Minister Apologizes for Slighting Lithuanians on Rail Baltic

Juhan Parts Postimees/Scanpix
1/20/2014 7:48 AM
Category: Politics

Economic Affairs Minister Juhan Parts has apologized to his Lithuanian colleague over comments made to a Wall Street Journal contributor in which he criticized Lithuania for recent demands made on Rail Baltic, the joint infrastructure project to connect the Baltics to the European rail system.

A diplomatic row broke late Friday when Parts was quoted on the newspaper's "Real Time Brussels" blog as saying there were "idiots" in the Lithuanian government who risked ruining the entire venture. 

Lithuania’s Transport Minister Rimantas Sinkeviičius had said earlier last week that the route linking the Baltics to the European rail system should run through the capital Vilnius, far to the east of the shortest route to Poland. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been having trouble agreeing on a joint venture for Rail Baltic.  

Delfi reported that Lithuanian Prime MInister Algirdas Butkevičius instructed his Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius to summon the Estonian ambassador for an explanation. At home, Parts's comments drew censure from Prime Andrus Ansip as well, who called the use of language "inappropriate."

Parts apologized on Sunday, while reserving criticism for the blogger.

"Regrettably the outcome of a long telephone conversation about the current status of Rail Baltic and questions that need to be resolved was a blog entry whose maliciousness I found disappointing," Parts told uudised.err.ee.

"I apologize to my Lithuanian colleague for the misunderstanding," he said.

Others pointed out that the newspaper's blog may have fueled the row, not least by doing a poor job translating Parts's comments.

On Saturday, the WSJ blog ran a "clarification" in which Parts was further quoted as saying that a better translation of the Estonian word would have been "fools." The offending "idiots" had  also been corrected to "fools" in the blog entry.

Parts was also misidentified as the transport minister, an office that, unlike in Lithuania, became part of the country's economic affairs ministry over a decade ago.

Rail Baltic, expected to cost around 4 billion euros, stands to get 85 percent of the funding from the EU, but that hinges on whether the Baltics succeed in establishing a joint venture.


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