Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius hopes to convince his Estonian counterpart, Taavi Roivas, to agree on Vilnius’ integration into the European-standard gauge railway line Rail Baltica, Butkevicius said on LRT Radio Tuesday.
“Estonia’s Prime Minister is coming on a visit tomorrow and I hope that we will agree and make the final decisions on Rail Baltica Two,” Butkevicius said.
He acknowledged Estonia and Latvia’s opposition to Lithuania’s goal to link its Vilnius with Rail Baltica.
“That opposition is justified to some extent. Lithuania did not demand to include Vilnius in this project and the funding, estimated on the basis of the feasibility study, covered the project without a link to Vilnius. Naturally, Latvia and Estonia would be dissatisfied if a certain amount earmarked for the project is taken for the rail link between Kaunas and Vilnius. In this case, each country would have to make a significant contribution from its national budget,” Butkevicius said.
The Baltic countries spent more than six months trying to agree on the establishment of a joint venture for Rail Baltica. Late in April, however, deputy transport ministers from the three countries reached a tentative agreement on Vilnius’ inclusion in the railway network.
Until then, the inclusion of Vilnius in the Rail Baltica route was the key stumbling block in the talks on the establishment of a joint venture for the project. Lithuania claimed that its capital could be linked to the route in the next financial framework but insisted that the principle, that Vilnius is part of the route, should be entrenched in the shareholder agreement. Estonia, in its turn, said that Vilnius should be included in the project at a later stage after the completion of a respective feasibility study and negotiations with the European Commission.
Rail Baltica is estimated to cost 3.7 billion euros. The line could be built between 2019 and 2024.