European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc has sent a letter to the transport ministers of the Baltics, warning that the Rail Baltica project is in danger of not receiving EU funding due to delays with its implementation.
"The resignation of Ms Baiba Rubesa from her position as CEO of Rail Baltic AS on 27 September has attracted a certain level of public attention on the progress and governance of the Rail Baltica project," Bulc said in the letter to Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson (Centre), Latvian Minister of Transport and Communications Uldis Augulis and Lithuanian Minister of Transport and Communications Rokas Masiulis.
"The accumulated delays in the implementation of the project, and more particularly of the milestones of the Grant Agreements signed in 2014 and 2015, are indeed worrying," she added.
According to Bulc, "significant efforts are required to achieve the deadlines contained therein and to avoid loss of" Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funds in the future.
"In this context, I consider it a matter of urgency to discuss the status and outlook of Rail Baltica with you, and would like to invite you to a joint meeting on the margins of the informal meeting of transport and environment ministers on 29-30 October in Graz," the commissioner said her letter.
On 27 September, Baiba Rubesa resigned as CEO of the joint venture RB Rail. A representative for Rubesa said that her decision was due to irreconcilable differences between the visions for project management and implementation model.
At a press conference held that day, Rubesa stated that she had already planned on resigning this summer, but decided to stay on longer at the request of Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis. She said she had chosen to resign now and draw attention to the project's shortcomings.
"My profound concern is that the Rail Baltica project is at serious risk of not being properly implemented," Rubesa said at the time, emphasising that the current project management is weak and that conflicts of interest have been encapsulated in the very roots of the project.
In order to improve the situation, she made suggestions to the European Commission, selected MEPs and other involved parties, commenting on the problems of the project extensively. For example, she highlighted that the European Union must have a tangible role in cross-border projects.
Financial support for the Rail Baltica project from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) grants is at an extremely high level of 85%, Rubesa said. At the same time, she added, the expectations and recommendations of the EU are barely being considered by national beneficiaries.
In the future, it should be mandatory for the European Commission to also be involved in the project, Rubesa said. One option could be the direct involvement of a Commission representative in the joint venture itself, at least as an observer.
Editor: Aili Vahtla