“Our position has not changed. There will be two applicants from the Lithuanian side: the joint venture will apply for around 30 million euros and for the rest application will be handled by Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) on behalf of the Lithuanian state,” Lithuanian Transport Minister Rimantas Sinkevičius said at a news conference after meeting with his Latvian counterpart in Vilnius on Thursday.
He said that Lithuania was submitting its application separately because the joint venture would not be able to purchase land for public needs and because the government wanted to keep the value-added tax paid for the work carried out as part of the project.
Rail Baltica will be a European standard-gauge railway running across the Baltic states.
Latvian Transport Minister Anrijs Matiss said that there were several possible ways of obtaining EU funding for Rail Baltica, but it had to be shown that Lithuania was taking part in the joint financing of the project.
“There are different approaches to the financing of the project. Latvia and Estonia put the whole envelope into the application through the joint venture company. (…) Lithuania is participating in this common application with around 30 million euros. For us, it is very important to show that Lithuania is also participating in the project very seriously,” he said.
According to the Latvian minister, experts will have to look through the applications to the European Commission to ensure that Lithuania’s application is linked to that of the joint venture set up by the three Baltic countries for the project.
“The overall involvement of Lithuania for that particular project will be around 190 million euros. It is important how this could be reflected in the overall project application and we have to prove that. Today and tomorrow, there will be an expert meeting in Vilnius during which our experts will try to somehow link these things together,” he said.
The ministers signed a letter to the European Commission in which the countries stated their support for the Rail Baltica project. The letter is also expected to be signed by Estonia’s minister.
February 26 is the deadline for submitting the application to the European Commission for co-financing. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will in total apply for some 620 million euros in support under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
The European Commission is expected to fund up to 85 percent of the total costs of Rail Baltica, estimated at between 3.7 billion and 5.2 billion euros. It is said that the project will be completed in the next EU funding period after 2020, with actual construction work planned to begin in 2019.