Tallinn, Estonia – The European Commission has tasked the Baltic countries with reaching an agreement on the organization and structure of the Rail Baltica European standard-gauge railroad project. A deadline of March 21 was set for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to spur stakeholders to push through with the agreement which has so far been stalled.
Baiba Rubesa, CEO at RB Rail, a company set up by the three Baltic countries for implementation of the Rail Baltica project, told ETV that Brussels was concerned about disagreements among the Baltic countries. Rubesa told reporters:
“They are starting to have doubts in Brussels if the three Baltic countries really want to build the railroad according to the agreement, thereby guaranteeing that we will find the required EUR 4 billion by the start of the new financial development program in 2020. Yes, I believe that there is a certain risk in this regard.”
Earlier this month RB Rail offered an invitation on the occasion of the centenary of the Baltic States, for the public to participate in an entertaining educational campaign “A Trip to Rail Baltica future” to share their vision on Rail Baltica travel and to learn of one’s readiness to grasp opportunities offered by Rail Baltica and modern technologies. Also in February, the Ministry of Public Administration of the Republic of Estonia approved the spatial plan for the Rail Baltica railway in Estonia, leading to setting of the final route and preliminary design of the railway in this northern Baltic state.
On the management side, the decision by Estonian and Lithuanian shareholders in RB Rail with regard to a no confidence vote in Rubesa was due to disagreements over organizational matters, according to Rubesca.
“It appears that Estonia and Lithuania have come to believe over the past few months that the three countries can implement the project only through cooperating with each other. That is not how the project was envisioned, at least that is not what the European Union was thinking,” said Rubesa.
She said that Lithuania was the most difficult partner to work with during the development of the RB Rail project and work on several technical issues. On the other hand, Estonia believes that all disagreements will be timely solved. Rail Baltica coordinator in Estonia Kristjan had this to add: Kaunissaare said
“It has been clearly defined since 2016 who does what for the project. There have indeed been disagreements with RB Baltica management lately, but I am confident that we will overcome our differences in the near future.”
During a visit to Vilnius earlier this month EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc warned that the Baltic countries must seek agreement on Rail Baltica, or they risk having financing problems. LETA also reported, the Estonian and Lithuanian shareholders of RB Rail at the beginning of February expressed no confidence in Rubesa. Rubesa has said she does not plan to resign despite the no-confidence vote. The issue will next be discussed in the company’s supervisory board which is to decide whether Rubesa will continue as head of the company. The next ordinary supervisory board meeting is scheduled to take place on March 22. Rubesa continued:
“Some members of the RB Rail supervisory board take decisions while sitting on two chairs. They are Rail Baltica project’s shareholders, managers and potential suppliers at the same time. I have been constantly facing supervisors’ interference both in the procurement processes and the selection of RB Rail managers.”
The Lithuanian side said the statements by Rubesa may have a negative effect upon stability and continuity of the project. Meanwhile, RB Rail shareholders include the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian railway companies, UAB Rail Baltica Statyba, SIA Eiropas Dzelzcela Linijas and Rail Baltic Estonia OU. RB Rail AS is the central coordinator for the Rail Baltic project for the construction of a high speed rail line from Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border.
Rail Baltic, estimated to cost around EUR 5.8 billion in total, aims to building a direct railway connection between the Baltic countries and the European railway network. The project is planned to be completed by 2026.