Billion-euro pulp mill project shelved as government cancels spatial plan
Investment company Est-For Invest, set up by several players in Estonia's forestry industry to build a new large pulp mill that would have represented the biggest-ever single investment in Estonia's history, said on Thursday that following the decision of the government to terminate its designated spatial plan for the mill, they will "wait for an improvement in the investment climate."
"The cheap export of valuable raw material has to end sooner or later. The timber and wood chips exported [at the moment] will have to add value here. [But] an investor needs a clear and solid investment environment as well as the peace of work and legal clarity," Est-For's Margus Kohava said.
Kohava added that realising modern and capital-intensive industrial projects requires a research-based and fact-based government culture, of which he suggested there is currently no sign here. "Until then we're shelving the project," he said in a press release.
He further pointed out that the procedure chosen to pick a location and go ahead with the mill's planning stage has been confirmed by three tiers of Estonia's courts, including the Supreme Court, which ruled in October that the spatial plan did not limit the company in its selection of a suitable place to build it.
The government decided on Thursday to terminate the procedure for a national designated spatial plan for the mill. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said at the government's Thursday press conference that Est-For Invest is now free to look around for another potential location, though the region in Tartu and Viljandi County the investors were looking at is now off the table.
Minister of Public Administration Janek Mäggi (Centre) commented that the state is still interested in industries that use local raw materials to create added value. But in order to set up a factory of this size, a solution needs to be found that takes into account the interest and opinion of the local population as well.
Est-For Invest's pulp mill project, which wanted to set up the biggest wood processing plant in the region and would likely have employed hundreds of people, was met with fierce resistance on the part of environmentalists, the local population, and after it became a matter of national debate also by politicians out of virtually every single party.
Mäggi commented that the decision to terminate the procedure for the spatial plan doesn't mean that investments of the kind and scale of Est-For's mill are not welcome. But any such undertaking would have to be based on cooperation and take local interests into account.
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Editor: Dario Cavegn