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Rail Baltica could fail because of Lithuania, say officials

Dec 06, 2013
From wire reports, RIGA

A 26 billion euro  rail link project spanning five countries may be delayed due to extra conditions imposed by the Lithuanian government, European Officials say.

The Rail Baltica project proposes to create a rail line from Tallinn to Berlin in an effort to create faster connection times and boost local economies. It's estimated work on the project could be completed in a decade whilst its hoped construction work could begin next year.

Now, Lithuania is calling for the plans for the link to run through Vilnius and not Kaunas as currently planned.

But members of the European Parliament say Lithuania's proposals have come too late and the project may lose out on EU funds if there are further delays. 

European Parliament president Martin Schulz said that all European Union institutions have given a green light to Rail Baltic.

"We support it with big money. 26 billion is meant for Rail Baltic, which is a tenth of the money earmarked to pan-European projects in the new budgetary period," he said.

"If building Rail Baltic hasn't started by the year 2016, Baltic states might be deprived of the funds altogether. To stay in schedule, a joint venture should be created in January."

Estonia's European Parliament member Ivari Padar said that it is clear that if one of the three Baltic states continues to set extra conditions, then starting the project is clearly in danger.

"The joint declaration states that Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, will be linked to Rail Baltica on equal conditions to the other Baltic states capitals Riga and Tallinn," noted Lithuanian Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Arijandas Sliupas.

European Commission Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas agrees to the position of the Lithuanian government that linking Vilnius with the railway line to be built would be quite reasonable but the Lithuanian government came up with the idea too late.

"Who drew that map which doesn't have Vilnius on it? In principle it is a proposal of the governments," said Kallas, adding that it is disturbing when plans are changed afterwards.

"Delegations come and say that we have extra ideas here. We don't really want what the previous government agreed upon. I have said that we here have a notion that the government did the agreeing. We won't change the project based on elections and changes of coalitions," said Kallas.

European Parliament transport committee member Roberts Zile fears that the project is stalled by the Lithuanian railways whose income rolls in by rail from Russia.

"There are interest groups who try to harm that project," said Zile.

The Lithuanian deputy transport minister assured that his government won't make obstacles for creating the three states joint venture from January 1.

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