In Eivere, near Paide, the Järva branch of the Estonian Defense League (Kaiteseliit) has opened a new 300-meter, 20-lane shooting range for training purposes. However, at the same time, several branches of the EDL have been waiting decades for new headquarters and facilities to be built.
Estonian Defense League (Kaiteseliit) commander Brigadier General Riho Ühtegi said, that the Defense League's annual investment capacity totals €3 million. €770,000 of this was spent on the construction of the Eivere firing and tactical training ranges. This year there are plans to use part of the funds to develop shooting ranges on Saaremaa and Hiiumaa.
"We will also build smaller ranges elsewhere, because we still have to maintain the principle that existed in the Defense League before 1940, that a member of the Defense League must (be able to) reach a shooting range within one hour," Ühtegi said.
Until now, the Järva County Defense League has not had its own purpose-built shooting range.
Another major concern is the lack of space at the Defense League's Türi (Järva County) headquarters, which is currently housed in a school building constructed in 1880.
"Some of our people obviously can't fit in this small building and so they have to work in temporary office space, or containers," said the Defense League's Järva unit chief Lieutenant Colonel Kuido Pettai.
And it's not just a question of lack of room for people to work. In Türi, there is also a lack of space to store equipment on the property between private houses.
In Rapla, the situation is even worse, though there, equipment is stored on rented land.
According to Ühtegi, what the EDL currently needs most are new warehouses. However, the top priority is to build new infrastructure for the Tartu branch.
"The current facilities there are very small. But it's a very big challenge, the cost of developing this infrastructure is around €15 million, which would mean that for about five years no one else would get any of the money," he said.
However, when it comes to some of the smaller EDL branches, Ühtegi believes those which most urgently require funds for development are the Rapla, Järva and Võru military centers.
Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said, that those drafting the development plan for Estonia's national defense over the next decade also have to prioritize those infrastructure objects, which most urgently require funding.
"We know that the Defense League, especially the land defense component, is doubling in size. This means that we really have to ensure that investments are (also) made in infrastructure," said the minister.
Editor: Michael Cole