RIGA - Janis Vucans (Greens/Farmers), the Vice-President of the Baltic Assembly and the head of the Latvian delegation to the Baltic Assembly, at a meeting in Brussels today called for swifter progress in implementation of the Rail Baltica project for construction of the European-gauge railroad through the three Baltic states.
"Rail Baltica is one of the key pan-Baltic projects and vital for further development of the entire region. Because of the Lithuanian prime minister's reluctant attitude to the planned fast train project, the Baltic Assembly is concerned about the future of the Rail Baltica project and we urge [Lithuania] to stop stalling the signing of the agreement," the Latvian parliament's press service quoted Vucans as saying.
Rail Baltica will be not only a symbolic proof to the Baltic unity, it will also serve to boost security, prosperity, and competitiveness in the region, Vucans said.
He said that today the Presidium of the Baltic Assembly meeting in Brussels had sent a letter to Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, requesting explanations about his unexpected statement that Lithuania might not sign the Rail Baltica agreement.
"The Baltic states cannot afford to lose the Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project. It is an international cross-border project that connects the Baltic states with the rest of Europe and has a significant added value at the European level. Determined and irreversible development of the joint Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project must be a common goal of the Baltic states, as it would ensure fast and convenient rail connection between the Baltic states and the rest of Europe. Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica would thus create the missing link to the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and serve as a vital element of the North Sea–Baltic Corridor. Therefore, a signing of the agreement of the joint Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project is not only a symbolic step and investment into the future of the region, but it will also lay a solid foundation for the security, welfare, and competitiveness of its people," the letter says.
In mid-January Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis announced that he was not sure about the signing of the Rail Baltica agreement planned in Tallinn on January 31. He said that Lithuania's key position on Rail Baltica remained unchanged but the new government should scrutinize all aspects of the project before signing the agreement.
The Rail Baltica project seeks to re-establish a direct connection between the Baltic states and the European railway network. The project is expected to facilitate regional integration by means of a railway link from Helsinki that would link Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas, Warsaw and Berlin and might potentially be extended to Venice. The EU will help finance the project from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) for the development of transport infrastructure.