The Estonian government is to discuss at a Cabinet meeting next week the issue of a national designated spatial plan for the €1 billion pulp mill planned to be built near Tartu in order to try to reach a consensus on the matter.
"The government has decided to initiate the designated spatial plan and it has been decided by a government consisting of the Centre Party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Pro Patria," Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said at a government press conference on Thursday.
According to Ratas, who is chairman of the Centre Party, the necessary studies must be conducted to make a final decision, but it also has to be discussed at a Cabinet meeting. "I'm open to having that discussion," he noted.
According to the head of government, the laws do not provide a direct opportunity to terminate the spatial plan.
Minister of Social Protection Kaia Iva (SDE) said that bringing plants to Estonia that produce value added is necessary. "It is definitely important to carry out studies and make a decision based on these," she said.
According to Iva, the plan is necessary for Estonia, but it would be very difficult to move forward with the spatial plan if the local municipalities and local people are strongly against it.
"All kinds of entrepreneurship is very welcome in Estonia, but the opinion of all Estonians regarding improving their home and region is also welcome," said Minister of Public Administration Janek Mäggi (Centre).
According to Mäggi, terminating the spatial plan would take months and it should be preceded by an agreement between the members of government. He added that if entrepreneurs do not like the public opposition, they have the right to abandon the plan of building the pulp mill.
It is clear by this point that no pulp mill will be built near Tartu, as the project to do it is not viable, Pro Patria chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder told BNS on Tuesday.
"There's no point for us in engaging in self-deceit: that plant will never be there in such a form, and we do not consider it right that the central government should be trying to impose it unilaterally by force, so to speak," Seeder said.
The government in May 2017 launched a procedure for a national designated spatial plan to find the most suitable location for a €1 billion pulp mill in Viljandi County and Tartu County, as well as a strategic environmental impact assessment procedure to find out about the refinery's estimated impact on the environment.
The national designated spatial plan process is made up of the comparison of locations and the compilation of the detailed planning solution at the suitable location. Studies will be carried out in parallel and the social, economic, cultural and environmental impact involved with realizing the plan will be assessed.
The company Est-For Invest is planning to build €1 pulp mill near Tartu in Southern Estonia which would process approximately 3.3 million tonnes of pulpwood per year and export its output. The planned average production capacity is up to 750,000 tonnes of bio products per year. The plant would enter into operation in 2022.
Editor: Aili Vahtla