Tallinn mayor: Funding for mega-hospital has to be found

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart.
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

As Estonia is set to receive much less than initially expected from the EU's recovery fund and the state is not looking to support Tallinn's construction of a mega-hospital, the city is forced to find other ways to direct funds toward the project, Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) told ERR.

Besides all the positives, Estonia's fast economic growth also means the country's cut of the EU's COVID-19 recovery fund will likely be much smaller than initially hoped for and considered. This may affect the plans to develop the Tallinn Hospital project.

Kõlvart told ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" web show that the city has set a long-term vision on developing the mega-hospital. "This project must be seen through. /.../ Despite the state giving us a signal that they do not want to participate in the project and us having to base our decisions on the European Commission, we have decided to finish this project," the Tallinn mayor said.

Kõlvart noted that the results of the design procurement will become clear in the middle of September, after which the design process can begin. There is not much time for it, however, because the project must be completed by 2027 in order to receive EU funding. The building itself must be completed a year before that, Kõlvart said.

A rendition of Tallinn Hospital. Source: ERR

If there will be less funding from Europe for the hospital and the state remains unwilling to assist the city with the development, Tallinn must find investments that can be optimized to find the necessary funding. One of these investments could be the Linnahall building, the mayor said.

The brutalist construction on the Tallinn harbor seaside has not seen much use since 2010, when the concert hall was closed. It was recently used for Christopher Nolan's "TeneT", but is largely used as a gathering site and not much else.

Kõlvart said the building is a priority for the city after shipping line Tallink dumped a project to develop a port at the iconic site. The mayor noted that the search for a partner is ongoing.

"We have money allocated in the city's budgetary strategy and we are prepared to proceed with the project. We are currently looking for a partner to optimize the realization of the project. As it has become evident, we need more resources to develop Tallinn Hospital, so we are looking for ways to optimize costs. If we cannot find a partner, we will proceed ourselves, the support has been allocated from the state budget, which was drawn up by the previous government and we will go from there independently. We can see that there is interest and we hope to find a partner, optimize costs and have enough resources to construct Tallinn Hospital," Kõlvart said.

A third project, the film campus "Tallinn Film Wonderland" on the Kopli peninsula, could also become reality in the near future, as the Riigikogu's cultural affairs committee recently announced it is planning to add it to the list of cultural objects of national importance.

Kõlvart called it a positive decision. "I am sure it is an important object for Tallinn. It is a project, which gives the city and country additional resources," the Tallinn mayor said.

Kõlvart: We have no place in coalition if the goal is to "Clean the square"

The Tallinn mayor said Center Party has considered the possibility of having to remain in Tallinn city government opposition after local elections in October. "If there is a big coalition, Center will be in opposition. I have just recently said sincerely that the resident of Tallinn will have to make a decision on whether or not Center is capable of continuing in power. If we do not get the support, we will stay in opposition," Kõlvart said.

He pointed to Isamaa's campaign in the capital city, which is called "Plats puhtaks" ("Clean the square"), which the party's predecessor the Pro Patria Union had used as a rallying cry in the 1992 general election.

Kõlvart noted that he is not pessimistic, however. "Our support in Tallinn is greater than it is nationally. We are communicating with people, getting feedback and we do not feel we are going to lose in these elections, but rather win. But this is not an existential problem to me, it is not the end of the world if voters decide differently," the mayor said.

Kõlvart added that there is no reason to give out signals of who they are willing to work with in coalition, if that ends up being necessary. "Even more importantly - it is possible Center has no place in coalition discussions, at all. If I read comments from colleagues, political party representatives, they want to 'create space' and 'clean the square'. We likely have no room in the coalition. It cannot be ruled out that our colleagues can achieve it (a Center-free coalition - ed)," the Tallinn mayor said.

Responding to a question about if Center would be prepared to create a coalition in Tallinn city government with Reform Party, whose mayor candidate Kristen Michal has been positive of Kõlvart, the current mayor said Center is ready to discuss a better urban space with Reform.

"We are ready to discuss these topics, the urban space, what it should be like, what can be done differently, what can be better. If we find a common vision after elections, it must be wider and a vision for the long-term, a coalition is possible," Kõlvart said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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