Estonia has joined its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania in a bid to secure €1.4 billion in European Union funds towards the Rail Baltica high-speed rail link, U.S. politics media site Politico reports, even if that entails blocking the launch of a €750-billion recovery fund, following a European Parliament move opposed to earmarking funds for either any particular project, or any specific countries or regions.
In an attempt to guarantee the €1.4 billion support, Politico reports, the three countries say they may hold up a critical stage required to launch the bloc’s €750-billion recovery fund, aimed at mitigating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and mirroring earlier blocking tactics in Hungary and Poland which saw a dispute over rule-of-law provisions last for about a month.
EU leaders had agreed to sum €1.4 billion out of the €1.8 trillion budget and recovery package approved last July, specifically towards “missing major cross-border rail links” which would run between “cohesion countries” in support of the continued functioning of the single market – wording taken to refer explicitly to Rail Baltica, since Baltic leaders had lobbied for the project.
Letter addresses Portuguese prime minister
Politico got hold of a copy of a letter dated January 18 and addressed to the Portuguese prime minister, Antonio Costa – Portugual currently holds the rotating Council of the EU presidency – signed by then-prime minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas (Center), his Latvian counterpart Krišjānis Kariņš, and Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda, calling en-suring the approval of the Own Resources Decision in all three three countries a quid pro quo for guaranteeing the €1.4 billion in EU funding.
All EU countries must ratify the decision to enable the European Commission to borrow and distribute money to member states, Politico reports, a process also requiring European parliament consent; the parliament must also green-light funds from the Connecting Europe Facility, a €28.4 billion budget pot funding transport, energy and digital infrastructure, but some MEPs, including Romania’s Marian-Jean Marinescu, have opposed allocating funds specifically to Rail Baltica, leading to somewhat of an impasse, since the three Baltic countries say that the parliament cannot undo the July 2020 support package agreement.
Rail Baltica is a planned high-speed rail line scheduled to open in 2026, which will link Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border. Construction work in Estonia is already underway, so far mainly focusing on road crossings, underpinning its foundations in boggy areas, and other major engineering tasks.
More details are available from the Politico article here https://tinyurl.com/yxee25an