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Minister sends defense industrial park plans for approval

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Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (Reform) chatting to an officer taking part in Exercise Decisive Lancer 2023.
Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (Reform) chatting to an officer taking part in Exercise Decisive Lancer 2023. Source: Ministry of Defense

Legislation approving Estonia's new defense industrial park was sent for government approval by Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) on Tuesday. The area will create the conditions for domestic ammunition production.

When completed, the park will be able to host companies producing small, medium, and large-caliber ammunition, the ministry said. The Estonian state will develop the basic infrastructure and private companies can then work on the site and build the facilities they need.

The Ministry of Defense said Europe's ammunition production capacity is not yet at the level it should be, given the situation in Ukraine.

"For our part, we would like to create the prerequisites for the production of ammunition to be possible in Estonia as well, and for our own defense forces and allies to be able to buy ammunition produced in Estonia," Pevkur said in a press release (link in Estonian).

A suitable location for the park is still being analyzed and will be finalized by the state, the Ministry of Defense said.

Narrowing down the location for the industrial park is expected to take up to 1.5 years, the ministry said, and production could start in approximately 2.5 years.

"So far, the preliminary analysis has been completed and four areas in three municipalities, namely Lääne-Nigula Municipality, Lüganuse Municipality and the City of Pärnu Municipality, have been selected. In the City of Pärnu, the areas are located in Audru and Tõstamaa sub-districts," said Indrek Sirp, the ministry's special advisor for defense industry development.

"All of these areas meet the basic criteria that we developed in our preliminary analysis. For example, the industrial estate could be 50-100 hectares in size, plus a safe distance of 600-800 meters. But a more in-depth assessment of the suitability of sites is what the planning process is all about - assessing the environmental impacts, the effects on local social and economic life and so on. So the planning process provides that kind of more in-depth insight into the suitability of these sites."

Sirp said all three municipalities support the construction of the industrial park and are ready to cooperate. "So at the moment we do not count on any opposition from the municipalities," he told ERR. 

Four locations in three municipalities (shown in orange) are being discussed for the new defense industrial park. Source: HelenWright/ ERR News/ OSM

He said a site in Lääne-Harju municipality has already been excluded as it was too small, and two in Viru-Nigula and Rakvere municipalities where phosphorite mining would potentially become an obstacle.

State creates the conditions, but entrepreneurs build the factories

The industrial park will be developed will all the requirements of ammunition production. Companies will then be able to move to the site and build their warehouses. 

"The state, for its part, will set up the basic infrastructure - access roads, electricity connections and all that, and then at the same time, interested companies and with whom we make agreements can start to build their production facilities. Companies will be able to come in and, as they see opportunities for their business, they will be able to put up the relevant production buildings and start producing," said Sirp. 

Indrek Sirp. Source: ERR

"So far, companies have talked about the production of small caliber ammunition up to the production of large caliber ammunition and everything in between. But in the end, it will become clear in the coming months and years what exactly will be there. We are ready to support companies in every way we can in the form of this industrial park and possibly in other ways as well," he added.

In October, Sirp told ERR that the park must also provide hazardous areas where explosives and explosive materials can be handled.

Companies working at Estonia's industrial park will also have the opportunity to export their products. "Ammunition production cannot be profitably set up and run only on the Estonian market," Sirp said.

Internationally established companies could also be offered the opportunity to expand their operations into Estonia.

Ammunition used during an Estonian Defense Forces exercise. Source: Janvar Pitelkov/Kaitsevägi

"We have talked to Estonian companies as well as foreign companies. There is interest both here and there. Two or three or four companies have been quite specific about their plans. And these talks are continuing. The production of cartridges has been discussed, as well as the production of artillery shells and mines. But I would not mention specific companies," the official said. 

The possibilities to domestically develop explosives are also being discussed, the ministry said.

"Explosives production is primarily a chemical industry and is likely to require many more resources – such as water and energy – than ammunition production. There is a major shortage of explosives production capacity in Europe. If the feasibility analysis shows that it is economically and technologically feasible, we can also find a site for an explosives plant through the national special planning process, but it does not have to be on the same site as ammunition production," said Sirp.

Other countries, such as Denmark and Finland are also planning to increase their ability to produce munitions and ammunition. Latvia has said it will build a state-owned ammunition factory.

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Editor: Joakim Klementi, Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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