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Page added on December 29, 2009

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Dark days at the centre of Europe

The Baltic state of Lithuania — sandwiched between Latvia and the Russian exclave Kalingrad — faces an economic contraction of 18 percent for 2009.

To that the government has said it will add a 30 percent increase in household power prices in 2010, as it fulfils a condition of European Union membership and shuts Ignalina, the Chernobyl-style nuclear power plant that provides 70 percent of Lithuania’s power.

EU officials in Brussels pressed for the closure at the start of the century, when the bloc was embarking on its eastern enlargement. Their goal was to lower the risk of a repeat of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion of 1986.

Neither recession nor energy security were factors when the sculpture was symbolically unveiled on May 1, 2004 as Lithuania, once occupied by the Soviet Union, joined the EU. It is described by the country’s tourism website as marking “the poignant return of Lithuania to the family of European nations.”

But from December 31 — when temperatures can drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) and rivers freeze — the closure will make Lithuania more dependent on an increasingly irregular supply of power from its former occupier.


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