Rail Baltic – August up-date

(There have recently been some Latvian and Lithuanian visitors to Baltirail website, who are probably using Google translate to interpret the Finnish language comments on Rail Baltic. Unfortunately Google and other web-translators speak rather bad Finnish. For example, the concise Finnish word “allekirjoittamattomuus” translates into English as “state of not being signed by anyone”, while “allekirjoittelemattomuus” would be “state of not being randomly signed by anyone”.  That’s plain and simple, but too difficult for Google translate to master. Here is a brief English launguage summary of the recent Rail Baltic monitoring comments from Baltirail website.)

Rail Baltic – August up-date

(Esa Nurkka 25.8.2014)

When it comes to recent Rail Baltic issues, the point is “allekirjoittamattomuus”, i.e. nothing was signed in Riga last weekend. Neither randomly nor specifically on purpose. The Baltic Prime Ministers did meet at the Baltic Way 25th anniversary celebration and they did participate a Rail Baltic presentation, and that’s it.

As all the previous deadlines for establishing RB Rail (the tripartite Rail Baltic joint company to be founded in Riga) have been missed, the latest unofficial target for signing the Shareholder’s Agreement had been set at 23.8.2014. That would have been most convenient: Signing the documents in Riga at Baltic Way 25th anniversary celebration, and submitting the finance application to EU in September.

That was a good plan, but it did not work out. On Friday 22.4.2014 Lithuania’s minister of transport Rimantas Sinkevičius announced that the joint company would not be established on Saturday. This raises some questions.

The Baltic Way 25 event was in Latvia, and for some reason Lithuania’s minister of transport Rimantas Sinkevičius decided to announce, that the joint company could not be established as of yet. According to Sinkevičius the reason for the delay was that Estonians had not set up their national Rail Baltic company. But in real life, Estonia had announced establishing OU Rail Baltic Estonia already on 15.8.2014, as anyone with an internet connection could have googled. We are talking about a 4 billion euros project here, and one would think that monitoring the environment at least occasionally would be a natural part of managing such a project. You know, just write “Rail Baltic” to Google and see what comes up.

It is indeed possible that the Lithuanian Ministry of Transport might have missed that piece of news completely, but that is nevertheless unlikely. But then, why would they have given such a statement? Did they really try to repeat their old trick for a third time in a row?
  • September 2013: The Baltic transport ministers were supposed to sign a joint statement about Rail Baltic. Just before the signing ceremony Lithuania announced that the ceremony would be cancelled, due to different views on adding the Kaunas-Vilnius connection to the project. Estonian and Latvian ministers gave up, and agreed to sign a paper with Vilnius connection mentioned in it.
  • June 2014: The Baltic Prime Ministers were supposed to sign a joint declaration on Rail Baltic. On the previous evening Lithuanians stated that the ceremony will be cancelled, unless the Vilnius connection was added to the statement. The Estonian and Latvian prime ministers capitulated, and signed a declaration with Vilnius connection mentioned in it.
  • August 2014: The Baltic Prime Ministers were supposed to announce the establishment of the RB Rail joint company during the Baltic Way 25th Anniversary celebration. Just one day before the event Lithuania announced that RB Rail cannot be established yet, blaming Estonians’ sluggishness as the reason for the delay. That sounds rather suspicious, so let’s do some conspiracy theoretizing. What if the Lithuanians were hoping that Estonia would have countered to Lithuanians’ accusation with a comment like “Come on, we established OU Rail Baltic Estonia already last week”. And Lithuanians’ response would have been: “Hey that’s great, we actually have the shareholders' agreement here, no need to read it through, just sign on the dotted line, please!”
Both Lithuanians and Latvians have now stated that the finance application should be submitted to EU in October. We have not heard any meaningful comments directly from Estonians yet, only hearsay from Vilnius. Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has claimed, that his Estonian colleague Taavi Roivas had promised that the Estonian company would be ready in the near future.

Unfortunately the real problem is not setting up a company, and neither is it in “finding the proper wording” for the shareholders’ agreement. The challenge is still in the content of the joint company’s shareholders’ agreement, and what it says about the Kaunas-Vilnius connection. The whole thing boils down to two basic question:  
  1. Who should pay the bill for the construction of Kaunas-Vilnius 1435 mm European gauge railway, if EU finds it to be not entitled to EU financing, and
  2. How (and why) does this relate to the construction of Rail Baltic 2 between Tallinn and Kaunas?

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