Latvian representative accuses Lithuania of Rail Baltica go-slow

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Janis Vucans (Greens and Farmers Union), the head of the Latvian delegation to the Baltic Assembly, at a meeting in Brussels January 23 accused Lithuania of a go-slow approach to implementation of the Rail Baltica project for construction of a 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 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," the letter says.

Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica would create the missing link to the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and serve as a vital element of the North Sea–Baltic Corridor.

"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 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 development of transport infrastructure.

Meannwhile, Latvia's representative Edvins Berzins, the board chairman of the Latvian state-owned railway company Latvijas Dzelzcels, has been appointed as the new chairman of the Supervisory Board of RB Rail, a joint venture established by the three Baltic states for coordination of Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project for construction of the European-gauge railroad that would link Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with the rest of Europe.

Berzins will replace the Lithuanian representative, Dainius Budrys, Director of Rail Baltica Statyba, as the chairman of the Supervisory Board of RB Rail under the shareholder agreement which provides for annual rotation of the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board, the company said.

Upon taking the office, Berzins said that the main task of the Supervisory Board at the moment was to create a professional Management Board to ensure effective technical, financial and operational management of the project and coordinated activities in all three Baltic states.

"The objective of the project is to create successfully functioning European gauge railway line that passes through all three Baltic states. This objective can be achieved only if all of the involved parties have joint understanding, the same level of dedication to work in a coordinated manner while respecting the joint interests of the three countries as well as a professional team," Berzins said.

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