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UNESCO’s expert mission denies threats to the Curonian Spit ‘discovered’ by Russia


A few days ago Lithuania received a letter from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre with conclusions from the expert mission on the situation on the Curonian Spit. The mission was invited by our country to deny the complaints of the permanent delegate of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, Eleonora Mitrofanova, to the World Heritage Centre regarding threats to this UNESCO-protected area that Lithuania allegedly presents. Construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, development of Klaipėda Seaport and intentions to build a suspension bridge over the Curonian Lagoon to the spit are categorised as such threats.

An expert delegated by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee with vast international experience, Dr Tamas Fejerdy, was visiting Lithuania in January to investigate the projects and plans near the Curonian Spit. He writes in his report that all the sites were introduced to him in sufficient detail. The mission's main conclusion based on an on-site check as regards the construction of a LNG terminal is that the terminal presents no negative impact on the landscape of the Curonian Spit, its visual consistency and exclusive universal value.

In his assessment of the development opportunities for Klaipėda Seaport the expert pointed out that in order to ensure the desired technical characteristics of a deep-sea port, potential intervention must not exceed the external borders of the port's area and meet the requirements for protecting and preserving a world heritage site, whereas all work must be reported in detail to the World Heritage Centre before any decisions are made.

With reference to the “preliminary plans to build a suspension bridge from Klaipėda over the lagoon to the Curonian Spit”, Tamas Fejerdy noted that only ideas were being discussed (a discussion has been going on for more than 40 years), but that neither a design nor legal opportunities to put them into reality existed at the moment. The opinion of the UNESCO mission is that building any type of bridge over the Curonian Lagoon would have a strong impact and would irrecoverably damage the consistency and the exclusive universal value of the world heritage site both visually and physically. The absence of a bridge is a very important 'automatic control filter' to prevent traffic overloads. It is therefore recommended that the currently developed Curonian Spit Management Plan indicates clearly and accurately that in order to preserve this UNESCO property, the status quo has to be retained, i.e. no bridge over the lagoon.

The expert mainly urges to develop a management plan for the Curonian Spit as a common world heritage site managed by Lithuania and Russia which clearly defines both procedures for cross-border co-operation and the responsibility of individual authorities.

Public information division
26 February 2015

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