Estonian MEPs: Decision has been made that EUR 1.4 bln is there for Rail Baltic

  • 2021-03-14
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - It became clear in the outgoing week that the extra amount of 1.4 billion euros necessary for the completion of the Rail Baltic railway project by 2026 has been set aside in the new budget of the European Union under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), Postimees said. 

It said that all Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania now need to do is build, and let Brussels know when another tranche of money for the construction of a new section of the railway is needed.

Marten Kokk, the ambassador responsible for matters related to Rail Baltic at the Estonian representation to the EU, said that the negotiator from the Portuguese presidency representing the member states and European Parliament rapporteurs agreed about the matter at half past nine on Thursday night.

"The outcome of the negotiations was very good, even better than we expected," Kokk said.

Kokk said that opposition from the European Parliament did not come as a surprise.

"Just like no national parliament wants to be a rubber stamp, nor does the European Parliament. They must show that they have the power to decide things," he said.

Kokk had words of praise for Estonian MEPs for the work they did explaining the need for the funding to colleagues. He specifically singled out Riho Terras and Andrus Ansip -- members of the European People's Party and Renew Europe groups whose respective members are Romanian MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu and French MEP Dominique Riquet, the two rapporteurs who expressed opposition to the allocation.

Estonian MEPs heard last fall that problems may arise with funding for Rail Baltic at the budget negotiations due to opposition from the European Parliament. The Estonian representation to the EU then asked Estonian MEPs for assistance.

"To my mind, it was about a relatively typical phase of negotiations when somebody is effectively taken hostage and one wants to get something in return," Ansip told Postimees on Friday.

"I talked with Riquet. I also talked with other members of our group who sit on the transport committee and were involved in this matter. Everybody said effectively that Connecting Europe Facility is a right thing and I also have every support for Rail Baltic, but money is being asked from the wrong place," Ansip recalled.

The situation was aggravated by the fact that Connecting Europe Facility rather has been seen as a facility for the richer portion of the EU.

"One point four billion is a big amount of money indeed, so of course, when Western Europe is used to getting money from one place, and then someone else wants it, a glitch occurs or one would like to get something else in its place," Ansip said.

"I told Riquet that you are holding the negotiations, so you find the right budget line and put our thing in there," Ansip said. "And then, despite his heartfelt support for everything, this work yielded no result." 

Then Ansip and another MEP from the Estonian Reform Party, Urmas Paet, expressed their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs to the chair of the group, Dacian Ciolos.

"There is this habit of writing letters in the parliament; while things are talked through orally, you need to set things down to show that we have a problem," Ansip said.  

One more letter, signed also by Lithuanian MEPs, followed.

When asked by Postimees why Marinescu was against the railway connecting the Baltic countries with central Europe, Terras said that this is a quite complex matter. 

"To make things short, there were those who did not like the text agreed by the heads of state and heads of government at the Council in July, which confirmed the need to finance from the next budget period missing major cross-border railway links between countries," Terras said, adding that tacitly this stood for Rail Baltic, as there is no other project in that stage in Europe at present.