Ratas: The energy and transport connections between the Baltic states and the rest of Europe is the assurance of our future

Met dank overgenomen van Ests voorzitterschap Europese Unie 2e helft 2017 i, gepubliceerd op maandag 8 mei 2017.

Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas i, Prime Minister of Latvia Māris Kučinskis i, Prime Minister of Lithuania Saulius Skvernelis i and Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydło i met in Tallinn today. The topics of the meeting were regional security, energy community, transport connections and the future of the European Union.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas stressed to his colleagues the importance of the cooperation between the countries. “You are always welcome in Estonia not only because our countries are geographically close to each other and because the experiences of our people have historically been similar, but first and foremost because together we are stronger. Together we can shape decisions regarding our future, both at European Union level as well as with NATO.”

When speaking of security, Ratas said that the four countries have a similar perception and understanding of the challenges surrounding them - the security environment in the Baltic Sea region is troubled. “We all need to make an effort and continue our cooperation in order for the deterrence and protection offered by NATO to get even stronger in our air space and also at the Baltic Sea,” Ratas said. He added that the military presence of the USA in the Baltic states is and will remain important for Estonia.

With regards to the matter of energy security, Prime Minister Ratas said that it is important to have clarity as quickly as possible on how to proceed with the synchronisation of the electrical power systems of the Baltic countries and Europe. “Estonia supports synchronisation through Poland if it is done via transmission lines located in two routeways, and it is also supported by the respective study conducted by the European Commission. There is an alternative, and that is synchronisation with the electrical power systems of the Nordic countries,” the Prime Minister said.

“The synchronisation of the Baltic power systems also needs to meet three objectives - guarantee high security and independence of electricity supply, secure the functioning of the electricity market and ensure the lowest possible expenses for the consumer. In addition, I see an important energy security aspect in it.”

With regards to transport connections, the Prime Minister said that Rail Baltic is the most important transport connection project conducted by the Baltic region in history. “The new opportunities arising from Rail Baltic will create the foundation for the continuation of economic growth in the Baltic states as well as in Poland and Finland. We have a unique opportunity to create a new transport corridor starting at the Arctic Ocean and ending at the Mediterranean Sea.”

The Prime Minister added that the connectivity of the Baltic states with the rest of Europe both in terms of transport as well as energy provides an assurance of their future that will promote economic growth and reduce reliance on Russia.

In addition to regional issues, the Prime Ministers of the Baltic countries and Poland also discussed the future of the European Union. “The Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union comes at a decisive time for the European Union,” Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said. “As the next Presidency, it is important for Estonia to keep the EU 27 united, especially against the backdrop of Brexit, and to move onward with the realisation of the plans agreed-upon in Bratislava and Rome,” Ratas said, adding that the European Union should not only speak in terms of solidarity but also act in solidarity, because only through action can the EU show the true value of solidarity.

The Prime Minister introduced the priorities of the Presidency to the colleagues: “The aim of the Estonian Presidency is to aid the building of a Europe with an open and innovative economy, to keep Europe secure, to promote digital solutions and the free movement of data, and to ensure that the activity of the European Union is inclusive and sustainable.”

After meeting with the Polish colleague, the Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will together visit the development project of the regional terminal in Paldiski. Paldiski is also the place through which the pipeline Balticconnector will run through to connect the gas grids of Estonia and Finland.

This year, the Baltic Council of Ministers will be under the Estonian Presidency. During the Estonian Presidency, the priorities of the Baltic cooperation will include the strengthening of security, including enhancement of security and defence cooperation, and the further development of transport connections and the regional energy market.