Belarus has been requested to submit answers about its nuclear project in writing, announces the public report released by the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) on 16 April.
This document is a summary of the minutes of a hearing into Lithuania’s complaint against the Belarusian nuclear power plant that took place on 20-23 March 2012 in Geneva.
During the hearing, the delegation of Belarus orally submitted insufficient answers to the questions that were raised by members of the Committee. Therefore, Belarus has been additionally requested to submit answers in writing. Belarus received questions already in January 2012.
As stated in the report, initial conclusions and recommendations of the Committee concerning the possible violation of international law will be issued in September.
The complaint alleging violations by Belarus of the Espoo Convention was filed in June 2011. According to the assessment of Lithuanian institutions, actions of Belarus violate the Espoo Convention. So far Belarus has not submitted any answers regarding the questions about the construction plans of the nuclear power plant. No suitable public hearings and bilateral consultations were held. However, the project is being further developed.
It should be noted that Belarus started the construction of its nuclear power plant at a construction site in Astraviets, 50 km from the capital of Lithuania, already in January 2009. However, Lithuania was invited to participate in the environmental impact assessment process only in August 2009.
The Espoo Convention sets out that the construction of the object that has a transboundary impact on other countries should begin only after the completion of the environmental impact assessment, after answering questions of impacted countries and after organizing public hearings.
According to the data of the Foreign Ministry, Lithuania is not the only one that objects to the actions of Belarus. The European Commission also informed Minsk in writing that the environmental impact assessment process had not yet been completed with Belarus in accordance with the procedure of the Espoo Convention, because Belarus still had to answer some questions.
The UN Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) is the main international instrument, which regulates the implementation of the environmental impact assessment process of the projects that are likely to have a transboundary impact, including also the nuclear power plant construction. Belarus has acceded to the Espoo Convention in 2005.