The fate of the nation's public defense academy, founded in 1992 and one of the few major institutions not to be modeled on a 1930s predecessor, is being decided this week in Parliament. The Sisekaitseakadeemia - which styles itself the Academy of Security Sciences - has been considered for a move to northeastern Estonia in the past few years. Jüri Saar, a Tartu criminology professor and a member of the initiative to form the national conservative Free Party, says doing so would not bolster security or the local economy and would hurt academic quality.
Of the parties in Parliament, IRL has been the most vocal in backing the move. It has eloquently talked about moving the Estonian state function to the heavily ethically Russian border city, but hasn't deemed it necessary to discuss how the academy fits in on the Estonian educational landscape. They forget the fact that no one goes to that area of the country voluntarily to study or teach.
The Reform Party has represented a more balanced side and talks about Narva as a future internship base where there could be significant number of academy cadets - a strong message to the locals.
The Social Democrats see the regional policy significance of the academy as key and support the move as long as the academic quality does not decline.
The Center Party's "steel wing" from Narva supported the move to the Kreenholm factory location, citing regional policy benefits.
The National Audit Office ran an analysis of the pros and cons in the spring of 2013. It says the academy needs highly trained specialists and it is difficult to find these in the northeast. Thus there will not be a significant impact on the local labor market. And paying people extra to go work in the northeast is an extra expense for the state and may not stimulate the economy, either, in the audit's view.
Nor are the areas taught at the academy directly related to Ida-Viru County.
Local businesses would gain if the academy outsourced services to them. Local government could find it easier to find a qualified workforce. But neither of these factors would outweigh the extra costs for the state of moving the academy to the northeast. The local economy in Ida-Viru would gain more if the already existing educational institutions were strengthened, and more was invested into cooperation between schools and the business community.
It has been over a year since the audit conducted its analysis, and the local Narva economy has now grown worse due to sanctions, making the region more of a dead end than a gateway. The Estonian state has few levers to change the situation.
Russian companies are delaying investments or are withdrawing money, as profitability is in doubt. Estonian firms that have already supposedly made major investments in the Narva area are also facing difficulty. The historical Kreenholm textile mill complex and the Narva Futura developments in the Vaivara municipality have lost their luster in the last six months as well. Thus it's understandable that the owners hope that the Estonian state will compensate their losses.
The meaning of the academy should be seen in a security policy light as well. Those in favor of the move say that the Ukraine crisis has given a stronger reason to move the academy there. But the view that the academy is a hard-power kind of institution is inaccurate, as its significance is more to develop smart security capacity for Estonia. It is not correct to see the cadets as some sort of special forces unit and they would have only a marginal use in repelling any real security threat from the east
In the current security climate, it is time to think about moving actual combat assets and capability to the Narva region, not reduce the educational capability of the academy by moving it there.
The original article in Estonian is here.