VILNIUS – According to Catherine Trautmann, the European coordinator of the North-Sea Baltic TEN-T Corridor, Russia's war in Ukraine has fundamentally changed Rail Baltic's function, making this project important not only for the region's economy but also for its defense.
Therefore, the European Commission has decided to finance up to 85 percent of the project's costs, she said.
"We need to bring the Baltics and Finland closer to the EU not primarily, but also for military use. Troops and military equipment should be able to travel to EU swiftly to ensure the defense of the EU and NATO. This point becomes relevant as Finland and Sweden are joining NATO," Trautmann said at the Rail Baltica Industry Day conference in Riga on Tuesday.
Before the war in Ukraine, Rail Baltic was essentially an economic project that also tackled environmental issues, but now it has become important to ensure security and peace, Trautmann said.
"Now the situation has changed: geopolitics are a factor. This is obvious for everybody. The Baltic states and Finland must bee better connected to the rest of the EU not only for development and prosperity, but also for peace and security," Trautmann said.
In her words, being aware of the project's not only economic but also geopolitical importance due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the EU has decided to cover up to 85 percent of the railway project's costs as they have gone up lately.
"This information is relevant to our investors and construction companies because it makes a very safe project," the project coordinator said.
Both the project's increased costs and the new connections to Ukraine still need the European Parliament's approval, she said.
Rail Baltic is among the EU's priority projects for the trans-European transport network. Last summer, the European Commission allocated an additional 357 million euros in funding for the project. The project was earlier reported to cost around seven billion euros.
Rail Baltic is expected to connect Tallinn, Parnu, Riga, Panevezys, Kaunas, Vilnius and Warsaw from 2026. Passenger trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour, while freight trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour.