Baltic countries ask EU to solve LNG terminal row


The European Commission must find a compromise on the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in one of the Baltic countries, the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said after they failed to reach agreement last week. 

The failure to reach a deal on the new terminal prompted Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis to suggest that the three nations should instead agree to build a natural gas pipeline from Poland to Lithuania's capital of Vilnius.

At the meeting, the Latvian side reportedly insisted that Riga was the best location for a new LNG terminal, but Lithuania and Estonia said they would only agree with this if the European Union recognised Latvia as the most suitable place for the project.

In this context, Dombrovskis suggested that the Baltic countries should first agree on building a gas pipeline from Poland to Vilnius.

Such a pipeline would diversify gas supplies for Latvia, because the Polish pipeline is connected with Germany's network, whereas Latvia's gas pipeline is connected to that of Lithuania, Dombrovskis said.

Latvia could receive gas supplied from the LNG terminal in Poland near the Polish-German border, the Latvian prime minister said.

Dombrovskis' proposal took his Baltic colleagues by surprise, according to a report on the Baltic Course news website. They said that the suggestion would be evaluated, but neither Lithuania nor Estonia was prepared to give up its LNG projects.

Lithuania wants to build an LNG terminal at the southern point of Klaip?da Port. Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said there were “several” parties willing to invest in a terminal in his country. Latvia has been claiming it has all the advantages in constructing a regional LNG terminal, because the area's gas supply system was previously created around the underground storage facility in Incukalns, where enough gas can be stored for all three Baltic countries.

Estonia and Lithuania said that a study done by the European Union would be best for determining where the terminal should be built, or whether the gas pipeline should be constructed at all.

Marlene Holzner, spokeswoman for EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, told EURACTIV that the Baltic countries had been trying to reach an agreement on having a "regional" LNG terminal since 2008.

In the absence of an agreement on where the terminal should be built, the three nations now want the EU to be involved in determining the best location. This however would take time, as the EU executive should first call a tender on hiring a company to do the study, Holzner said.

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