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Introductory remarks by Dr. Laima Andrikiene, MEP (EPP-ED, Lithuania)


April 17, 2008
European Parliament

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start by reminding you what happened 22 years ago.

April 26, 1986, 1 hour 23 minutes 58 seconds... The explosions ruptured one of the reactors of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located in Ukraine about 20 km south of the border with Belarus. The explosions started numerous fires on the roofs of the reactor building and the machine hall. The large fire burned during 10 days. The radioactive materials from the damaged reactor were mainly released over 10-day period, and an initial high release rate on the first day resulted from the explosions in the reactor. The radioactive materials released by the accident deposited with greatest density in the regions surrounding the reactor in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and also reached Sweden, later - other continents.

I remember this day very well and will remember forever: I was in my home town - Druskininkai, a health resort in the south of Lithuania, very closed to the Lithuanian-Belarusian border. My father was celebrating his 60th birthday, our family house was full of relatives and friends. Sunny and warm spring day, everybody was enjoying sunshine; I was playing with my 3 years old son and other children in the garden. We did not know what happened in Chernobyl, nobody informed us about the accident. Soviet Union leadership kept silence, because accident in Chernobyl was a top secret, state secret...

Chernobyl disaster happened in 1986, next week we will mark its 22nd anniversary. We gathered in the European Parliament to speak about Chernobyl. But our Hearing is not about the history. It is about the present situation, it is about our future, and for the future.

Dear Colleagues,

Today we are supposed to discuss three 'blocs' of issues: firstly, the legacy of Chernobyl disaster, impact of Chernobyl on the health, environment, socio-economic development of the big region in Europe including Belarus, Ukraine, Russian Federation as well as several EU Member States - Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, etc. We have distinguished scientists from Belarus here who will share with us their findings and forecasts which are far from being optimistic about future developments.

Secondly, we will discuss human rights situation in Belarus, rights of those who participated in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. Liquidators of Chernobyl, human rights defenders from Belarus and EU Member States will speak about current situation in Belarus, and also what has to be done to address problems of 120,000 Belarusian liquidators who put their lives at risk in order to save all of us, also of 1.4 million Belarusians who continue to live in contaminated areas, including children.

Thirdly, we will discuss what could and should be done by the European Union to effectively address the legacy of Chernobyl in Belarus and in the EU Member States to fight rapidly growing numbers of death from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, cataracts etc. We, the EU should have a strategy and action plan to address old problems left by Chernobyl, but also new challenges.

We would like to finish our Hearing with the Final Declaration which should cover all main topics discussed today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I welcome all of you, but first of all - our dear participants from Belarus. I hope we will have interesting and fruitful discussion today.