VILNIUS WINS: After much debate, the latest agreement includes Lithuania’s capital on the route.
VILNIUS - Vilnius will be included in the European-gauge railroad project Rail Baltica 2, agreed the three Baltic countries’ transport ministers during a meeting in the Lithuanian capital on April 28, said the Lithuanian Transport Ministry’s Development Department Director Arenijus Jackus to Verslo zinios.
“Of course, implementation of the project will depend on the available funding,” added Jackus.
Deputy Minister of Transport Arijandas Sliupas in a statement said “Today’s meeting between representatives of the ministries of transport of the three Baltic States was productive - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia reached a political decision to include Vilnius in the Rail Baltica project.”
The standard gauge railway track will connect Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Warsaw, and will be extended to Berlin. The European Union will fund 85 percent of the project cost.
The total length of the Rail Baltica track in Lithuania will constitute approximately 360 kilometers, in Latvia around 300 km, and in Estonia also around 300 km.
According to Jackus, the three countries’ expert task force will now have to work on incorporation of the agreement in the pending Rail Baltica joint venture company’s shareholders agreement. The company will manage the project. This is likely to happen during a meeting in Riga this month, reports LETA.
At a meeting in Vilnius last September, the transport ministers of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland signed a declaration on the establishment of a joint venture company which also mentioned Vilnius. The joint venture company was to be set up by January 2014; however, its establishment was postponed as the Baltic countries were unable to reach agreement on inclusion of Vilnius in the project.
A few weeks ago, a meeting was held in Brussels that was also attended by the European Commission’s representatives, during which Lithuania’s representatives were told that including Vilnius in the Rail Baltica project would be against EU regulations, and the compromises offered by Lithuania were turned down. Lithuania was reproached for hampering implementation of the project, where the total amount of investment is estimated at almost 4 billion euros.
Pavel Telicka, the coordinator of the project, said that Brussels did not understand why Lithuania had changed its original position. Lithuania at first wanted the Rail Baltica railway to go through Kaunas.
He had also said that the Baltic countries needed to establish the joint venture company in the coming weeks if they hoped to apply for the EU funds on schedule.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius then changed the original design, throwing the project into doubt, when he said the government would do everything in its power to have Vilnius added to the route, explaining that this was vitally important for the Lithuanian economy.
All sides appear satisfied now.