Transport connections, in particular the possibility of an additional ferry, a bigger aircraft, improving mooring facilities and making roads dust-free, were the central topics of Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' (Centre) tour of the Western Estonian islands of Saaremaa, Muhu and Abruka and the islet of Kõinastu.
Means of supporting island living and communities' biggest successes and concerns were the central focus during meetings with residents and local activists on Abruka, Muhu, Saaremaa and Kõinastu. Overarching topics included electricity supply and security, waste handling and roads, cooperation projects between the state and municipalities, as well as support measures, spokespeople for the government said.
The topic of transport connections came up on multiple occasions during these meetings. The prime minister said that quality ferry connections are a priority for the government, and work to develop these connections is ongoing.
"Using an additional ferry on the Virtsu-Kuivastu route during the peak summer season has altogether justified itself, judging by our experience to date," Ratas said. "Besides, the ferry Tõll will be converted into an environmentally friendly hybrid ship running on electricity by the end of this year already."
He noted that the state is working toward having an additional new ferry serving the route connecting Saaremaa to the mainland via Muhu next year, which will help make the connection smoother and faster. "I believe that seamless and environmentally friendly ferry traffic is to the liking of the residents of Muhu and Saaremaa as well as their plentiful guests alike," he added.
Air connections to islands a priority
On the subject of air connections, the prime minister said that additional money allocated by the government will allow for a bigger plane to be introduced to the Kuressaare route soon.
He noted that a bigger and newer aircraft will offer permanent residents of the island a faster and more conveniently-timed air link with the mainland beginning with the new year already, which will help increase the region's competitiveness as well as support tourism.
"We are also making efforts toward enabling Kuressaare Hospital to use a helicopter if necessary, and for the helipad to be situated adjacent to the hospital," Ratas said.
At many of the meetings, programs for small islands, sparsely populated areas and rental housing were highlighted as positive examples.
"This demonstrates that measures increasing the availability and quality of vital services have been well received and must be continued," Ratas said. "In addition to already implemented projects, we must also heed concerns related to making local roads dust-free and developing mooring possibilities."
The prime minister has previously visited the islands of Kihnu, Ruhnu, Naissaar, Pakri, Prangli and Aegna, as well as the islets of Kesselaid and Manilaid. Ratas is also planning on visiting the islands of Vormsi and Vilsandi in the near future.
Editor: Aili Vahtla