At the deliberation of the matter of significant national importance “The Future Prospects for Ida-Virumaa” in the Riigikogu, reports were by entrepreneur, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Kunda Trans Ltd and the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Lajos Ltd Lembit Kaljuvee, the Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab and member of the Estonian Centre Party Faction Mihhail Stalnuhhin. The deliberation was held on the proposal of the Estonian Centre Party Faction.
Kaljuvee highlighted three important potentials characterising the region. In his opinion, the people living in Ida-Virumaa come first, then come the mineral resources there and the location of the region.
“The most important are the people there, the 150,000 people who live there,” Kaljuvee said. He said that they were people with a very good technical education who had immense wisdom, who had proved their loyalty to our state and country to all of us and to themselves.
Another potential is the mineral resources. “The whole oil shale technology, be it chemistry or energy, is a potential after all,” Kaljuvee said. He said that, for example, during ten years, the dividends of Eesti Energia that had been shared had amounted to 650 million. In various years, dividends had been taken out in the amounts of 50, 70 or 50–90 million. Pollution charges, fees for the special use of water and resource charges have been paid into the state budget in the amount of nearly 600 million, half of which has been accrued directly to the state budget. “When we speak of the earth’s crust and mineral resources, the Estonian mineral resources are in North Estonia, they are in Virumaa.
The third potential is the location. “There has been a lot of talk from this rostrum here that we could be the gate to Eurasia for the European Union. Is that what we are today? At the last development conference in Narva, Tiit Vähi said that we had built a Berlin wall on River Narva,” Kaljuvee noted. “Today Russia does not need us. It does not have time for us. There is no point in our picking at them, let us try to have friendly relations with them,” Kaljuvee explained. “How we conduct ourselves in Ida-Virumaa together with the people of Ida-Virumaa is a question of the existence of Estonia,” Kaljuvee noted.
Aab gave a brief statistical overview of the current situation of Ida-Viru county. “Ida-Virumaa is one of the regions of Estonia where the population is decreasing at the fastest rate, and unfortunately also in the forecasts, at least for the nearest future,” Aab said. In his words, Ida-Virumaa had lost 9 per cent of its population in the years 2002–2016.
Aab explained what was planned to be done to improve the quality of life, economic environment and business environment in Ida-Virumaa. “The state is planning to direct investments to Ida-Virumaa in an amount of approximately 200 million in the years 2017–2020. For the most part it is an investment that is funded from foreign funds, for example, investments to primary health centres, industrial areas and transport infrastructure, state upper secondary schools, and activities to implement LEADER and fisheries region strategies,” Aab said. He added that the Government had decided the establishment of a study and training centre of the Estonian Academy of Security Services in Narva, Ida-Virumaa, that year. In the course of the budget negotiations, it had been decided that the training centre would have a swimming pool with eight lanes that could be used also by the people of Narva. In order to support Estonian language instruction, it has been decided to open an Estonian Language House in Narva. As a general rule, investments and activities are supported from measures financed from foreign funds uniformly all over Estonia, and therefore, if applications for funds are successful, they help keep the backwardness of Ida-Virumaa in terms of economy and population compared to the other regions of Estonia at the current level, but this does not provide a sufficient development impetus for liquidating the backwardness.
Several ministries also implement special measures directed at Ida-Virumaa. As an interim measure, in 2016–2018 the Ministry of Social Affairs will grant assistance for additional labour market services and creation of jobs from the funds of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and the employment programme through the Unemployment Insurance Fund. This measure was intended and is intended to respond to mass redundancies that have occurred here in recent years, and it should help the people who have lost their jobs find employment, and reduce high regional unemployment. Over the last couple of years, about 500 new jobs have been created within the framework of this measure. The volume of the whole package is 7.7 million. It supports undertakings who employ people. There are also plans to transfer employees of state authorities and state-salaried employees from Tallinn into this region. “As a result of that, the ministries have provided information that 120 additional state-salaried jobs should be created also in Ida-Virumaa over three years,” Aab said.
Stalnuhhin gave an overview of the sentiments prevalent in Ida-Virumaa and Narva, and the factors influencing them. He considered it important to change the attitude towards the region and to shape its positive reputation.
In his words, the most efficient way for such a border city is to make use of this border location, i.e. transit, logistic warehouses, tourism, etc. Our relations with our eastern neighbour need to be improved. “Two huge transit warehouses have been built in the industrial area and they are standing empty now. More than 30 plots of land of the 37 plots that could have accommodated 37 businesses had been already booked by investors, when all these sanctions began that meant an enormous loss for our agriculture, an enormous loss for transit,” Stalnuhhin explained. “As regards developing business in Võru, Valga or Narva – we are not that different, we have the same conditions,” Stalnuhhin noted. He underlined that if you are on the border of the European Union, the most important for you is to have good economic cooperation with your neighbour.
Stalnuhhin supported the idea – to unite the two Virumaas, Ida-Virumaa and Lääne-Virumaa, into one. “This reunion of Lääne-Virumaa and Ida-Virumaa could be positive if it were carried out correctly,” he said.
During the debate, Marko Pomerants (Pro Patria and Res Publica Union), Kalvi Kõva (Social Democratic Party) and Krista Aru (Estonian Free Party) took the floor.
Due to the end of the working hours of the sitting, the first reading of the Bill on the Repeal of the Registered Partnership Act (461 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, is postponed and included in the agenda for the next working week.
The sitting ended at 1.05 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
(NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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