Debate on Lithuanian Nuclear Power Deal Centres on Access to Information
It is unacceptable to shield a nuclear project from Freedom of Information says Access Info Europe
Vilnius, 22 November 2012– At a high-level debate in Lithuania (20 November 2012), Access Info Europe strongly criticised an anti-freedom of information clause in the public-private partnership agreement on the Visaginas nuclear power plant between the government of Lithuania and Hitachi corporation.
Access Info said that the confidentiality provisions represented particularly dangerous practice and risked stifling public debate around the important issue of nuclear power.
Participants in the debate, hosted by Transparency International Lithuania, included an official advisor to the Lithuanian Government, a lawyer for the Lithuanian Visaginas Nuclear Power plant company, representatives from Latvia and Estonia, and a local lawyer. Under discussion was the draft concession agreement negotiated by the outgoing government and approved by a law in the Seimas, the Lithuanian Parliament, which contains a blanket confidentiality clause that violates national and international law on the right of access to information:
“The Parties agree, and the Republic of Lithuania shall ensure, that no member of the public shall be entitled to receive all or any information … in connection with the Project pursuant to any applicable Law relating to or in connection with freedom of information”
Lithuania has two laws governing the right of access to information as well as a law protecting access to environmental information. Lithuania has also signed and ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents and the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. A primary concern that emerged during the debate was the validity of the article bearing in mind that contracts do not normally have the ability to take precedent over national laws including laws on access to information.
During the lively debate, Lithuanian lawyer Vilius Bernatonis argued that the agreement could not limit the public’s right to information saying, “This is nonsense, this can’t happen … this is a promise by the Lithuanian government that it will safeguard something