Smaller amounts of EU funding have been invested in Tallinn and the surrounding Harju County than anywhere else in Estonia, despite the Greater Tallinn Area having the biggest number of users of services and the best development prospects, Auditor General Alar Karis said in his blog.
"The City of Tallinn together with the surrounding municipalities has received the smallest amount of support at all — the average size of support has been €75 euros [per resident]," Karis wrote. "The average subsidy amount per resident of Estonia allocated for the overhaul and construction of buildings of municipalities is €263. The biggest amount of support per resident has been allocated to Väätsa Municipality, which received €2,338 euros per resident. The amount of support was the smallest for the municipality of Viimsi, which received €13 per resident."
Although larger municipalities have greater capabilities for making investments using their own money, said capabilities are still in fact very small, given the size of their real estate portfolios and actual investment needs, he noted. Also, according to the auditor general, the infrastructure situation is worst in Tallinn and Harju County due to the area's large population.
Karis said that EU funds should not be used to support areas with small populations and few prospects for development.
"EU money received from taxpayers in other countries is meant to give us a development boost, and it should not mean directing increasing amounts of money to where no development has taken place and there is no reason to expect it to start taking place judging by common sense — for demographic or other reasons that are natural and consistent with global trends," he said.
"The most important thing is what we spend money on, how specific investments influence our economy, whether they will bring benefit in the future or only create additional costs," Karis said. "It must also be kept in mind that what one or another region could need money for may not necessarily overlap with what that money could be used for based on the rationale of EU structural funds."
Estonia should also begin consciously reducing its dependence on EU funding, found the head of the National Audit Office.
"We should not be acting in the name of getting as much external funding as possible, but the other way round — what we should be doing is weaning ourselves off of external money," Karis said. "The first step on that journey could be that as long as we still use euro funding, it should be put where it gives a real impetus — that is, helps us make do with our own resources in the future. Our goal should be a situation in which we don't need any help.
"If we had only our own money to spend, this would bring us back down to earth and sober us up quickly — it would force us to critically evaluate everything that the state is currently doing and carefully consider what is actually necessary," Karis concluded.
Editor: Aili Vahtla