An Estonian Economics and Communications Ministry official says that Estonia stands firm in its position that Lithuania must carry out a feasibility study before Vilnius can be added to the European-standard gauge railway Rail Baltica as his country does not want to put its signature “on a clean sheet of paper”, adding that he expects that the three Baltic countries will manage to achieve some progress in their talks on the project next Monday.
“In the last agreement we signed in Vilnius last year, it is said that Vilnius shall be connected and for us this sentence means that we have to continue Rail Baltic and add Vilnius after Lithuania has done the research. So, we are not ready to sign a clean [sheet of] paper that has only our signature on it. Of course, Vilnius has to be connected, but Lithuania has to make some research before that,” Rasmus Ruuda, adviser at the ministry’s Public Relations Department, told BNS.
“Actually, we all agree to connect Vilnius to Rail Baltica, but it is very complicated or even [impossible] to do it right now with this concrete project. But it can be added after some new research, after the year 2018, when it is possible to change EU regulations. So, we have said it several times before that we have to continue with Rail Baltic very quickly and we have to ask money from the European Commission. We do not see any ways to add Vilnius right now,” he said.
Ruuda expects that the countries’ deputy ministers will achieve some progress in their talks on the project next week.
“Maybe there has been too much [talk] in the media that Estonia and Lithuania have some big problems and so on. It is not actually like that. It is a very big and expensive project and it takes years to develop it and, of course, there are a lot of problems, but we can solve those problems. And we hope that on Monday there will be a very good meeting. I am not sure that we will find all solutions, but I am sure that we will make a step forward,” he said.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will hold the next round of talks on the establishment of a joint venture for Rail Baltica at the level of deputy transport ministers in Vilnius on Monday. The inclusion of Vilnius in the Rail Baltica route has been the key stumbling block in the talks so far.