RIGA - The Latvian Cabinet of Ministers today approved the draft law about the signing of the agreement between Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian governments on the development of Rail Baltica railway connection.
The Latvian Transport Ministry said that at present the Baltic cooperation in railway transport is governed by the agreement signed on May 2, 2013, which provides also for cooperation in the implementation of the Rail Baltica project for construction of the European-gauge railway line through the three Baltic states.
In recent years several declarations for cooperation in the implementation of the Rail Baltica project have been signed between the Baltic states as well as with Poland, Finland, and the EU. "Although the Baltic states have confirmed their shared interest in joint implementation of the Rail Baltica project, established a joint venture, RB Rail, in 2014, applied for and have been granted the EU funding, so far the governments of the three countries have not signed an agreement about their commitment to carry out the project," the ministry said.
The agreement upheld by the Latvian government today emphasizes the common objective of the three Baltic states to develop the Rail Baltica project that is of a considerable strategic and economic importance to their citizens and economies. Rail Baltica is an important infrastructure project not only for the Baltic states but also for Poland, Finland and the EU which wants to develop trans-European transport networks including the North Sea-Baltic Core Network Corridor.
The agreement reaffirms the definition of Rail Baltica, the status of RB Rail as the project coordinator, the route of the new rail line and the commitment of the Baltic states to complete the project by 2025 to put the new railway in operation in 2026. The document underlined the importance of the EU funding for implementation of the project and states the intention of the Baltic states to seek further support from the EU funds.
It is planned that the prime ministers of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania will sign the Rail Baltica agreement during the meeting in Tallinn on January 31. However, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis announced recently that he was not sure about the signing of the agreement on that date. 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 a development of transport infrastructure.