Minister proposes not to initiate spatial plan for Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel

Vesterbacka introduced his own concept for the tunnel to the public in Tallinn on Jan. 18, 2018.
Vesterbacka introduced his own concept for the tunnel to the public in Tallinn on Jan. 18, 2018. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) is to make a proposal to the government not to start the procedure of a designated national spatial plan for a potential undersea tunnel between Tallinn and Helsinki and an artificial island in the Gulf of Finland.

The proposal of the minister is based on the application filed by the developer, FinEst Bay Area Development OÜ.

The minister of public administration explained that in light of the information known to the Estonian state today, there are reasons to doubt the implementability of the project when it comes to environmental, economic and security considerations alike. 

Having consulted with the state of Finland, other ministries and sectoral institutions, including experts in security, the minister of public administration finds that the project of the developer is not implementable and not in the public interest for several reasons. 

Specifically, financial coverage is missing for the conduct of a planning procedure, the assessment of impacts and conduct of surveys. The sources of financing of the construction of the tunnel and the artificial island are unclear. The feasibility of the project and the extremely optimistic passenger and freight volumes shown in the application are questionable, the minister said. 

The FinEst Bay Area Development has been pushed by Angry Birds game designer Peter Vesterbacka rather than either of the two countries. Finnish and Estonian politicians and officials have long been sceptical about the project which suggested using Chinese money to fund the construction work.

Aab added the creation of a standing connection between Tallinn and Helsinki is possible only provided that there is a will and all-round cooperation between the two countries, and that for this to be the case the common interests of the states have to be agreed upon before a tunnel is planned. 

The Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has been working towards concluding a memorandum of understanding with the government of Finland, the negotiations are still ongoing. Finland wishes for the tunnel to be planned under the leadership of the states, yet sees it in its own spatial plans and development plans as a project for the more distant future, not the near term.

However, according to Aab the establishment of the tunnel would be welcome and important for the region's development in the future.

The Cabinet tasked the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications with continuing work towards concluding a memorandum of understanding with the state of Finland.

After the hearing, Aab is likely to submit a draft order not to initiate the plan to the government for a decision in the autumn.

Ratas: The government supports the continuation of tunnel planning

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said at Thursday's government press conference that, in general, the tunnel planning project should proceed. 

"What we have been talking to our Finnish counterparts all along is that this project must be carried by the ministries of both countries. So we support the progress of this project. However, specifically the proposal of this private company to initiate a special state plan, for various reasons we did not support it today," he said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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