The Social Democratic Party (SDE), one of the two junior partners in the three-party coalition governing Estonia, has called on its coalition partners to terminate the procedure of a national designated spatial plan on the proposed controversial pulp mill in south Estonia.
"It is clear today that there won't be a pulp mill in the environs of Tartu in any case, since the local community is opposed to the plan,'' said SDE Deputy Chair Heljo Pikhof.
''In a situation like this it makes no sense to move forward with the national designated spatial plan. The board of SDE have unanimously agreed that the government needs to look these facts in the eye and abandon the plan,'' she went on, before explaining that their position has been stated to the two other ruling coalition parties, the Centre Party (Keskerakond) and Pro Patria (formerly IRL).
Lesson learned – don't ignore public opinion
Ms. Pikhof described the developments related to the pulp mill project as an object lesson in both civic activity and the significance of public opinion, something which politicians might need to take into account when attempting large-scale projects like this in future.
"I would like to pay tribute to those Tartu residents who drew attention to the environmental risks from the very start of the process and stood up for the cleanness of their city and the Emajõgi river [which flows through Tartu – ed.] ,'' Ms. Pikhof went on.
''In a democratic society it is not possible to make decisions which directly affect the natural environment and may jeopardise people's quality of life, riding roughshod over local residents. Projects of this scale can be implemented only if they are carried out in collaboration between the developers and the municipality," she added.
Prime Minister's View
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said on Monday evening that the government is to indicate at its Cabinet meeting on Thursday as to how it intends to move forward with the national designated spatial plan.
The Government intends to hear from Minister of Public Administration Janek Mäggi on the various options that are available, Mr. Ratas said.
"I consider it right to give a very specific signal then on how we will move forward with it," he explained.
"As prime minister, my position is that if there is a desire to hold a discussion – and two coalition partners have stated their wish to do just that – then I am prepared to hold it," Ratas added.
Janek Mäggi had stated yesterday that terminating the plan could take at least two or three months and was not something that could just be done instantly.
Plans for the proposed pulp mill have attracted protests, most notably when thousands of citizens took to the streets of Tartu last month; alternative suggested locations have included Ida Virumaa, and the village of Tabivere a little over 20km north of Tartu.
Editor: Andrew Whyte