RIGA - The Baltic countries have to continue their efforts to achieve that the European Union allocates maximum co-financing for the Rail Baltica project during the next EU financial framework, Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis (Greens/Farmers) said during the Baltic Council of Ministers' meeting today.
Kucinskis' meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas and Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis today focused on security, the EU multiannual budget for 2021 to 2027, and the Rail Baltica project, as Kucinskis' office informed LETA.
Kucinskis emphasized that the Rail Baltica project was the largest and most important railroad infrastructure project in the region. It also a symbol of the Baltic countries' unity, therefore the three countries have to harmonize their actions and closely cooperate with EU institutions to successfully implement the project.
Kucinskis is pleased with implementation of the Rail Baltica project so far: work on the Rail Baltica route was completed this year and now work is underway on Rail Baltica technical designs. But there is still much to be done. Proactive work has to continue in order to secure as large EU co-financing for the project as possible. Rail Baltica infrastructure management model will also be decided next year, said Kucinskis.
During the next financial planning period, the EU's competitiveness in research and development has to be improved, said Kucinskis. It is important that scientists from small and lesser-developed countries have access to projects implemented by major consortia.
Kucinskis also said that the Baltic countries had been consistently working to increase their defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product, thereby contributing to collective security. Kucinskis has a high opinion of the three countries defense ministers' commitment to increase the defense spending further.
The Baltic countries need to cooperate more closely so they could propose pan-Baltic projects. It is also very important for the Baltics to support their defense industry. At the same time, the Baltic countries are very cautious about the idea of a joint European army and EU Security Council. These proposals need to be discussed among all EU members first, believes Kucinskis
NATO has been the main collective defense organization in Europe, and the EU's efforts have to make the organization stronger. It is in Latvia's interest to further develop transatlantic ties and to closely cooperate with the United States and Canada, Kucinskis said. He also spoke about the need to improve cyber defense and the Baltic countries' role in the process.
Commenting on the EU's next multiannual budget, Kucinskis said that the Baltic countries had to continue work to achieve that financing for the Cohesion Policy takes into account the Baltic countries' specific needs. It is also important to complete harmonization of direct payments to farmers during the next period.