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Sunday 20.08.2017 | Name days: Bernhards, Boriss

Lithuania agrees to put off adding Vilnius to Rail Baltic 2 route

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULithuania has agreed to postpone the construction of Rail Baltica 2 branch for Vilnius. This successfully terminates the biggest obstacle for the European rail project in the Baltics, as reported by Estonian ERR.

This agreement was achieved as a result of an unofficial meeting of EU Transport Ministers last week, as reported by Estonian Transport Minister Urve Palo. Nevertheless, during this meeting, Baltic transport ministers managed to reach a political agreement that Vilnius branch of Rail Baltica 2 will be included in the project.

‘Lithuania confirmed it would like to include Vilnius to the Rail Baltica 2 project, but added that it will not request any changes to be made to the initial route,’ – explains Estonian Transport Ministry’s advisor Rasmuss Ruda.

It is planned that a branch for Vilnius will be added in a later stage of the project.

During an informal meeting in Vilnius in September 2013, transport ministers from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland signed a declaration regarding the foundation of a joint company for the realization of Rail Baltica project. Vilnius was mentioned as well. It was originally planned to create this company before January, but because of the uncertainty regarding the involvement of Vilnius in the project representatives of the three Baltic States failed to reach an agreement.

A few weeks ago during discussions in Brussels, Lithuanians were told that the involvement of Vilnius in the project would go against EU rights. Compromise proposals suggested by Lithuanian representatives were not discussed in detail. It was mentioned that Lithuania’s actions delayed the rail project, the value of which reaches nearly EUR 4 billion.

Pavels Telicka, coordinator of the project, notes that Brussels cannot understand why Lithuania has changed its position (Lithuania had previously supported the initiative to have the route go through Kaunas). He added that Baltic States have to create a joint company within the next couple of weeks if they want to timely submit an application for EU funding.

Last December, the Lithuanian Seimas adopted a resolution that asked the government to assess the economic efficiency of Rail Baltica route that would include Vilnius and a connecting line to Kaunas. An alternative route was also suggested – it would go from Polish and Lithuanian border through Vilnius, not Kaunas.

Shortly after that, Lithuanian PM Algirdas Butkevicius announced that Lithuania will do everything in its power to have Vilnius included in the project sooner or later. If it is not possible to agree on creating a branch for Vilnius, the project for the Lithuanian capital will be submitted separately with hopes of receiving funding after 2020.

‘This is not about prestige. It is about an important transit element for our country’s economy,’ – added the PM.

According to him, talks with Latvian and Estonian colleagues regarding the creation of a joint company may continue all the way until July.

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