Tallinn in the News March 2019

Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel dreams becoming a reality 

Tallinn’s city government has given the green light for a feasibility report into ambitious plans to build a railway tunnel from Tallinn to Helsinki.

The idea of a Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel, which was previously thought of as a pipe dream, has been made more likely due to huge investment from a Chinese company and the vision of Finnish tycoon and former chief executive of Angry Birds, Peter Vesterbacka.

Vesterbacka’s firm, FinEst Bay Area Development,  announced this month that it had signed a memorandum of understanding for 15 billion Euros finance with Touchstone Capital Partners to build the tunnel.

Tallinn City Government said it is ready to go ahead with a comprehensive survey which will look at the city centres of Tallinn and Helsinki, including the area of Tallinn’s Old City Harbour and the centre City.

“The position of the Tallinn City Government is that the planned infrastructure project must take into consideration the long-term development needs of the City of Tallinn,” Deputy Mayor Andrei Novikov said.

“A permanent connection between Tallinn and Helsinki would bring indirect benefits for Estonia, Finland, as well as the entire region,”  Novikov added.

Novikov said the city would also look at how a tunnel would affect the maritime transport of vehicles and freight which takes place via the Port of Muuga and other ports not situated in Tallinn’s city centre.

The city would also have to look at how to develop the Tallinn railway infrastructure to cope with the projected increase in freight caused by a tunnel.

FinEst Bay Area has estimated the total cost of the tunnel at between 15-20 billion euros. The company has already raised 100 million Euros from UAE company ARJ Holdings.

Full details of the deal which with the Chinese investors will be announced over the next six months.
The fund is planning to use the Chinese infrastructure project One Belt One Road to finance the tunnel.

“The railway tunnel between Finland and Estonia is a new and ambitious project that is great to be involved in,” said Kenny Song, chairman of Touchstone Capital Partners.

“The tunnel will create a common metropolitan area from the Helsinki and Tallinn regions, which have a great opportunity to become a centre of gravity connecting Asia and Europe,” Song added.

FinEst Bay Area also plans to encourage investment from other sources.

“Our goal is to secure European, Nordic and Finnish capital investments as well in addition to the already agreed financing arrangement. We are looking for a sustainable and fully balanced financing solution for the project,” Kustaa Valtonen of FinEst Bay Area said.

The idea of linking the capitals of Helsinki and Tallinn has been a long term dream for Angry Birds founder Vesterbacka
“Now, the financing is sorted, and we can move ahead,” Vesterbacka said.

Tallinn city published a feasibility study in 2017 which predicted the 100-km tunnel could open by 2040.  Vesterbacka believes the tunnel could be complete by 2024.

Tens of thousands of Estonians work in Finland and Tallinn is a popular tourist destination for Finland. Linking the two cities would make Tallinn-Helsinki an international centre for IT start-ups and culture.  Helsinki is the home of Nokia, Angry Birds and Linux whereas Tallinn is the home of Skype and Taxify.

“The emergence of a twin city would make the area a region’s hub, make it attractive for major investments and cultural events, and would attract top talent,” Novikov said.

The railway tunnel would be 90km long. A train journey between the two capitals should take half an hour.

Health care centres enter a new holistic age

Tallinn is to establish a modern health centre in each of the capital’s eight city districts.

Deputy Mayor Tõnis Mölder said the health centres would provide a variety of health care services and ensure closer co-operation between family doctors, health care specialists and patients.

Tallinn’s central hospitals are already launching three new health centres.

West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH) will replace the current Kopli Polyclinic. There will be a health care central Tallinn Central Hospital (ITKH) the Magdaleena Unit, and a third will be established in Lasnamäe , the most populous area of the city.

“All three new centres should be completed by the end of 2021,” Mölder said.

The new health care centres will be based around a holistic approach to health care and medicine.

“Patients will be seen at the health centre by both family doctors and nurses as well as several medical specialists from the LTKH, as well as physical therapists, visiting nurses, mental health nurses and hopefully also psychologists,” LTKH board chairwoman Imbi Moks  said adding that dentistry will play an important role in the new health centres as well.

The health centre will be fully functional and state of the art, able to run diagnostic tests,  X-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests and EKGs and give feedback and analysis very quickly or refer patients to an in-house specialist.

The three centres which are to establish by 2021 will cost an estimated 5 million euros each.

The project will receive additional funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
Mölder said not just the technology but the buildings themselves will be updated and improved.

“New and modern buildings, however, will allow for significantly improved room layouts and working conditions that will be comfortable for both patients as well as employees,” He said.

One health centre is already up and running. Mustamäe health centre celebrated its first year of operation, and feedback from patients has been very positive.

“Medical specialists held approximately 25,000 appointments there over the past year, to which we can add a dental clinic, a women’s clinic and psychiatric centre appointments,” Mölder said.

Plastic cups to be banned in a drive for green Tallinn

From October 2019, the City of Tallinn is to ban the use of single-use plastic dishes and utensils at all public events.
Biodegradable cutlery will still be allowed. Organisers of public events such as concerts are required to ensure waste which is not biodegradable or can be recycled is properly disposed of in marked waste disposable areas.
The ban will not yet apply to bottles and cans.

Deputy Mayor, Züleyxa Izmailova, said the ban will reduce the amount of plastic waste produced, and increase awareness of waste as well as encourage the use of reusable dishes.

“Single-use dishes containing plastic make up the largest portion of waste produced at public events,” Izmailova explained.

“Plastic waste includes material that is easily blown away and which decomposes very slowly in nature, posing a hazard to both land and marine biota and polluting the environment,” she added.

Izmailova believes sorting waste at public events will influence change in the way Tallinners to think about their garbage and encourage them to recycle.

“The continual improvement of residents’ awareness of waste recycling and reuse is likewise one measure that helps to fulfil the objectives set in Tallinn’s waste management plan,” she said.

Izmailova said instead of using plastic, people can use cups, and utensil made out of biodegradable materials which are on sale across the city.

Mayor Taavi Aas at the European Summit of Mayors

This March, Mayor of Tallinn, Taavi Aas, participated at the 2nd European Mayors’ Summit in Brussels.

The mayors of 60 European cities gathered to discuss the role of cities in shaping the future of Europe and make proposals for improving strategic cooperation between local authorities across the European Union.

“In a situation where people’s distrust of European political institutions is getting worse, cities are the link between their citizens and the European Union,” Aas said.

“Several areas, such as tackling climate change, supporting growth and ensuring overall security in Europe, require cooperation with cities and countries to achieve better results. At the same time, we have to face increasing bureaucracy and unrealistic demands that do not consider the specificities of cities, their real needs and opportunities, ”  Aas added.
EUROCITIES was created in 1986 with the aim of strengthening the role of local authorities in European development and influencing European Union legislation to better protect the interests of cities.

The organisation unites 142 major cities in Europe today, Tallinn has been a full member of EUROCITIES for 20 years and was elected to the 12-member board of the organization in the autumn of 2017, representing the interests of other nearby cities, including Helsinki, Riga and Vilnius.

Tallinn will join the Mayors Climate and Energy Pact 2030

Tallinn city council decided to submit a draft resolution to the City Council, according to which the City of Tallinn will join the Mayor’s Climate and Energy Pact.  The cities of the 2030 Covenant aim to make all cities carbon neutral by 2050.
Deputy Mayor, Züleyxa Izmailova, noted that the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy 2030 is a document providing that European cities care for the environment and promoting their willingness to continue the process initiated by the previous Covenant of Mayors.

“The commitments made by the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy Pact 2030 underpin the 2020-2030 Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan,” Izmailova explained.

“The common goal of the cities that have joined the Pact is to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 40% by 2030 and to make cities carbon neutral by 2050, thereby helping to keep the global average temperature well below 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels.

The mayors signing the Covenant will commit to reducing CO2 and possibly other greenhouse gas emissions in their city territory by at least 40% by 2030 and improving the city’s coping with climate change.”

Joining the Covenant of Mayors with the Climate and Energy Pact 2030 requires two requirements – to adopt the Action Plan for Sustainable Energy and Adaptation to Climate Change in Tallinn within two years and to reduce 40% of CO2 emissions in Tallinn.

“These goals were set by the City of Tallinn by joining the Mayors Adapt initiative, and so new commitments to the Covenant of Mayors’ Climate and Energy Pact 2030 will not lead to any new commitments,” Izmailova explained.

The first opportunity to join the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy 2030 is on the 3rd of April this year, at the Euro cities Environmental Forum of European Cities, where a new treaty will be signed.

The next signing ceremony will take place in June 2019 in Brussels during the European Green Week.

Taavi Aas – or a member of the City Government authorised by him- will sign the Climate and Energy Pact for Mayors. The Tallinn Energy Agency, managed by the Tallinn Environmental Board, is responsible for the performance of the tasks arising from the Covenant of Mayors.

The City of Tallinn joined the Covenant of Mayors in February 2009. The Covenant of Mayors is an initiative of the European Commission aimed at bringing together the mayors of European cities to create a permanent network for exchanging energy-sustainability in urban areas. Based on the commitment to the Covenant of Mayors, the 2011 City Council Decision for the 2011-2021 Sustainable Energy Action Plan for 2011-2021 was developed and adopted, which provides directions for the city’s energy sector development until 2021.