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Finland supports the Rail Baltica project

Prime Minister of Finland Jyrki Katainen comments positively on the developments of the Rail Baltica project in the Baltic States.

The Baltic Sea region has a good chance of becoming the world’s most competitive and prosperous region. The Nordic welfare model and the Baltic countries' economic competitiveness will create an excellent foundation to build for the future as part of Europe.

The internal market is the European Union's political core. In particular, small countries located further away from the major markets have an interest to strengthen the European Union's internal market. Good transport links are important to both passenger and freight traffic. When developing the internal market the transport network needs to be observed on the whole European level. It is important that the transport infrastructure is in equally good condition when moving from one country to another.

According to the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBR) the transport links and accessibility of the area will be improved. The goals of EUSBSR will start to concretize commencing during the Danish Presidency. The present discussions have included the rehabilitation work in the transport infrastructure and reduction of travel times.

The EU's long-term transport strategy extends to 2050 and its goal is a significant strengthening of the internal transport market. The aim is also to lower oil dependency and reduce emissions at least 60% by 2050. At least half of long-distance transport of over 300 km should be transported by rail or sea by 2050.

Transport infrastructure requires sustained long-term investment that take into account not only the needs of industry but also Member States' competitiveness and passenger services as well as environmental and health aspects. The condition of the infrastructure in the EU's Northern and Northeastern areas is less developed than in the rest of Europe. Combining competitiveness into environmental and health considerations may be challenging. Limiting ship sulfur emissions may increase disproportionately costs for those countries that are more dependent on shipping in the Baltic Sea than others.

The European Commission has put forward ten major traffic corridor projects in the core network. The Member States and the Commission should commit themselves to these corridors in mutual funds by 2030. One of these core corridors is the Baltic-Adriatic transport corridor which connects Helsinki (Finland) to Ravenna (Italy) in rail and ship transport. It would be the first direct rail connection from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic Sea.

A key part of the Baltic-Adriatic Corridor is Rail Baltica, a new railway line from Tallinn to Warsaw via Riga and Kaunas. Finland warmly welcomes this initiative. It improves the possibilities of companies operating in the Baltic countries to deliver products to Europe and supports their better integration into the EU internal market, where not only goods, but also people are able to travel to Central and Southern Europe much faster and easier.

Fast and efficient train connection through the Baltic States to EU's main market areas are also Finland's national interest. It improves market access for Finnish products, not to mention the thousands of Finnish firms operating in the Baltic countries – in Estonia, in particular. It would also improve the integration of the Finnish economy with the southern European neighbors and Central Europe. The Baltic-Adriatic corridor will be a natural extension of the Bothnian corridor which connects the northern parts of Sweden and Finland by rail, which is also part of the EU's new core network.

Railways are the future of transport modes. The EU's transport strategy aims to decrease substantially greenhouse gas emissions. Railways are a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport than road transport. It is also more affordable alternative thanks to lower energy consumption.

I very much welcome the recent decision made by my colleagues, Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, to set up a special joint venture to take responsibility of the Rail Baltica project. It is good that an important project such as this receives thorough focus and elaboration.

Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen

Originally published in Finnish by the Embassy of Finland in Vilnius, News, 08/12/2011, translated by RBGC/MP.