Members of the Riigikogu Taavi Rõivas, Annely Akkermann, Johannes Kert, Signe Kivi, Maris Lauri, Andres Sutt, Aivar Sõerd, Yoko Alender, Heidy Purga, Siim Kallas, Vilja Toomast, Valdo Randpere, Ants Laaneots, Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, Jüri Jaanson, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Urve Tiidus, Toomas Kivimägi, Marko Mihkelson, Erkki Keldo and Kaja Kallas submitted the interpellation concerning the funding of Rail Baltic (No. 11) to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on 13 November 2019.
The interpellators wished to know how the funding of the section of the Rail Baltic route on the Estonian territory was ensured, and why the amount of a strategic investment of such significant impact had been significantly reduced year by year.
Ratas emphasised that Rail Baltic was one of the most important infrastructure investments of the three Baltic states. He explained that, at the moment, practical work and analysis was ongoing on how to optimise and improve the interstate uniform management of the project. Proposals will be submitted by the next Baltic Prime Ministers meeting due to be held in Tallinn on 7 February. “Completion of Rail Baltic within the framework of the next European Union budgetary period is definitely our aim. Negotiations over the next European Union’s long-term budget are still ongoing, and ensuring additional funding for Rail Baltic is a large common goal of the Baltic countries,” Ratas confirmed. In his words, the need for funding Rail Baltic has been raised at all meetings concerning the European Union budget held with European colleagues. “Thus the furthering of this project and finding European Union funding for it is a clear priority for me and the Government,” Ratas said. He explained that it had been agreed in the coalition negotiations that, in the case the following European Union budget period would not ensure the expected 81-per cent co-funding of the Rail Baltic project, the cost-effectiveness of the project, the time schedule for the route and local stops would be reviewed. Until then, however, activities supporting the Estonian infrastructure more broadly are continued.
Ratas noted that the total amount of the Rail Baltic project funding had not been reduced in comparison with the funding agreements entered into for the use of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funds. A different time-frame has been set for using the European Union assistance allocated under these agreements and the self-financing from the state budget. “The expenses relating to Rail Baltic are planned in the state budget strategy and the state budget primarily on the basis of funding agreements that have already been entered into and according to the yearly distribution of the initial expenses in the said agreement. Since all funding agreements set out the eligibility period for the expenses, effective use of European Union support ahead of the specified deadline is an important part of the implementation of the agreements,” Ratas said. According to his explanations, this means that the contracting parties, or primarily countries, have the right to redistribute funds over years while ensuring the availability of the mandatory self-financing from the state with regard to all activities and expenses during all years of the implementation of the agreements. In summary, we are dealing with the ordinary planning of self-financing from the state and European Union support with a view to align it with the progress of the project. Ratas agreed with the members of the Riigikogu in that, in the implementation of the project, efforts needed to be made to speed up the implementation.
He underlined that the success of the construction of Rail Baltic depended on how ministries, agencies and local governments were able to cooperate with one another as well as with the business and non-profit sector for achieving the goal. Effective cooperation between Rail Baltic countries and the joint venture in Riga is also important. “At the same time, such debates must not cause further delays. In the coming months and years, the main emphasis has to be on quick completion of the designing activities and continuation of construction,” Prime Minister said.
Ratas also replied to the interpellation concerning the transition to climate neutrality and the preparation for a technological leap (No. 12).
The Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur replied to the interpellation concerning the independence of the Prosecutor’s Office (No. 10).
The Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik replied to the interpellation concerning the regulations regarding electronic cigarettes (No. 14) and the interpellation concerning the medicinal product policy (No. 18).
The Bill on Amendments to the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act and the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens (prevention of mass immigration) (110 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. It transposes Article 18 of the so-called Returns Directive. It allows member states to change the requirements for detaining aliens in situations where an exceptionally large number of illegal immigrants arrives in a country.
In emergencies caused by mass immigration, the directive allows for longer deadlines to be provided for in national legislation for checking the lawfulness of the detention of aliens staying in the country without legal basis. It also provides that aliens staying in the country without legal basis may be detained outside detention centres, and that the requirement to ensure privacy may be abandoned when accommodating families. Restriction of the amount of services provided to illegal immigrants will also be justified in an emergency.
In the opinion of the Police and Border Guard Board, a situation where Estonia must receive at least 3000 aliens in a short period of time is an emergency caused by mass immigration.
The Bill will enable to prevent immigration and transition of an exceptionally large number of aliens. It will also enable to establish specifications in legislation under which, in emergencies caused by mass immigration, it will be possible to deviate from the guarantees and services provided for for applicants for international protection and aliens staying in the country without a basis for stay. The legal regulation will be established uniformly with regard to aliens staying in the country without a basis for stay as well as applicants for international protection.
The sitting ended at 8.25 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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