“The Brussels Diary with Yana Toom”: Green Deal and Ida-Viru County


“The Brussels Diary with Yana Toom” is back. It is already evident that the new European Commission will not bore. Big changes are coming, including on the social front, which is extremely important for Estonia. And the leader of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, fired the first shot regarding global warming. The price of the topic – a trillion euro. Eighty-five of our state budgets. So much is planned to be spent on the goal that the EU will stop polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases by 2050.

A trillion is almost an abstract figure, and the Green Deal, offered by von der Leyen, is a long-term programme. It is evident that only a few of those who made this decision will be alive in 2050 – and live to see the paradise. But the youth, the coevals of Greta Thunberg, would be alive then. You can think of Greta as you please, but you can’t argue that in thirty years’ time our children would like to live on a liveable Earth, and not in hell.

The point, however, is not only to save the world. Along the way, it is not to destroy the economy and not to make the poor residents of the EU even poorer. Poverty is a social tension that can damage the EU the same as global warming.

The specifics are important. Here they are: in the coming years, the EU will be ready to allocate 125 million euro from the Just Transition Fund. Plus, over 200 million from the structural funds. Plus, self-financing, over 200 million more. In total, Estonia will be able to spend 570 million euro on greening its economy.

Is it a lot or not? In absolute terms, it’s so-so: 12 out of the 27 countries would receive more. Poland, for example, as much as two billion, and this is a record. But if you review the amount per capita, the record holder will be Estonia: 95 euros per person. No one will benefit so much or even close to it. And all thanks to oil shale: we are the only EU country that will be allocated money to get rid of the oil shale industry.

But it is too early to get carried away. The money will arrive once we prepare a detailed investment plan. Where should we invest the millions? Yes, it would be nice to clean our rivers, and invest in alternative energy sources, and insulate our houses and electrify our transport means. However, in my opinion, the people and jobs in Northeastern Estonia should come first. Those who have already lost their jobs, and members of their families; last year alone, this amounted to several thousands of people. Those who will probably also lose their jobs – because the oil shale sector includes 14,000 employees. Something is being implemented already – Eesti Energia pays allowances for retraining, for example – but if we talk about the abolishment of the sector, the problem will remain. In Ida-Viru County, 6,500 people are looking for work; every tenth employable resident of the County is unemployed. What is this if not a crisis?

At present, we need to openly discuss and think about a detailed programme for the revival of Northeastern Estonia. The state will have to intervene in what is happening – you cannot count on the invisible hand of the market. If we offer money to businesses, and they, as usual, react sluggishly, then the result will mean the EU funds remain unclaimed. Or they will be used up, but not for Ida-Viru County, and this would be unforgivable.

See you next week!