RB Rail AS, the joint venture established to oversee the Rail Baltica railroad project, announced on Friday that Baiba Rubesa does not intend to resign as CEO despite the expression of no confidence in her by two of three shareholders the previous day.
At Thursday's shareholder meeting, representatives of Estonia and Lithuania voted to express no confidence in Rubesa, while Latvia abstained.
"For the past two years, RB Rail's management board has been saddled by the consequences of slow decision-making processes which has left an impact on the ability to deliver the project faster and some activities on time," Rubesa said in a press release. "In fact, the joint venture's supervisory board has consistently limited the ability to build a proper RB Rail organization as one effective delivery unit, which has made the implementation process even more challenging.
"I am aware that I have been an 'uncomfortable' CEO who did not please the special interests of the shareholders and even beneficiaries, by choosing to follow the high values of corporate governance, transparency, honest project implementation in the interests of the general public of the three countries — looking beyond the established freight patterns of the existing national railway companies," she continued.
Rubesa said that even though she has not received any formal notification by the shareholders, apart from a ten-minute meeting with RB Rail's supervisory board chairman and Rail Baltica Estonia's CEO, she was aware that the no-confidence vote by two shareholders in her was in fact based on her initiative to ensure as efficient a project management and coordination entity as possible with a proposal for a highly integrated project implementation organization — a proposal requested also by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (EC DG MOVE).
"A Rail Baltic beneficiaries agreement on such an organization is a precondition for signing the latest CEF3 Grant agreement," said the CEO. "This means that we would have one project implementer in three countries, as intended when the joint venture was established, to ensure less spending on administrative expenses, to be able to engage the scarce Baltic expertise used for the entire project, faster alignment and decision-taking process and clear responsibilities who is doing what. It should be possible to ensure one vision, strategy and standard implementation for the totality of the project."
Rubesa also said she was proud to have stood strong and resisted any conflict of interest situations created by some supervisory board members making decisions while at the same time serving two positions — as shareholders and implementing bodies or even potential suppliers, with an attempted top-down interference in, for example, tender processes and, thus, a continuous demand to sacrifice our internationally established procurement practices; interfering in recruitment processes for high management positions, including the supervisory board's decision to appoint as three internal auditors specific individuals with national allegiances without choosing them in an open and transparent recruitment process.
Riia Sillave, CEO of Estonian shareholder Rail Baltic Estonia OÜ, said earlier on Friday that shareholders of RB Rail AS on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of RB Rail CEO Baiba Rubesa, but the project will continue as planned.
"Baiba Rubesa has successfully presented the Rail Baltic project and prepared for the establishment of the new railway," Sillave told BNS. "However, different interpretations have persisted when it comes to the division of tasks and responsibilities during that period between the individual countries and the project coordinator. The latter was the reason why the shareholders of the company expressed their dissatisfaction with the chairman of the mangement board. The managers of the companies of Rail Baltic unanimously affirmed that the project is going on in the countries as planned towards a successful implementation.
"In collaboration between the three countries, the project coordinator and the European Commission, we have moved forward nicely with Rail Baltic," Sillave continued. "We have reached the design phase, for which it is necessary to make changes to the management, and a technical approach."
Sources told BNS on Thursday that shareholders of RB Rail have expressed no confidence in RB Rail CEO Baiba Rubesa. The sources said that the vote took place at a general meeting of shareholders held in Tallinn on Thursday. The supervisory board of RB Rail, which has to decide over Rubesa's continuation in the post, may gather earlier than its next scheduled meeting to decide about the matter.
Karolis Sankovskis, deputy chair of the supervisory board of RB Rail and CEO of the Lithuanian shareholder of the joint venture, told BNS on Friday that the supervisory board on Thursday did not discuss the issue of Baiba Rubesa staying in her post after two of the company's three shareholders earlier in the day had expressed no-confidence in the CEO.
"That issue was not discussed at the supervisory board, but that issue was earlier discussed at the shareholder meeting and it was decided to express no-confidence in the CEO," Sankovskis said.
"This situation will be addressed in the supervisory board's next meetings," he added.
According to Sankovskis, the Lithuanian and Estonian shareholders voted to express no-confidence in Rubesa, whereas the Latvian shareholder sustained. Rita Voronkova, of Latvia's Eiropas Dzelzcela Linijas, also confirmed this to BNS.
"There is a major difference in understanding of and in positions on project management and coordination issues," Sankovskis told BNS.
He would not comment in more detail.
Rubesa was elected CEO of RB Rail in October of 2015. Prior to accepting the position, she had previously led Statoil Latvia, worked at Statoil's Azerbaijan branch, and was on the supervisory board of the Latvian bank Citadele.
Shareholders in RB Rail AS include Rail Baltic Estonia OÜ, Latvia's SIA Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas and Lithuania's UAB Rail Baltica statyba.
RB Rail AS is the central coordinator for the Rail Baltica project for the construction of a high speed rail line to run from Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border.
Editor: Aili Vahtla