French Trade Minister Riester: Rail Baltica is an asset for the region’s future as infrastructure drives economic attractiveness

The French-Latvian Business Forum, held today in Riga, brought together business representatives and policymakers from the Transport, Defense, and Renewable Energy sectors. This event, organized by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) in partnership with the Embassy of France in Latvia and the French Foreign Trade Advisors of the Baltic States (CCEF), provided a platform for strategic networking, discussions, and the exploration of business opportunities, with a special focus on the Rail Baltica project.

The forum aimed to foster cooperation and investment in the Baltic region, highlighting the progress and prospects of the Rail Baltica project, Latvia’s defense industry initiatives, and renewable energy strategies. The discussions emphasized the critical role of robust infrastructure in enhancing economic attractiveness, creating jobs, attracting tourism and business, and fostering regional vibrancy.

Opening statements were delivered by Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baiba Braže, and France’s Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, Economic Attractiveness, Francophonie, and French Nationals Abroad, Franck Riester.

Minister Braže emphasized the importance of France as an economic partner, noting the strategic partnership’s development both bilaterally and within the frameworks of the European Union and NATO. She highlighted potential growth areas including ICT, infrastructure, defense, green energy, and AI. “Strengthening cooperation in these strategically important areas is a long-term investment in the security and resilience of our societies – at home, in the EU and more broadly,” said Foreign Minister Baiba Braže.

Minister Riester underscored the need to bolster Europe’s economic sovereignty and highlighted France’s success in attracting foreign investment, largely thanks to its robust infrastructure. France has ranked as the most attractive European country for foreign investors for the fifth consecutive year. He praised the Rail Baltica project as a significant asset for the region’s future, noting its substantial contribution to the region’s economic attractiveness.

Catherine Trautmann, the European Coordinator for the North-Sea Baltic Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), also addressed the audience remotely, sharing her perspective on the project’s progress and expressing strong support for its implementation especially since the war, when its importance has increased even more.

The forum featured panels on various aspects of the Rail Baltica project. The first panel, inaugurated by Latvia’s Minister of Transport, Kaspars Briškens, included key figures such as Emilien Dang of RB Rail AS, Anvar Salomets from Rail Baltic Estonia, Ēriks Diļevs from Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas, and Justas Vyžintas from LTG Infra. Minister Briškens highlighted French expertise in Rail Baltica with significant contracts involving French companies worth over €3.77 billion. He emphasized the project’s comprehensive nature in connecting ports, airports, cities, and enhancing regional security.

The panel discussed the project’s timeline, objectives for 2030, and upcoming tenders. Emilien Dang provided insights into the overview of the project and the economic benefits it brings.

The second panel, featuring Thierry Boussillon of RB Rail AS and representatives from French companies, tackled challenges anticipated in 2024 and beyond. Discussions included station and infrastructure management, financing, and procurement strategies. The panel was moderated by David Boulet from CCEF and included contributions from Benoit Dupuis of Societe Des Grands Projets, Fabrice Morenon of SNCF Hubs and Connexions, and Alain Baruc of Eiffage – PV ERB.

Thierry Boussillon, Chief Programme Management Officer at RB Rail AS: “We are glad to see investors’ interest in the Baltic region, which continues to grow as a dynamic hub for innovation and development. The Rail Baltica project is a prime example of the significant business opportunities here, and we are proud to already be collaborating with several French companies to bring this ambitious infrastructure project to life. This forum provides an excellent platform to strengthen these partnerships and explore new avenues for investment and cooperation.”

The forum’s agenda also addressed issues from the Latvia-France Action Plan 2023-2026, covering digital technologies, 5G, energy, and Rail Baltica. This event underscored the commitment of both countries to developing sustainable infrastructure and enhancing regional connectivity.