Minister of Economic Affairs Juhan Parts has taken issue with what he described as recent hesitation on the part of Lithuania in the establishing of a joint company for the Rail Baltic project, which would connect the Baltic region with Central Europe in the future.
Parts said all the other partners in the project - Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and the European Commission - are waiting to go forward with the process, but Lithuania has been hindering it since May.
“In the multinational discussion, Lithuania stands alone and I would hope that they are seeking a solution. It is somewhat worrisome and we should ask what their motives are,” Parts told ERR radio. "The reluctance [to go forward on] what was approved by Lithuania's last prime minister comes as a surprise to us and the resistance as such only began in May."
Parts said that different arguments have been presented, but “can't be taken seriously.” One of these is that a joint company would be unconstitutional because Lithuania's railroad infrastructure can by law only be nationally owned. Parts's solution to this would be to form a company where the physical property remains in state hands, while operation and development are shared.
Estonian MEPs Tunne Kelam and Vilja Savisaar-Toomast have also expressed concern that Lithuania, as the new holder of the EU presidency, had not added Rail Baltic to its list of priorities.
European Commissioner Siim Kallas was more optimistic.
"The opening of Lithuania's presidency was Friday and I was present as well along with my colleagues, and there was a lot of discussion of [Rail Baltic] there. The prime minister even stressed in his opening speech that Lithuania will do its part in Rail Baltic and that it is an extremely important project for them. Of course there are many details, but I think that the legal variants and solutions for a joint company will be found,” Kallas said.
The next meeting of the Rail Baltic working group takes place in Brussels on July 15.