There are great chances of the future floating LNG terminal off the northern Adriatic island of Krk becoming a regional strategic project that will benefit not just Croatia but other countries as well, including Ukraine, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Friday during a visit to the LNG terminal in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda.
The Croatian president arrived in Lithuania on Thursday for a two-day official visit.
Grabar-Kitarovic said that the European Commission has shown interest in the project, but that it takes a lot of time for European bureaucracy to get in motion.
"I think that the idea of a floating off-shore terminal is very good, without abandoning the idea of a stationary terminal. I believe that there are great chances of this floating terminal being declared a regional strategic project because it will be of benefit not just to Croatia but to other countries as well," the Croatian president said on the Lithuanian floating terminal, a huge ship called Independence whose name symbolises the recently gained energy independence of this Baltic nation.
Grabar-Kitarovic said that the Croatian LNG terminal would benefit Ukraine as well.
"It would also be important for Ukraine. We know that energy independence today also dictates political independence and the construction of a connector for reversible gas flow towards Hungary and Ukraine would certainly ensure that Ukraine is less dependent on its present sources of gas," she said.
Grabar-Kitarovic believes that the Krk LNG terminal would ensure Croatia and other countries energy efficiency, independence and lower gas prices and consequently a more competitive economy and a better life for their citizens.
Grabar-Kitarovic did not try to hide that she was impressed by the technology used by the Lithuanian LNG terminal and environmental protection. She was particularly impressed by the fact that 30 percent of the crew and 90 percent of the officers were Croats.
"I hope we will soon relocate them to Krk," she said.
"A terminal like this one obviously pays off," the Croatian president said, adding that in talks with her Lithuanian colleagues and experts the common assessment was that the area on Krk island was "strategically very favourable".
"It is a point that is missing in connecting Europe in terms of energy and it would really upgrade Europe's energy map and make Croatia even stronger geopolitically," Grabar-Kitarovic said.
She said that the role of the LNG terminal in Klaipeda was "invaluable" for regional energy security, adding that it was not just an alternative source of energy, but also a source of gas energy for about six months in Lithuania and the other Baltic states.
The Croatian president was accompanied by Lithuanian Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis, who said that Lithuania had paid for Russian gas more than any other EU member and that with the construction of the LNG terminal his country "finally enjoys energy independence". He noted that Lithuania had also managed to bring down the price of the remaining amount of gas that it imports by 20%.
Masiulis said that political pressure had decreased after Russia lost the advantage it had used to politically blackmail Lithuania. "Prices are almost the best in Europe. This is a success story," he said.
The LNG terminal in Klaipeda started operating in 2014. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said then that her country had made a bold decision to build the terminal in order to gain energy independence from Russia's Gazprom, the world's largest supplier of gas and at the time the only source of this type of energy for Lithuania. "Lithuania now has a choice," Grybauskaite said on that occasion.
Grabar-Kitarovic met with Croatian officers working at the LNG terminal in Klaipeda and they all expressed their readiness to return to Croatia to work on the future terminal at Krk.