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Speech of the head of Belarusian delegation, First Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus Mrs. Iya Malkina at the 35th session if the Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention

31-03-2016
Distinguished Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee! 

Secretariat! 

Participants of the meeting! 

I would to thank the Committee and the Secretariat for the thorough consideration of the Belarusian NPP case as well as for the efforts to find constructive solutions in connection with the submission by Lithuania. 

This is in fact the first expert dialogue which took place between Belarus and Lithuania – that is exactly what Belarus has been trying to achieve during the last 5 years. 

I hope that the provided opportunity for the wide specter of specialists from such spheres as energy, environmental protection, and law to be present today, will put clarity into the issues under consideration and help find solution on the arguable points. 

Regarding the vision on the situation with the submission by Lithuania, I would like to underline that Belarus has always aimed for strict fulfillment of the provisions of the Espoo convention, as well as all procedural aspects envisaged by it and will keep this up. 

Designing Belarusian NPP Belarus has carried out the environmental impact assessment procedure in strict accordance with the Convention, as well as undertook all efforts to fully implement the recommendations of the Committee and the decision VI/2 of the Meeting of the parties. 

At the same time we express deep concern about the current situation in the relations with the Lithuanian side in the framework of the Belarusian NPP project. For the present moment we regret to state that Lithuania is trying to give to the current situation a political coloring. It is creating a very dangerous precedent – manipulating by the provisions of the Convention in order to slow down or block activities of other country which are undesirable due to economic or political reasons. It is obvious that this precedent will have a negative impact on viability of the Convention and its attractability for the non-EU countries. As EU member states comprise the majority of the Convention parties, an impression can be created about the EU lobby possibility to adopt any decisions at the Meeting of the parties. 

As regards the interaction with Lithuania in the framework of the Espoo convention. 

In respect of interaction with Lithuania we confirm the following position which we have repeatedly announced earlier. 

Belarus has taken the final decision in respect of the Belarusian NPP construction. This fact has been acknowledged by the decision of the Sixth Meeting of the Parties to the Convention in 2014. Nevertheless, respecting Lithuanian grave concern, we confirm readiness to work with the Lithuanian side in the bilateral format and discuss the issues, connected with the Belarusian NPP, which Lithuania is interested in. Now we are also doing it, yet again answering the written questions of Lithuania. 

As far as the interaction with Lithuania on Belarusian NPP in the framework of the Espoo Convention is concerned, we confirm readiness to work with the Lithuanian side in the framework of the post-project analysis of the Belarusian NPP and consultations of experts. 

We suggested to Lithuania to set up a joint body on post-project analysis and possibly other issues of the project as it has been recommended by the Committee (in its report to the previous Meeting of the Parties) and by the Meeting of the Parties itself. 

We consider post-project analysis of nuclear energy facilities as corresponding with the purpose of the Convention and as the best of the envisaged by it mechanisms, for building mutual confidence between parties and allay concern, which can objectively occur at the environmental impact assessment stage. Moreover as a confidence-building measure we suggested to Lithuania to create, possibly even with the participation of the European Commission, a joint system of radiation monitoring of Belarusian and Lithuanian nuclear and radioactively dangerous facilities. However Lithuania is lingering to work with us in these directions. 

At the same time Belarus understands that the success of international negotiations very much depends on finding balance between national interests and interests in the framework of pursuing the Convention goals. We underline the effectiveness of the created by the Convention mechanism of bilateral cooperation, in the form of conducting bilateral agreements between neighboring countries. Agreements of this kind are exactly fit to solve possible questions and contradictions in the framework of the Espoo Convention implementation. We are sure that had we signed the bilateral agreement on the implementation of the Espoo Convention between Belarus and Lithuania, the current disagreements could have been avoided. 

In respect of the suggestion to create a tripartite commission. 

Belarus has prepared the EIA report which fully complies with the Annex II to the Convention. 

The Convention implementation practice shows that the amount of information contained in the report and the level of its detailisation are different in different cases. However this does not mean the non-compliance with the Convention! 

In the view of this it is obvious that the Committee has encountered a very complicated task which demands solution on the one hand, but is beyond its mandate on the other hand. Understanding this we still adhere to the position that the suggestion of the Committee on setting up the tripartite commission has no precedents in the practice of the Espoo Convention and by its nature is a new mechanism of implementing of the Convention provisions by its parties. This demands attentive and serious consideration and adoption by the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention. 

Reference. The Republic of Belarus supports participation of international experts in the process of the Belarusian NPP project implementation. At present the time frame for the IAEA SEED mission is being identified. However, establishing of the tripartite commission, as suggested by the Committee and supported by Lithuania, will highly likely be used by the Lithuanian side as additional mechanism to linger the bilateral consultations’ process which is “stalled” enough already. 

Over the period since 2011 the Belarusian side has more than ten times officially invited, including the invitations at the level of the Prime-minister of the Republic of Belarus, the Lithuanian side to hold consultations on the Belarusian NPP project in order to discuss all the issues of interest to the Lithuanian side (in February and November 2012, February, April, June, July, August, September and October 2013, in December 2015). None of these invitations has been accepted. 

Moreover, implementation of a mechanism of this kind due to its unprecedented nature inevitably creates a number of questions of procedural and financial nature which is necessary to reflect in the fundamental documents of the Convention itself, with the understanding that technical and financial burden will lie on the donor countries. 

Also in the view of mistrust between the countries which is pointless to deny, creating a tripartite commission will unlikely be resultative. The abovementioned politization by Lithuania of the issue under consideration forms the ground reason of the mistrust, i.e. the lately increased activities of the Lithuanian politicians aimed at introducing economic sanctions against Belarusian NPP, and the unjustified claims about the unsafety of the project. For example, it is worth mentioning the regularly appearing in the mass media articles and statements of Lithuanian officials of various level: 

Quote from the webpage of the President of Lithuania (news of 22nd February) 

«The Astravyets nuclear power plant must neither create any additional obstacles to the production of electricity within a country nor to the goals of improving energy efficiency or synchronizing the Baltic electricity grids with continental Europe.» 

From Lithuanian mass media (news of 7th March) 

«Major parties of the country will prepare an agreement on the threat which the Ostrovets NPP presents for Lithuania. «The point is that we can stop financing of this project and I think that we have to put forward exactly this very goal for ourselves». - G.Landsbergis. 

Statements of this kind couldn't demonstrate brighter absolutely political and economic reasons of the Lithuanian side which are by no means connected with the environmental safety and principles of the Espoo Convention. 

In the given situation of mutual mistrust the following questions arise: how can parties discuss anything in the tripartite format if Lithuania has not accepted any of our ten invitations to hold dialogue of experts which we have been sending to it during the last five years; how will the parties approve the candidature of the chairperson of the commission and its working rules if during three years they have failed to agree upon the steps to implement the recommendations of the Committee adopted at its 27th session in march 2013? 

In connection with the abovementioned the Belarusian side is asking the Committee to go back to the main mission entrusted to it by the 6th Meeting of the Parties – which is the analysis of the steps undertaken after the adoption of the report of the Committee on the work of its 27th session as well as to moderate the bilateral dialogue between Belarus and Lithuania.

As a gesture of good will we are ready to suggest meeting in the Ostrovets site where we can discuss with the participation of the Committee and technical experts from Lithuania the technical issues being raised by our opponents in their letters. We will also provide opportunity to get acquainted with the progress of the NPP construction and the construction quality control system.