Photo from Riigikogu
Today the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) decided to send the Bill on the Ratification of the Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Estonia, the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on the Development of the Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica Railway Connection to the first reading at the plenary sitting of the Riigikogu on 17 May.
Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee Aivar Kokk said that in the first stage of the project it was important to build up the infrastructure, which was necessary for Estonia in any case. “It is essential to complete the Old City Harbour (Vanasadam) and Airport tramway connection, to build Ülemiste transport centre and Pärnu railway station, and to connect Ülemiste Transport Centre with the Airport,” Kokk said, and added that in order to achieve fast connections, it was necessary to invest also into the railway network in the rest of Estonia.
Kokk said that between the first and the second reading the Economic Affairs Committee intended to discuss the opinions of the Chancellor of Justice and the National Audit Office on the Rail Baltic Agreement.
The prime ministers of the three Baltic States signed the agreement on the development of the Rail Baltic railway connection on 31 January this year. The Agreement will enter into force after it has been ratified by the parliaments of the three Baltic States.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson, who made a report on the Bill, said that before sending the Bill to the Riigikogu, the Government had waited for the cost-benefit analysis on Rail Baltic, which was conducted by consultation company Ernst & Young. According to Simson, the Parliament of Latvia had already started to discuss the Rail Baltic Agreement in April, and the Parliament of Lithuania would start discussions in May.
Deputy Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee Toomas Kivimägi said that the recently published cost-benefit assessment by Ernst & Young unambiguously proved that Rail Baltic was economically and financially justified. “The analysis refuted the myth about huge obligations to participating countries after the railway has been completed. According to the analysis, it is estimated that the management of the railway during the first five years will require financial support in the amount of 28.6 million euro from all three countries together, or around 2 million euro a year from one country. Starting from the 6th year, the need for additional financing will disappear,” Kivimägi said.
“Rail Baltic is first of all a project for establishing fast connection with Europe. It is natural that the countries assume obligations with it, like with financing all other major infrastructure projects,” Kivimägi said, and added that indirect benefit is hundreds of times greater.
The Agreement on developing the Rail Baltic (RB) railway connection as a legally binding document establishes the obligations of the countries that are necessary for the construction of the RB railway connection through the Baltic States to Central Europe. The Agreement fixes the general technical parameters, route and construction deadlines of RB. The preliminary conditions for the construction of RB and who has to fulfil them, and the role of Joint Venture RB Rail AS in fulfilling the preconditions and construction of the RB until its complete readiness for use are agreed upon. The Agreement regulates the property issues of the infrastructure and the land under it, and the conditions for financing the construction. Ensuring of access to the RB infrastructure is agreed upon and general guidelines for appointing the railway infrastructure company for the management of RB are given.
The legislative proceedings regarding the Bill on the Ratification of the Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Estonia, the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on the Development of the Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica Railway Connection (449 SE), initiated by the Government, will be completed in the plenary of the Riigikogu at two readings. The deadline for submission of motions to amend is 31 May.