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CEO: Rail Baltic will remain high priority EU project

Indrek Orav.
Indrek Orav. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Critics of Rail Baltic did not get the answers they were hoping for at yesterday’s overview of the feasibility study—to what extent the European Union will finance the project in the next budgetary period still isn’t clear. Rail Baltic Estonia’s CEO, Indrek Orav, is convinced that the EU will continue to support the project.

As the management of the project was careful to repeat, the Rail Baltic route is expected to bring in €16 billion by 2055. “With the Rail Baltic project a new economic corridor in Northeast Europe is developed. As I see it, it’s better to have it than not to have it. If you look at the cost-benefit analysis, then you can see that the profit for the people in all of the Baltic states on every euro invested will reach about €5.90,” Baiba Rubesa, CEO of RB Rail AS, said.

Without the EU’s contribution of 80 percent of the total investment volume, the project couldn’t happen. Because of this, critics of the project have repeatedly demanded clear answers to the question how the European Commission is planning to continue funding the project in the next budgetary period.

“The wedding reception arranged by the three Baltic states is coming, but how much money the parents are going to put into it and how much the wedding guests themselves will have to pay we don’t know. The principles of the European Union’s budget have not been agreed yet, thanks to Brexit everything has to start from scratch,” Vahur Tõnissoo, representative of Avalikult Rail Balticust (“Publicly about Rail Baltic”), said.

Meanwhile Indrek Orav, CEO of Rail Baltic Estonia, is convinced that the EU will continue to fund the project. “This has been given very high level priority in the European Union, and certainly won’t be crossed off this list. What might happen in a negative scenario is that the Estonian state’s own contribution could increase somewhat. By how much, that’s too early to speculate,” Orav said, adding that even if Estonia’s share would increase to €600 million, it would still be a rewarding project.

A first outline of EU’s budget for the 2021-2027 period is expected for early next year. Until then, a final risk analysis for Rail Baltic has to be put together.

Until the funding is settled, the countries concentrate on the parts of the project that would still be of value to them even in the case the overall idea should fail. For Estonia, this means building a state-of-the-art railway connection between Tallinn and Pärnu, the Ülemiste transport hub, and new railway connections to the ports.

Aivar Kokk (IRL), chairman of the Riigikogu’s Economic Affairs Committee, agrees with the approach. As Kokk told ERR’s “Aktuaalne Kaamera” newscast on Tuesday, in his opinion building those parts first that were of importance to Estonia would mean that even in case the Rail Baltic project should fail, not a cent would have been wasted.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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