The National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu and representatives from Tapa, the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), Enterprise Estonia and ministries discussed regional development in connection with the arrival of NATO units.
Present at the meeting were representatives of Tapa Municipality, the EDF's 1st Infantry Brigade, Enterprise Estonia, the Ministry of Defence as well as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure, according to a Riigikogu press release.
Chairman of the National Defence Committee Hannes Hanso believe that the arrival of the allies in Tapa will bring along with them important changes. "From the perspective of national security, it is important that the allies are with us," Hanso said. "Their arrival will certainly also have an economic effect on local busines which we must utilize in the right way. Jobs and entrepreneurship are important factors that make the attitude of the local community positive toward the allies."
In the committee chairman's opinion, the region will experience a total change, and thus it is especially important that locals and entrepreneurs see an opportunity in this and take advantage of it. He noted that the arrival of 1,300 troops in Tapa will double the local purchasing power, adding that entrepreneurs should make the most of that situation as well as create new jobs. "People will understand that it is very beneficial to them," he pointed out. "We must create such a situation that the allies would like to be here as long as possible."
Defense committee member Johannes Kert pointed out that Moscow had reacted nervously to the plan of positioning allied forces in the Baltic states, presenting it misleadingly as an aggressive step on NATO's part. In his opinin, the experience of Germany and Lithuania shows that there is a certain likelihood of threat of provocations, especially in the form of information operations.
Hanso said that extensive construction activity was taking place in Tapa. Estonian construction companies are building new barracks, a canteen and other infrastructure necesssary for the garrison, which also means more jobs. He noted that the National Defence Committee was interested in participating in discussions concerning the development of Tapa and would also certainly pay a visit to the region in the near future.
Municipal Mayor Alari Kirt explained to the committee that preparations for the arrival of the allies had been underway for a couple of years already. He noted that several new restaurants had already been opened and more were expected as well. He believed that the town's shortage of recreational and entertainment opportunities was an issue and found that it would be necessary to repair the town stadium as well as construct a swimming pool and public fields for ball games. The town's roads also needed investments.
The NATO battle group, consisting of approximately 1,300 British and French troops and heavy equipment, is scheduled to arrive in Tapa at the end of March.
Editor: Aili Vahtla