Due to lack of political will in Latvia, the project to build the Rail Baltica high-speed railway line linking the Baltic states and Western Europe may fall through, warned EU Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas.
In an interview with Latvijas Avize, Kallas said that the plan to build the Riga-Moscow high-speed railway line that is being discussed by Latvia and Russia will not receive support from the EU funds.
Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin was in Latvia on March 6 to discuss the project with Latvian Transport Minister Uldis Augulis. Latvia has, however, put off making a decision about the Rail Baltica project, citing lack of financial resources. According to the national railway company, this is a political rather than a business project.
"The rail cargo volumes between the Baltic states and Europe are greater than those between the Baltic states and Russia," said Kallas, adding that he cannot see any chance of the Riga-Moscow high-speed railway line becoming an EU project.
The Rail Baltica railway line has been under discussion since 2004.
"A good land connection is vitally important to the Baltic states. Finland is also very interested in the completion of this project and extremely disappointed that it has been delayed," said Kallas, stressing that if the Latvian government shows no political will, nothing will happen.
"The EU can help to launch the project smoothly and even allocate some funds to it. However, the participating countries must make the decision to invest," said Kallas. According to him, the deadline for making that decision is 2012.
Kallas urged Latvia to analyze the situation thoroughly. "Europe has already had several bad examples of political decisions made with no financial backing. These projects never took off, causing some uncomfortable moments," said Kallas.
"For example, how many passengers would there be? People sometimes have illusions about the transit from Russia through the Baltic states. There is no evidence of these rail cargo volumes increasing in the future. Russia is already developing alternative railway lines, for example, through St. Petersburg," Kallas argued.
"I have nothing against maintaining a good relationship and cooperation with Russia, however, they must not become misleading," said Kallas.