Just over 20 properties which include residential buildings remain in the “area of interest” of a planned expansion to an existing military training area in South Estonia.
Local residents have largely been in the dark about what will happen to their properties, many of which have been in the family for generations but will need to be the subject of forced sales to accommodate the expanded area.
The enlarged training zone, at Nursipalu, Võru County, will likely host exercises conducted by British, French, Danish and other NATO allied forces, as well as those of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF).
The enlargement affects Antsla and Rõuge rural municipalities, and to a lesser extent Võru Rural Municipality, all in Võru County.
The main options open to landowners are either to sell or exchange for currently state-owned land, Kaupo Kaasik, infrastructure projects coordinator at the Defense Investment Center (RKK), told ERR News.
He said: “The main options are cash sales or exchange for state land. The state will not retain any agricultural land or buildings for itself,” adding that providing compensation was the most complicated aspect and that “lengthy negotiations” to find suitable solutions are likely.
The area of interest to the state is made up of about 200 units of land, Kaasik added, saying: “Of these, 21 which lie within the current area contain a residential building(s).”
Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) confirmed that the existing training area, which is around 3,000 ha in area, will be more than tripled in size, to over 9,000 ha – a fi-gure which somewhat lower than the rumored 10,000-12,000 ha which had been reportedly circulating, though not sourced, through the autumn.
The Mayor of Rõuge Municipality Britt Vahter told ERR News that local residents in her area expect fair compensation for having to give up their properties.
Vahter said: “We want the compensation to those people who will have to lose their homes to be very well thought out, in cooperation with residents, weighed up in all aspects, and resulting in fair levels of recompense.”
“How can you put a price on family roots, history and memories, as well as plans for the future?” she went on.
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