A major rail project connecting five countries should include Vilnius as one of the main route stops, Lithuanian officials say.
Lithuania hopes to reach agreement with the European Commission on adding Vilnius to the Rail Baltica route as soon as possible, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius told reporters after the informal meeting of the Baltic Council of Ministers in Tallinn on Feb. 3.
Lithuania supports the idea of all Baltic States participating in the project. Adding Vilnius to the "Rail Baltica" route is necessary and it's economically justified, said Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius.
"I hope to resolve this issue as soon as possible, and I also hope that we will be able to join the project," said Butkevicius.
Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma added Latvia hopes the project could proceed smoothly and without any delays..
She expressed hope that the Rail Baltica joint venture will be established in the coming months. Latvia would also like Lithuania to reach agreement with the European Commission as soon as possible to draw up an application for the European Union's funding in due time.
The Baltic PM's also agreed that the joint venture must be established as soon as possible, said Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.
Estonian PM Andrus Ansip said after a meeting of Baltic leaders on Monday that the question of whether to stretch the Rail Baltic track to Vilnius is for the European Commission to decide, not Estonia, reports news.err.ee.
The prime minister told ERR radio that the decision should not hold back the project as the deadline for EU funds is looming.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said that the capital Vilnius, which accounts for 40 percent of the nation's GDP, should not remain unconnected.
Ansip said that the application for EU funding must be handed in May at the latest, adding that Lithuania initially made the decision to only include Kaunas, as they would have built a lucrative logistics center in the city, where goods would have been loaded onto trains running east on Russian rail gauges.