Ratas: Helme doesn't want to change coalition agreement over Rail Baltic
Speaking at Question Time in the Riigikogu on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said that he spoke with Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chairman and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme regarding Rail Baltic on Tuesday, and the latter confirmed that he did not want to make changes to the coalition agreement in connection with the railroad project.
"I spoke with the chairman of EKRE yesterday about whether they intend to change the coalition agreement," Ratas said. "He said that they do not want to change the coalition agreement. Therefore, the Estonian government is continuing to work in the name of Rail Baltic. The government isn't broken, and will move forward with Rail Baltic."
The coalition agreement between the Center Party, EKRE and Isamaa states that if the EU's next budgetary period doesn't ensure the expected 81 percent cofunding for the Rail Baltic project, the coalition would review the project's feasibility, route, schedule and local stops, while continuing activities that more broadly support Estonian infrastructure. Currently, the EU is supporting Rail Baltic with 85 percent and the Estonian state with 15 percent of funding.
Ratas said that no agreement has been reached yet regarding the EU's next multiannual financial framework (MFF), as a result of which it is likewise not yet known how large the EU's contribution will be. He confirmed that he would do everything he could to ensure that European funding is not reduced and that Rail Baltic can be built as planned.
Asked what would happen if EU funding were to be reduced below the 81 percent agreed upon in the coalition agreement, such as to 80 percent, the prime minister replied that in that case he would have to appear before the Riigikogu to discuss the matter again.
"But even then I will support the implementation of this project," he continued. "I am a big supporter of Rail Baltic. I think that Estonia needs it very much. Not just economically, but also for security reasons. That our people can move not just between the Baltic states and Europe, but also domestically."
Another concern cited by Ratas was the rail project's management structure, but he confirmed that, having spoken to his Baltic colleagues on Wednesday morning, they had taken one step closer to resolving that particular issue.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla