The Riigikogu on Tuesday decided to accept the ratification bill on the agreement signed by the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for the development of the Rail Baltic railway project.
The prime ministers of all three Baltic countries on Jan. 31 signed the Rail Baltic agreement, which sets out the deadlines, route and several technical details of the new railway interconnection to run from Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border. The agreement must be ratified by the parliaments of all three countries.
The Rail Baltic agreement determines the general technical parameters and route of the railway as well as its construction schedule. An intergovernmental agreement is necessary as there are some matters which companies cannot regulate under the Rail Baltic joint venture shareholders' agreement, the Riigikogu press service said.
The agreement regulates ownership of the future rail infrastructure and the land under it as well as the conditions for the financing of the railway's construction. It also provides for ensuring access to Rail Baltic infrastructure and provides general guidelines for Rail Baltic management to determine the infrastructure operator.
The total cost of the works on Estonian territory is projected at €1.3 billion, of which Estonia's contribution is €250 million. Up to 85 percent of Rail Baltic project funding will come from the Connecting Europe Facility.
The Riigikogu appointed the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu as the leading committee on the matter.
Ratas: Project should be reopened if EU changes Rail Baltic funding
"If the proportions [of EU funding] change at the expense of the Estonian taxpayer, the project will be reopened and all parliaments will be asked for a mandate," Ratas said when answering MPs' questions on Tuesday. "The project has been drawn up with the presumption that 80 percent of funding [to cover expenses made in Estonia] would come from the EU and 20 percent would be paid by the Estonian taxpayer."
According to Ratas, the EU deems the project important and it will not be cut out of the union's funding plan in the next period. He said that when drafting a budget, the primary question is regarding the proportion of support.
"I definitely wouldn't dare say that it is a zero-euro project," said the prime minister. "Most transport links receive additional funding — we can see that within Estonia." He said that the question was how much extra needs to be paid. "The estimate is a maximum of €10 million per year and this sum should decrease as carriage of passengers and goods improves."
Ratas added that opposing Rail Baltic and Via Baltica was not right. "I hope that the state will make a speedy decision to carry on with Via Baltica," he said. According to the prime minister, a quick decision was also needed to determine how to proceed with the section of Tallinn-Tartu Highway running from Mäo toward Tartu.
Ratas said that opposing Rail Baltic and Via Baltica is not right. "I hope that the state will make a speedy decision to carry on with Via Baltica," he said. According to Ratas a fast decision is also needed to determine how to proceed with the section of Tallinn-Tartu highway from Mao towards Tartu.
Editor: Aili Vahtla