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Aab: The Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel is possible as a project between two states

31. July 2020 - 12:17

The Estonian Minister of Public Administration, Mr Jaak Aab plans to propose to the Cabinet not to initiate the national designated spatial plan for the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel and the artificial island. The Minister bases his proposal on the application of developer FinEst Bay Area Development OÜ, additional information collected by the state authorities and the cooperation with the government of Finland.

"I appreciate the developer’s ambition and innovative plan to establish an important connection between the two countries", Minister Jaak Aab said. “However, in the light of the information known to the state authorities today, we have reason to doubt that the given project can put into practice for environmental, economic and security reasons. In addition, the creation of a transnational connection is only possible if both countries are willing and cooperate comprehensively. For this reason, it is necessary to agree on the common interests of the two countries before designing the tunnel.”

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has been working together with the government of Finland to conclude a joint agreement of intentions and negotiations to this effect are still ongoing. The government of Finland wishes to plan the tunnel under government direction but regards it a project of a further perspective and not as a project of the nearest future in its spatial plans and strategic planning. According to the minister, the construction of the tunnel in the future is welcome and important for the development of the region. The cabinet assigned the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications with the task of continuing to work towards a joint agreement of intentions with the government of Finland.

The Minister of Public Administration, after consulting the government of Finland, other ministries and sectoral authorities of Estonia, including security experts, considers that the project as envisioned by the developer FinEst Bay Area Development cannot be implemented and is not in the public interest for many reasons. Financing is lacking for the planning stage, impact assessments or studies. The sources of financing for the tunnel and the artificial island are unclear. The feasibility of the project and the highly optimistic passenger and freight volumes presented in the application are questionable.

The project is likely to generate unforeseen public costs arising from, inter alia, the servicing of a public railroad, an increase in the cost of the project due to an unrealistic time frame as well as the creation of law enforcement and rescue units for the tunnel. Based on the application, the government will also incur costs for developing and maintaining national defence capabilities, building possible new transport hubs as well as for developing and maintaining new educational and cultural opportunities. National security issues have also been raised by relevant Estonian authorities.

"The application presented by the developer left us with many open questions and doubts”, Minister Jaak Aab said. "We repeatedly asked the developer to amend and improve the application. Despite this, even after the presentation of a third revised application, the doubts of the government of Estonia have not been dispelled. Nor does the application concord with the interests of the Estonian government in all of its points. This is so despite numerous meetings and years of correspondence.”

In parallel, the government of Estonia has collected information and has found out the facts to be considered in making a decision in this matter. On the basis of the information gathered, Minister Jaak Aab will present a reasoned draft order for not initiating the national designated spatial plan for approval by the ministries and to the developer for consultation in the upcoming days. "I also discussed this at the cabinet meeting of the government on Thursday. Similar positions were aired by my colleagues", Minister Jaak Aab added.
After the consultation, Minister Jaak Aab is to present the proposal for not initiating the national designated spatial plan to the Government in the autumn.

“In order to further the development of the region and promote good transport connections, the railway tunnel project between Estonia and Finland is in any case worthy of consideration in the future, as the whole of Estonia will benefit from it”, said Minister Jaak Aab said.