Not only persons responsible for failures with Rail Baltica project need to be determined, the project needs to move forward - Rinkevics

  • 2024-06-12
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Regarding the Rail Baltica railroad project, the focus should be not only on determining those responsible for failures with the project so far, but also on decisions to foster implementation of the project, President Edgars Rinkevics said at a press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Evika Silina (New Unity) on Wednesday.

The State Audit Office's review of the Rail Baltica project and problems identified by the office should be discussed at the level of Baltic heads of government, because there are many similar conclusions about the situation in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, for example, costs of the project have increased in all three countries, which, according to Rinkevics, is quite understandable as costs change during the development of a project and the impact of inflation should be taken into account also.

Rinkevics believes that the three Baltic governments need to talk about ways to foster implementation of the project, addressing similar challenges, including financing, design and deadlines, also taking into account the military mobility aspect.

"I believe there are things that need to be discussed at the level of the Baltic countries as we move forward, including matters that concern European Union (EU) funding. Discussions should also be held with the European Commission and other EU member countries," said Rinkevics.

When a project is proposed, the financial estimates are approximate, but as details emerge, such as design, environmental studies, land appropriations, "it becomes a completely different story", said Rinkevics. He also reminded of huge inflation in recent years, which has affected everything, but did not deny the importance of project management either.

"Many issues were not reported to the government by the Transport Ministry. [...] The question is, why it was not the Cabinet of Ministers that took the decisions. I think that there is a discussion to be had on this in the Cabinet in order to establish a system where the government is not only informed about important decisions, but also takes these decisions because they concern the state budget," said Rinkevics.

According to the president, everything that "usually happens in Latvia" in such cases will be done without delay: the guilty parties will be determined, discussions about past mistakes will take place, but decisions have to be taken on what to do next.

"One thing I know is that it will not be easy. The three countries have different decision-making processes, sometimes their interests differ too. [...] I think there will definitely be a discussion about what was done right or wrong, but I am more interested in what will be done next," said Rinkevics.

As reported, at the end of 2023, the auditors-general of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia signed an agreement of cooperation to examine significant aspects and issues of the Rail Baltica railway project's implementation and financing.

The audit found a deficit of EUR 10-19 billion in the Rail Baltica project's budget.

According to the State Audit Office, since 2017, costs for Estonia have increased from EUR 1.35 billion to EUR 4.03 billion, for Latvia - from EUR 1.97 billion to EUR 9.59 billion, while for Lithuania - from EUR 2.47 billion to EUR 10.23 billion.

The auditors also indicated that the Rail Baltica project was at least five years behind schedule.