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Ratas: Energy, transport connections between Baltics, Europe assure future

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The Prime Ministers of Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Latvia. May 8, 2017.
The Prime Ministers of Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Latvia. May 8, 2017. Source: (valitsus.ee)

The Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland met in Tallinn on Monday to discuss questions related to energy and transport and matters of security in the Baltic-Polish region as well as the future of the EU.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas stressed to his colleagues, Latvian Prime Mininster Māris Kučinskis, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło, the importance of cooperation between their respective countries.

"You are always welcome in Estonia not only because our countrie are geographically close to each other and because the experiences of our people have historically been similar, but first and foremost because together we are stronger," Ratas said according to a government press release. "Together we can shape the decisions regarding our future, both on the EU as well as the NATO level."

On the subject of security, Ratas said that the four countrie have a similar perception and undertanding of the challenges surrounding them — the security environment in the Baltic Sea region is troubled. "We must all make an effort and continue our cooperation in order for the deterrence and protection of NATO to strengthen even more in our airspace and also on the Baltic Sea," he said, adding that U.S. military presence in the Baltics was and would remain important for Estonia.

Speaking about energy security, Ratas said that it was important to gain clarity as quickly as possible regarding how to proceed with the synchronization of the Baltics' and Europe's electrical power systems. "Estonia supports synchronization via Poland if it is done via transmission lines located in two route-ways and is also supported by the European Commission's respective study," he said. "There is always an alternative, and that is synchronization with the electrical power systems of the Nordic countries."

The Estonian prime minister noted that the synchronization of the Baltic power systems also needed to meet three objectives — to guarantee a high security and independence of electricity supply, to secure the functioning of the electricity market as well as to ensure the lowest expenses for the consumer. "In addition, I see in it an important energy security aspect," he added.

On the subject of transport connections, Ratas declared that Rail Baltic was the region's most important transport connection in history. "The new opportunities arising from Rail Baltic will create the foundation for the continuation of economic growth in the Baltic states as well as in Poland and Finland," he said. "We have a unique opportunity to create a new transport corridor beginning at the Arctic Ocean and ending at the Mediterranean Sea."

The Estonian prime minister added that the connectivity of the Baltics with the rest of Europe both in terms of transport as well as energy was the assurance of the region's future that would promote economic growth and reduce reliance on Russia.

In addition to regional issues, the four prime ministers also discussed the future of the EU. "The Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union comes at a decisive time for the EU," said Ratas. "As the next preidency, it is important for Estonia to keep the [27 member states of the EU] united, especially against the backdrop of Brexit, and move onward with the realization of plans agreed upon in Bratislava and Rome." He noted that the EU should not only speak of solidarity but also act in solidarity as well, as only through action could the union show the true value thereof.

"The aim of the Estonian presidency is to aid the building of a Europe with an open and innovative economy, keep Europe secure, promote digital solutions and the free movement of data as well as ensure that the activity of the EU is inclusive and sustainable," Ratas said, introducing the priorities of the upcoming Estonian presidency to his colleagues.

Following their meeting with Szydło, the Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will together visit the development project of the regional terminal in Paldiski. Paldiski is also the location through which the Balticconnector natural gas pipeline connecting the gas grids of Estonia and Finland will run.

This year, the Baltic Council of Ministers is under Estonian presidency, during which the priorities of Baltic cooperation will include the strengthening of security, including the enhancement of security and defense cooperation, as well as the further development of transport connections and the regional energy market.

Editor: Dario Cavegn, Aili Vahtla

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