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Protection of the Curonian Spit discussed at World Heritage Committee session



Today, on the 27th of June, the 31st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee followed up on the decisions regarding protection of the Curonian Spit which were adopted at previous sessions.

The current session, which started on the 23rd of June, is held in Christchurch, New Zealand. The World Heritage Committee, which consists of representatives from 21 state, including Lithuania, had plans to consider before the 2nd of July proposals to include another 45 cultural and natural sites into the UNESCO World Heritage List and to discuss the status of the different sites on this list.

According to Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment Aleksandras Spruogis, who is attending the 31st session, today they examined information about co-operation between Lithuania and Russia to protect the Curonian Spit from the impacts of the oilfield D-6. The World Heritage Committee stated that last year this co-operation slowed down substantially, although commitments had been made to sign the required bilateral agreements.

Committee sessions have already examined the environmental problems in connection with oil extraction in oilfield D-6, which is located in the part of the Baltic Sea belonging to Russia. Three years ago, during the 28th session, it was even decided to include the Curonian Spit into the List of World Heritage in Danger should Lithuania and Russia fail to agree about the joint environmental risk assessment together with independent international experts of oil extraction in oilfield D-6. This decision then encouraged Russia to respond to Lithuania’s multiple proposals and efforts.

However, to date, the two countries have failed to sign the agreement on co-operation in combating pollution of the Baltic Sea and to develop a joint contingency plan, neither to sign agreements on prevention of sea pollution, accident liquidation and compensation for damage. Aleksandras Spruogis says Lithuania submitted drafts of those documents to Russia.

The World Heritage Committee noted today that the two countries must sign the said documents as urgently as possible. They will have to provide an update on compliance with this commitment before 1 February 2008, which will be discussed during the following, 32nd, session of the World Heritage Committee during discussions on the implementation of the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

One hundred and eighty-three states have already ratified the Convention adopted in 1972. Lithuania ratified it in 1992. The Curonian Spit was included into the World Heritage List in 2000. At present, the list contains 830 cultural and natural sites.

Public Relations Division, Tel. 266 3660

27 June 2007

Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas
Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas