Joint Company for Rail Baltic Hits Another Stumbling Block ({{commentsTotal}})

Officials have backpedaled, after a meeting yesterday, on the pledge to establish a joint company for Rail Baltic by the end of the year.

Project director Indrek Sirp said Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have reached a broad consensus, hoping to have a joint company as early as possible next year, but a number of technical issues still need to worked out in the shareholders' agreement.

"Streamlining standpoints between the negotiators has proven more complicated than expected, so we cannot manage to stay in the initially proposed timetable whereby a joint company for Rail Baltic would have been established by January 1, 2014 by the latest," Sirp said.

The main issues of negotiation are the project's phases of implementation, business plan principles and the joint company's managers' powers and obligations. Negotiations will continue next week in Vilnius.

In November, the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania agreed to establish a joint company for Rail Baltic before the end of the year.

However, last week it was reported that the recent demand by the Lithuanian government to connect Vilnius to the Rail Baltic line could pose problems, a meeting of EU delegates found, as the initial plan was to include Kaunas instead.

European transport commissioner Siim Kallas told ETV on Thursday that he understands the Lithuanians' wish to connect Vilnius, but said they should have tabled the demand at the beginning, when the route was put in place.

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said at the meeting that the union has earmarked 26 billion euros, one tenth of the funds for pan-European projects during the 2014 to 2020 budget period, for Rail Baltic.

The project should be gathering momentum, as funding could be lost if construction does not begin by 2016.

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