Kariņš in Tallinn to talk with Baltic counterparts and EU Commissioner

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Friday, 7 February sees Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas hosting Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš and Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis in Tallinn within the framework of the Baltic Council of Ministers.

"The meeting will focus on Rail Baltic and other regional connections, as well as the EU multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027. Also participating in the meeting will be Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources," said an Estonian government press release.

“Estonia coordinates the work of the Baltic Council of Ministers in 2020. One of our priorities is improving connectivity in the region. We will continue to work closely on regional energy and transport projects such as Rail Baltica and the synchronisation of the Baltic electricity grid with the continental system, which will benefit the whole region,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas before the meeting.

“Rapid implementation of regional projects is in our common interest and we need to secure the broadest possible support for these projects from the next European Union budget,” Ratas added.

The working sessions dedicated to Rail Baltica and energy will take place on the premises of Elering, where Taavi Veskimägi, Chairman of the Board of Elering, will give the ministers an overview of regional energy projects and future plans. The meeting will also be attended by Latvian and Lithuanian transport ministers and a representative of the European Commission.

The budget of the European Union will be more discussed in more detail at a working lunch which will also be attended by Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, who is tasked with helping EU Member States reach an agreement on the budget.

After the meeting, at 2.30 p.m., the prime ministers and Commissioner Hahn gave a joint press conference, which was webcast live.

During the press conference Kariņš stressed that synchronization with the European electricity market is a priority for the three Baltic States in the field of energy.

“Financing agreements have been reached, infrastructure projects are being built according to the planned time and budgets. We are continuing to monitor this project with experts to ensure that it is implemented as planned,” said Kariņš.

The Prime Minister also said all countries are determined to move forward with the implementation of the Rail Baltica railway infrastructure project.

"Each country has a different approach to the start of construction - Lithuania is moving ahead with track construction, Estonia with viaducts, while Latvia is starting with challenging rail infrastructure developments in Riga and at Riga Airport," said Kariņš.

However, he also admitted that several serious challenges remain. "We agreed with the Transport Ministers of our countries on the need to continue working hard on removing project management barriers so that Rail Baltica will be as successful and predictable as synchronizing with the European electricity market," he said.

“Our common goal is to build the Rail Baltica railway infrastructure by 2026. The project has received significant financial support from the European Commission. We are looking for the best solutions to improve the governance structure. For this purpose, we are analysing topics related to security, tax solutions, management responsibilities, tender process, and ownership structure,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

The Baltic prime ministers will meet in late March in Vilnius to assess the progress of the rail infrastructure project.

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