Mock public hearing: Minsk tries to duck sharp questions

Having decided against examining requests of the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment the Belarusian authorities invited the representatives of Lithuania to the town of Astravets where they are not pinching pennies on construction the nuclear power plant.

Last Saturday’s public hearing on building the nuclear power plant which was being conducted in circumvention of the Convention’s recommendations resembled a PR-action aimed at buying popularity with Lithuanians. It is the neighbouring country which conceivable accidents at the plant would have a detrimental effect on.

But few people accepted such a controversial invitation: the environmental groups were the first to have declared a boycott against ambiguous public hearing in Astravets, the government representatives taking their side.

As a result, about 150 persons, mainly journalists, bent their steps towards Astravets although the turnout had been expected to exceed 500. Free visas and travel to our country were granted to Lithuanian reporters; exclusively for a hundred of pressmen the Belarusian side arranged a fourchette where alcoholic beverages were also served.

37 guests came to Astravets from Visaginas, the former “nuclear capital” of Lithuania. Some of them did not hid the fact that they would crave for being employed at the soon-to-be station.

The construction works might have already started but it is still a preparatory stage, Mikhail Mikhadzyuk, Deputy Energy Minister, stated. The Belsat TV crew stood a unique opportunity of covering it.

Meanwhile, Lithuania is “surprised and saddened” by Belarus` actions in connection with the construction of a nuclear power plant in Hrodna region, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said while commenting on the public hearings. Mr Linkevicius stressed that no public hearing was possible until Belarus gave answers to Lithuania`s questions about the project. “One may suggest that there may be no such answers, that`s why they use such concert-style means of dialogue. We don`t need a show, we need the requirements of the Espoo Convention to be observed consistently,” news agency BelaPAN quotes him as saying.


The Espoo Convention is a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) convention signed in Espoo, Finland, in 1991. The Convention sets out the obligations of states to carry out an environmental impact assessment of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries.