Baltic states discussed “Rail Baltica” implementation with the European Commission

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2018 03 22

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On 21 March a high-level meeting in Riga between the representatives of the three Baltic states and the European Commission marked the end of a series of working meetings, the goal of which was to improve the management of the “Rail Baltica” project implementation where necessary, evaluate the progress of the project and the compliance with the established schedule, and discuss interoperable technical standards applicable to the entire “Rail Baltica” railway line.

During six months of negotiations representatives of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia presented joint proposals on how to implement the “Rail Baltica” project more effectively, with closer co-operation between the responsible ministries of the Baltic states, the companies implementing the project and the “RB Rail” company established for co-ordination of the project. The proposals are aimed at ensuring regular monitoring of the implementation on the political level, making arrangements and decisions more quickly, co-ordinating activities in appropriate manner, avoiding delays and effectively using allocated funds.

In 2016, the Baltic states with the involvement of the European Commission agreed on how to share the project implementation tasks, i.e. which activities are to be initiated and implemented by the national implementers and the co-ordinator “RB Rail”. It was a well-balanced and sustainable solution that allowed close interaction on the national, regional and European Union levels. Attempts to revise the concluded agreements and project implementation governance would imply the political and legal risks and undoubtedly delay the project implementation.

It is especially important for the countries to ensure the maturity of the “Rail Baltica” project because this year will mark the start of the discussions on EU 2021–2027 fiscal perspective where the issue of further funding of the project will also be discussed. The Baltic states are directly responsible for the implementation of the “Rail Baltica” project, they are obliged to implement it according to a signed intergovernmental agreement and other agreements, therefore Lithuania is interested in as close co-operation between all the project participants as possible. In this phase the role of the “RB Rail” co-ordinator is especially important because the joint company has to build consensus and elaborate the proposals for countries’ decision. This would allow the project implementation work to be carried out quickly and in a most cost-efficient way. 

After considering a proposed idea to concentrate the “Rail Baltica” project implementation and monitoring activities in a single implementing body, i.e. the joint company “RB Rail”, the three Baltic states instead propose to improve the communication between the joint company and the national implementers, use the national expert resources more effectively, and improve the high-level supervision of the project implementation. This would allow a more effective and efficient management of the project’s implementation costs, and it would help to avoid difficulties that will undoubtedly arise during the land acquisition, territory preparation and design phases.

The meetings also involved discussions on general guidelines for railway technical design. All partners of the project agreed that commonly agreed parameters will help the designers to see the characteristics of the future railway and will ensure interaction throughout the railway line.