The government's decision to agree to sign a protocol of common intentions with Estonia's northern neighbor for the construction of a tunnel under the Gulf of Finland means that the two states should take over the project from the private sector, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure, Taavi Aas, told ERR. The project is, furthermore, a long-term one, Aas said.
Aas said that the agreement between Estonia and Finland means that the management of the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel project will be left to both countries. "It can only be a public project, because there are a number of risks associated with a private project. It does not preclude the involvement of the private sector in one way or another, but the two countries are managing it," he said.
Secondly, the agreement ensures that the tunnel corridor becomes part of the TEN-T pan-European road network, which is a precondition for the EU to be able to apply for co-financing for the construction of the tunnel. "With the agreement, we will ensure that Estonia and Finland make joint efforts to get the tunnel corridor included in this network. We understand that this project will not happen overnight, but in order to be eligible for European co-financing, the corridor must be a part of the network," Aas said.
Aas reiterated the project was aimed at the distant future, and no major developments are expected in the coming years.
"We have agreed with the ministers that we will give an overview of the project in the third quarter of this year, but it must be understood that it is not a project that will require Estonian state funding in the near future," Aas said.
Aas added that no specific date is in place and they are still far away from designing anything. "To speculate that when design could actually start, I don't think it makes sense to do it today," the minister said.
"We understand that it is clearly beyond the capabilities of Estonia and Finland to do this project alone, it requires co-financing from the EU. What lies ahead is that a lot of research needs to be done, but it makes sense to do it when we are on the road network and European co-financing is coming," Aas said.
Aas said that in the next ten years if anything is done, it will be environmental and cost-effectiveness research.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications intends to re-launch the Tallinn-Helsinki Tunnel workgroup in the near future, which includes the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Communications of both countries, as well as the Tallinn and Helsinki city governments.
Last year, Estonia declined to initiate a national special plan for the tunnel project submitted by Finnish entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka. The Vesterbacka project also involved Chinese investors.
Editor: Roberta Vaino