Outgoing German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has defended joint German-Russian plans to build an underwater gas pipeline in the face of criticism from Lithuania.
The planned pipeline would not mar the landscape
Lithuanian President, Valdas Adamkus, was in Berlin on Tuesday for talks with the German chancellor about the project which foresees the construction of a 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) long underwater gas pipeline running between Russia's Wyborg and Germany's Greifswald.
The planned project, which was sealed with a declaration of intent signed by representatives of the Russian gas company, Gasprom and the German energy suppliers Eon Ruhrgas and BASF, has been slammed by Ukraine, Poland and Belarus. An ocean pipeline would bypass the three transit countries by pumping gas directly from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, thus robbing them of transfer costs.
Adamkus and the Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazaukas have both voiced their opposition to the pipeline, which is scheduled for completion by 2010. In an interview on Lithuanian television ahead of his visit to Berlin, Adamkus said there was still time to rethink the project.
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus
"Although the agreement exists on paper, work has not yet begun. That means it is still possible to reconsider the issue." But in Chancellor Schröder, his hopes met with an unresponsive audience.
"Germany has a sovereign right to take steps to make sure it has reliable and sustainable energy resources", Schröder said in a statement issued by his office.
Ahead of his arrival in Berlin, Adamkus this week complained that "Germany, a member of the European Union, reached and signed an agreement with Russia without informing Poland and Lithuania."
Brazauskas echoed the sentiment in an interview with Germany's mass-circulation Bild newspaper. "During the preparation of the project nobody asked our opinion even once. Everything was done behind our backs," he said. "I don't know who is trying to play around with us, Russia, or maybe Germany."
Many eastern European countries want a land route
Eastern European critics say it would make more sense to modernize and extend the two existing pipelines which already run through the three traditional transit countries. Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states have also proposed an alternative land route. The "Bernstein Pipeline" would pass run from Russia to Poland, passing through Latvia and Lithuania.
Brazauskas has also warned of the dangers of an underwater project, which he says risks disturbing tons of chemical weapons sunk in the Baltic Sea by the Russians following World War II.