The Estonian government at its Thursday Cabinet meeting decided to initiate the termination of the national designated spatial plan for a planned €1 billion pulp mill in Southern Estonia.
"I have emphasised from the start that the government does not wish to nip the initiative of entrepreneurs in the bud," Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said at a press conference following the meeting, noting that the government must take into consideration the opinion of the local community when implementing the national designated spatial plan.
"The main question is whether circumstances that hinder the realisation of the national designated plan, or in the current form make it possible in the future, have already arrived," he added.
According to the government's decision, the circumstances that hinder the realisation of the plan have arrived, and these are the complete opposition of the community, which is also highlighted by several legal disputes. Based on this, the government decided to initiate the termination of the national designated spatial planning procedure.
"During this process, we will also discuss the new situation with the entrepreneurs to hear if they also have other thoughts regarding the location [of the planned pulp mill]," the prime minister said.
Minister of Public Administration Janek Mäggi (Centre) said that all circumstances considered, it was deemed necessary at Thursday's talks to support the termination of the procedure for the national designated spatial plan, which will be launched by the Ministry of Finance.
"During this process, we will communicate with entrepreneurs to find possible solutions," said Mäggi, according to whom this requires that entrepreneurs have agreements with local residents.
The government will make a decision regarding the termination of the national designated spatial plan after the termination procedure. According to initial assessments, this may take several months.
Mäggi: Cooperation between entrepreneurs, locals failed
"What went wrong was that talks with the main target groups and the community were not fruitful; this conversation and discussion has been lacking," Ratas said.
"Cooperation between entrepreneurs and local people and governments failed," Mäggi said. "We have several examples in Estonia where it has been very successful despite initial opposition."
According to Mäggi, it is also possible that nothing was done wrong when it came to the plan, but it failed anyway. "It is typical in entrepreneurship that some projects succeed and others do not," he said. At the same time, it is important to discuss things with the local community, he continued, adding that Tabivere residents had not previously heard anything about the idea to build the pulp mill there.
Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu said that the government welcomes all private sector initiatives, but in this case, an obstacle was overwhelming public interest expressed by local communities.
In May 2017, the government launched a procedure for a national designated spatial plan to determine the most suitable location for a planned €1 billion pulp mill in Viljandi and Tartu Counties, as well as a strategic environmental impact assessment procedure to determine the refinery's estimated impact on the environment.
Editor: Aili Vahtla