According to Minister of Public Administration Janek Mäggi of the Centre Party (Keskerakond), the controversial plan to build a pulp mill in south Estonia cannot be terminated earlier than two or three months from now, regardless of any Government decision.
The Estonian Government is holding a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, 21 June, to discuss the fate of the national designated spatial plan concerning the pulp mill's infrastructure.
"We will prepare various options and the government can then discuss these," Mäggi said.
"But whether they will reach a decision from there I cannot promise at present," he added.
"If the Government's stance turns out to be that the national designated spatial plan should be terminated, then the decision can only be that we will start to prepare its termination, nothing more," the minister went on.
Mr. Mäggi said that a termination process needs to be launched for the termination of the plan, during which ''the stances of entrepreneurs should also be heard [among other things] and then, maybe in two or three months once everything necessary has been carried out, can something be decided," he went on.
"Actually, it is also possible that the national designated spatial plan will be continued with and there are other options as well. I have yet to receive any kind of clarity on what will happen on Thursday. I have my own opinion but I am not going to reveal it," Mäggi said.
Other politicians' opinions
Mäggi added that it is also not fully clear whether chairman of Pro Patria, formerly IRL, Helir-Valdor Seeder, and chairman of the Social Democrats (SDE) Jevgeni Ossinovski, who previously expressed opposition against the pulp mill, will be participating in the Cabinet meeting.
Helir-Valdor Seeder has subsequently told ERR that he believes there is no reason why the proposed mill shouldn't be found an alternate location, for instance in Ida-Virumaa, the easternmost county of Estonia, rather than its current planned location near Tartu.
According to Est-For Invest, the company planning to build the pulp mill, one possible site is in Tabivere, some 20km from Tartu, which need not disturb the city's residents whilst at the same time offering everything needed for its daily operation, Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht reported at the beginning of June.
In May 2017 the Government initiated the procedure for a national designated spatial plan in order to find the most suitable location for the wood refinery in either Viljandi county or Tartu county, as well as a strategic environmental impact assessment procedure to ascertain the refinery's estimated impact on the environment.
The national designated spatial plan process consists of the comparison of locations and the compilation of a detailed planning solution at any viable location. Studies are to be carried out in parallel and the social, economic, cultural and environmental impact involved with realizing the plan will be assessed.
The planned pulp mill 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 go into operation in 2022.
However the plan has met with plenty of opposition in Tartu, mainly along the lines of environmental concerns.
A protest consisting of several thousand people took place in the city last month.
Tartu City Government itself is also opposed to the building of the pulp mill and has also sought recourse from the courts regarding the issue.
Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu, also from Pro Patria, said on the Uudis + radio show on ERR's Vikerraadio that a referendum on the issue might also be viable.
Editor: Andrew Whyte