Ms Kaja Kallas of the centre-right Reform party was approved by parliament as Estonia’s first female prime minister on January 25 following the resignation of her predecessor, Mr Juri Ratas, over an inquiry into a property development. Ratas’ centre-left Centre party remains in government as Reform’s partner. 

A cooperation agreement between the Reform and Centre parties outlining the new government’s objectives includes a major shift towards providing support for plans to construct a 103km tunnel from Finland to Estonia. The project was opposed by the previous Estonian government, but is included in the agreement alongside a commitment to improve relations with Finland. 

The government is also looking to build “lasting connections” with Europe, including through the Rail Baltic project.  

Other rail-related goals include the electrification of the national network in stages, alongside an analysis of the use of hydrogen traction, and an investment in new trains in order to increase the speed of local services and improve passenger comfort. New domestic and international passenger services will also be developed. 

Urban transport options, including light rail, are also highlighted as a priority in the plan. 

Ratas resigned after corruption charges were filed by prosecutors alleging the party’s general secretary agreed to a donation of up to €1m from a businessman in exchange for a permit to build on public land. Ratas denies knowledge of any wrongdoing by his party. 

Rail Baltica 

The additional support for Rail Baltica comes as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have threatened to hold up the ratification of the European Union’s €750bn fund to aid the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, if funding is not allocated for the project. 

EU leaders approved €1.4bn in funding for Rail Baltica in July 2020 during the approval of the €1.8 trillion budget and recovery package. However, that funding still needs to be approved by the European Parliament under Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) discussions, which has been wary of earmarking the money for any specific project.  

In a letter dated January 18 and seen by Politico, the three countries’ leaders asked Portuguese prime minister, Mr António Costa, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, to ensure that ongoing negotiations on transport funding respect the EU leaders’ decision to allocate the funding to Rail Baltica. 

Ratas, along with Latvian prime minister, Mr Krišjānis Kariņš, and Lithuanian president, Mr Gitanas Nausėda, wrote that doing so would ensure the smooth ratification of the recovery fund in the three countries.