The value added created by a pulp mill of any kind does not outweigh the damage caused by the rift it would create in Estonia, European Commissioner Vice-President Andrus Ansip (Reform/ALDE) said in Tallinn on Friday.
"Currently, Tartu clearly lies apart from the rest of Estonia," Ansip told reporters on Friday. "Those who are not residents of Tartu don't understand."
According to the vice-president, in order to get to know how the residents of Estonia's second-largest city feel, Tallinn residents should imagine themselves in situation in which someone tells them to let a plant be set up on Sossimägi, where a foul-smelling pulp mill operated until the early 1990s.
Ansip said that the national designated spatial plan procedure should not be used to ride roughshod over the interests of small groups.
"I was prime minister when we began to amend the Planning Act in 2013," he recalled. "The statute of the national designated spatial plan was meant to enable us to establish national defence-related facilities — the aim was to make it possible to realize overwhelming public interest goals despite opposition from small groups."
He cited conflicts related to Nursipalu Training Area in Southern Estonia and the locations of radars as examples.
"I never considered that a pulp mill could be built against the will of local residents based on the national designated spatial plan statute of the Planning Act," Ansip said, noting that the entire handling of business related to the planned pulp mill has been rife with conflict.
Government launches plan procedure in May 2017
The Estonian 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 billion 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.
In recent days, various politicians have expressed their doubts regarding the prospect of the plant ever being built as well as their readiness to subject the national designated spatial plan procedure to review.
Editor: Aili Vahtla