Prime Minister Kaja Kallas replied to the interpellations concerning the omission of Turba-Risti railway from the Estonian Recovery and Resilience Plan (No. 138) and concerning the omission of the projects on Tallinn Hospital and medical helicopters from the Estonian Recovery and Resilience Plan (No. 139), submitted by members of the Riigikogu.
Interpellation concerning the omission of Turba-Risti railway from the Estonian Recovery and Resilience Plan, submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Taavi Aas, Dmitri Dmitrijev, Marika Tuus-Laul, Jaak Aab, Aadu Must, Jüri Ratas, Mailis Reps, Anastassia Kovalenko-Kõlvart, Anneli Ott, and Siret Kotka.
The interpellators pointed out that the government had made the political decision on 30 June to omit the Turba-Risti railway construction project from the Estonian Recovery and Resilience Plan. To all intents and purposes, this meant withdrawing the funding from the project at the last second.
Kallas noted that the European Commission had proposed the establishment of a recovery instrument on 27 May 2020, with the intended purpose of offering investments and reforms to support the economies that have been negatively affected by the COVID crisis. The volume of support from the recovery instrument to Estonia was originally calculated as EUR 1.1 billion, but thanks to the economic growth in Estonia exceeding the forecasts, the volume has been reduced to EUR 863.3 million.
“This has forced us to adjust the Plan and its volume to the final volume of support. As it is no longer possible to implement the Plan as initially intended, the regulation on the Recovery and Resilience Facility allows Member States to submit changes to the Plan to the European Commission,” Kallas explained.
She elaborated that the government made the 30 June decision to omit the Turba-Risti railway construction from the Recovery Plan on the basis of the above factors. “Because of the market situation and the considerable hike in prices, the government is unable to finance all the planned railway investments in the earlier schedule and volume, which means that we have no choice but to leave some on the back burner and focus primarily on those where the passenger numbers and cargo volumes, and consequently the socio-economic impact, are more significant,” Kallas said.
Prime Minister observed that the necessary means to reconstruct Haapsalu railway in its entirety have never been available under any government.
Kallas noted that the government has developed and reconstructed the westbound railway, with the destination of Turba, stage by stage. “Before the track reaches Lääne County, we need to construct and reconstruct the westbound infrastructure in Harju County. Riisipere-Turba stretch has been completed and trains are running on Tallinn-Keila-Turba stretch. This required around EUR 8 million in investments,” Prime Minister explained. In addition to developing the existing railway, the government decided in August this year to reconstruct the Vasalemma-Riisipere stretch for nearly EUR 3.2 million, in order to increase the speed over a 7.2 km stretch. Design work has also continued on Haapsalu railways, so that the development of Haapsalu railway can be continued in the future, should the required funds be found in the state budget.
In reply to the interpellation concerning the omission of the projects on Tallinn Hospital and medical helicopters from the Estonian Recovery and Resilience Plan, Prime Minister gave the same justification for the decision not to allocate funds.
Kallas explained one important reason behind abandoning the Tallinn Hospital project. “The National Audit Office highlighted significant flaws in the project,” she pointed out. For example, there was confusion concerning financing. It was not clear which part would be financed by the government and which part by the City of Tallinn. There had also been no analyses whether the functional development plans of other hospitals had been taken into account when planning the work volumes of Tallinn Hospital, in order to avoid pointless duplication and overinvesting.
“With this in mind, we decided to withdraw Tallinn Hospital from the Recovery Plan and make proposals on other projects. The crucial condition in it – which was also pointed out by Auditor General – was that the funds of the Recovery Plan can only be used for projects that are completed by 2026. As soon as one project among the lot fails to complete by 2026, all the other projects will lose funding. And it is a huge amount of money, which would allow us to actually make regional investments and help develop life in Estonia,” Kallas elucidated.
Prime Minister was not called to reply to the interpellation concerning the ability to work and the competence of the Government of the Republic because the interpellators had withdrawn it.
During the open microphone, Kalle Grünthal, Peeter Ernits, Mart Helme, and Tarmo Kruusimäe took the floor.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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