People should not be evicted from their homes to make room for the Nursipalu Training Area enlargement, with alternatives in order, EKRE chairman Martin Helme and Center leader Jüri Ratas found on Vikerraadio.
"We should not be talking about Nursipalu. We have skipped the first two stages. The former is to talk about our needs. What do we need? How much of what our allies need should be in there? Only then can we start looking for a place where we can meet those needs. However, this has not happened. People have simply been told that it's Nursipalu or the highway, followed by haggling over compensation. We have not done the first two stages if we're that far in," Martin Helme, leader of the opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE), said.
"We have been told some things in terms of what longer-range weapons need, but the Ministry of Defense has reserved offshore areas for that where they are not allowing wind farms or other developments. Offshore areas have been reserved just for long-range fire training. But out of cannot-be-bothered mentality or because of some comfort zone people are simply told: this is where we are, take your money and go. The entire process is wrong. I would not haggle over money. Rather, I would apply the brakes and back up a good way first – let's start looking for the right place," Helme said.
The EKRE leader said that a swath of forest somewhere owned by state forests manager RMK could work. "Roughly half of the territory of Estonia is covered in forest, and the state owns roughly half of that. There are more than a few places in Estonia with no one around for miles. Expanding the Nursipalu complex can also be done in different ways."
EKRE regional coordinator and former EDF Logistics Center chief Rudolf Jeeser told ERR on Wednesday that the need to expand Nursipalu was created long ago.
"The need to enlarge Nursipalu has been there for decades. That this is not to the liking of local residents should not come as a surprise to either the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) or the Ministry of Defense. What is unfortunate is that the defense minister has not approached local residents politely. If people have to hear about an enlargement and homes being swallowed up on the level of rumors, that is not the correct approach," Jeeser commented.
"The ministry and EDF should lay their cards on the table there. These are very difficult decisions that need to be made. It could look like a single house, farmstead to a ministry official, but it is a matter of people's identity, and to take it away... Something like this cannot really be compensated. So, they should approach it with great care," Jeeser added.
Jüri Ratas said that a state special plan should be initiated to find suitable land for training grounds. "Evicting 21 families is not right. We need to find that place. That much is clear, and no one is challenging that. But to say in this atmosphere that you need to pack up and go is not right in the 21st century – that people need to surrender their homes that should be sacred and inviolable. It is not just about 21 families," the Center leader said.
Ratas remarked that national security topics must not become taboo in light of the Ukraine war.
Center MPs said, in the person of Riigikogu National Defense Committee member Annely Ott, that sacrificing people's homes for military training opportunities sends a very poor signal.
"The Center Party cooperates with all parties in the field of national defense and is in favor of a consensual agreement and bigger defense spending. We also understand that we need a suitable place for hosting allies and training. However, this cannot happen at the expense of Estonian homes and valuable natural environment," Ott said.
"We are convinced that the current solution constituted the path of least resistance for the Ministry of Defense, and that alternatives have not been thoroughly weighed. If Estonia's national defense needs such a training area, the ministry will have to propose a state special plan the first stage of which would be to consider suitable locations where negative effects could be minimized."
Editor: Mirko Ojakivi, Aleksander Krjukov, Marcus Turovski