It was a tough weekend in more than one way for Economic Affairs Minister Juhan Parts: besides a diplomatic row with Lithuania over his use of language in a conversation with a journalist, a daily reported that the dual LNG terminal idea he pitched in Finland was also made without the Cabinet's blessing.
Estonia and Finland have been vying for rights to build an LNG terminal, and Parts's idea of building one on each shore, voiced in Finland last week, was seen variously as either cutting the Gordian knot of the impasse or cutting Estonia's losses over a project that looked unlikely to come to Estonia.
Eesti Päevaleht reported that the Reform Party, the coalition partner of the IRL minister, is "fairly astonished" over the idea - Parts proposed formally tendering a twin terminals compromise to Finland a while back, but Andrus Ansip's Cabinet declined.
Parts was also the one who back in May agreed with Finnish counterpart Jan Vapaavuori that an independent arbiter - the European Commission - decide on the location of the terminal. Contacted by the daily for comment, Parts said his recent plan was consistent with his May agreement. "The European Commission has signaled to Finland and Estonia that each should offer compromises. That is how we are viewing it."
But Parliament Economic Affairs Committee member Kaja Kallas (Reform) said the twin terminal idea was Parts's own idea and had not been discussed with other politicians. "The construction of the Balticconnector gas link between the countries is an important part of the funding for the project. If that is not built and there are two terminals, then the current gas monopoly [Gazprom] will gain from it," she argued.
The EU is interested in underwriting a large part of the 500 million euros because it wants to bring an alternative gas supplier to the region, and Parts's actions are seen by the Cabinet as risking losing that funding, Eesti Päevaleht wrote. Parts counters that the clock is already ticking on an offer that will expire soon, with the first round having to be evaluated by late spring.