The Ministry of Defense has sent the draft bill which would give the go ahead to the expansion of the Nursipalu training ground in Võru County for its coordination round.
The Ministry of Defense says that since the current security situation calls for urgent action, the government as a whole will use the national defense exception as approved by the Riigikogu in June of this year, which allows training fields to be developed in an expedited manner, in exceptional cases.
The Estonian Center for Defense Investment (RKIK) has been authorized to conduct the public procedure on behalf of the ministry; the deadline for feedback is September 12.
Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (Reform) noted that steps have been taken to strengthen the Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) 2nd Infantry Brigade , in the process of becoming fully mechanized and with self-propelled guns and other artillery assets to be added.
The 2nd Brigade covers South Estonia and so will make heavy use of the Nursipalu training zone once it is completed.
The minister also expressed gratitude towards those who have agreed to sell their properties to the state, and to all those who have provided feedback and opinions in the consultation process which has been ongoing for around a year.
The draft currently sent for approval also awaits feedback from a public meeting to be held at the beginning of October, in addition to written approvals, before reaching the coalition government, he added.
Pevkur also referenced allies who would be using the expanded zone, set to roughly triple in size from its current 3,000 hectares (approx.).
Elari Kalmaru, training zones portfolio manager at the RKIK, added that the agency has been doing preliminary work for the expansion of the practice field for some time. "We are now waiting for the government to decide on establishing the expansion of the Nursipalu training ground.
"It is important for us to create a training environment full of opportunity, so that the EDF and the Defense League can rehearse defending Estonia, together with their allies," Kalmaru said.
The Natura preliminary assessment, environmental review and location selection documents will also go to the approval round. "We are working hard to mitigate the impact on local residents and the environment as much as possible," Kalmaru added.
The draft of the government order and the relevant documents can be found on the RKIK website (link in Estonian).
Anyone who wishes to send their feedback can do so by sending this to the [email protected]. The document must be digitally signed.
The feedback window lasts to September 12, while a public session to discuss the submitted proposals and objections will be held on October 6, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. at Võru High School, Seminari 1, Võru.
Võru is one of the municipalities to be most affected by the expansion.
An estimated 21 properties are inside the zone earmarked for expansion, and so their owners are due for compensation which, the minister highlighted, is several times over and above the market rate for comparable properties.
Editor: Mait Ots, Andrew Whyte