in the list of priorities of European Union?
– Will see. You’re going to discuss it. The discussions have already started in the European Parliament. We sent there our delegation to approve the plan for the next year. I believe Eastern Partnership is still on the agenda. Of course, there are politicians who are disappointed with it. But officially it’s on the agenda.
– But does it work on practice?
– I think, yes. Frankly speaking, Eastern Partnership isn’t just about politics. People also should be more active and communicate with such countries as Lithuania, Poland, Visegrad countries, which are close to Ukraine and its’ problems. They should be in touch with big partners – Germany, France and the United Kingdom as well.
Interviewers: M.Mahankou, J.Alekseeva, Y.Lapshov, V.Kovalchuk