Baltics, Poland sign up to major gas connector

Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma added her signature to those of colleagues from Poland, Lithunaia, Estonia and the European Commission in Brussels Thursday as part of a deal that will break the Baltic states' almost total dependence on Russian supplies of gas.

The first gas interconnector between Poland and Lithuania will end the isolation of the Baltic Sea region inherited from Soviet times.

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed the signing of the grant agreement on the GIPL (Gas Interconnector Poland – Lithuania), the first pipeline connecting Poland and Lithuania.

Witnessed by Juncker, together with the Prime Minister of Poland, Ewa Kopacz, the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaité, the Prime Minister of Latvia, Laimdota Straujuma and the Prime Minister of Estonia, Taavi Rõivas, today's signature is also a breakthrough increasing the security of supply and bringing more resilience to the European energy market.

The participating states are committed to work together also in the future to further reinforce the region's integration into the EU's internal energy market.

At the signing ceremony, Juncker said: "Today's signature is about European solidarity. It is about leaders taking responsible decisions to increase our security and strengthen our resilience. Today we have done much more than bringing the energy isolation of the Baltic States to an end. We have brought the region further together. Today we have agreed on European infrastructure that will unite us, instead of dividing us."

Today's signature will enable construction works to begin with the aim of finalizing the pipeline by December 2019. The Baltic States and Poland will mandate their Ministers in charge of Energy Policy to monitor the implementation of the project and ensure its construction according to the agreed timeline.

At the occasion of the signing the Heads of State or Government also issued a joint declaration confirming their commitment to continue working in further interconnecting and strengthening the resilience of their energy markets. 

The total construction costs of the interconnector project are €558 million.

Last month the representatives of the national authorities of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the Commission, and the project promoters (Amber Grid and Gaz-System, respectively from Lithuania and Poland) agreed on the financial structure of the project, paving the way for its construction and operation by December 2019.

New gas pipeline will be 700 millimetres wide with a total length of 534 kilometres, including 357 km in Poland and 177 km in Lithuania.

Starting capacity: from Poland to Lithuania: 2.4 billion cubic meters a year and from Lithuania to Poland: 1.0 billion cubic meters a year

In addition to the project launched today – GIPL – other projects in the Eastern part of the Baltic Sea region are obtaining a status of a Project of Common Interest. Most prominently among these there is the gas interconnector Estonia – Finland (Balticconnector) as well as the underground gas storage in Inčukalns (Latvia).

Other projects include also the regional Baltic LNG terminal, the strengthening of the transmission network of the Baltic States and primarily mainly between Lithuania and Latvia as well as between Latvia and Estonia, the interconnector linking Poland to Denmark (BalticPipe) and the LNG Terminal in Świnoujście (Poland). These projects are central to establishing a well operating gas market in the Eastern Baltic Sea region.

In electricity sector, key projects contributing to the enhanced integration of the Baltic States with the EU market are: interconnections between Lithuania and Sweden (NordBalt) and Poland (LitPol Link) to be inaugurated in December 2015, and the second interconnection between Estonia and Finland (Estlink II) that has been operational since 2014. These interconnections are important for the future synchronisation of the Baltic States with the rest of the EU.

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