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Editorial: Augean Stables, Estonia

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PHOTO: Urmas Nemvalts

With an environment under a single individual or grouping for a longer while, own rules are established prescribing that once the situation changes, a great cleanup is needed. A dirty job, in all likelihood. The way mud wrestling goes, none of the participants stays clean - nor the ones to comment on the event. This is the way it seems to be going with ferryboat traffic to Estonia's major islands, for years the playground of a businessman Vjatšeslav Leedo.

For two counties in Estonia, ferryboat connection is existential. Should the ferries stop, life grinds to a halt in part of the country. Here, a fatal mistake sends those responsible to political morgue. What’s at stake, all those involved know very well.

By the government, a political decision was taken to assume control of the connections, citing lack of transparency in the business of Mr Leedo. But just like in marriage problems, it usually takes two. In the given instance, long-term agreements were in play between private enterprises and the state, and with deafening rattle the skeletons of the latter are now falling out of cupboards. Whether anybody asked anybody for a bribe or not may remain at word-against-word level, but public interest demands total clarity.

Those well versed in Ancient Greek mythology remember how Heracles cleaned up the stables of King Augeas by use of rivers – having stood dirty for thirty long years.

Just so happens that Mr Leedo has been nicknamed Ferry King. The stables related to ferryboat connection might also be left just standing there, taking the cattle with flags and songs to a new shed. However, if people and their mentality change not, the new place won’t be better off soon.

Politicians have promised that in a year the new ferries will be here and operating. Firstly, the public is expecting that the promise be kept. At least as importantly, we need to know what happens next in the operations now supervised by Port of Tallinn. Taxpayer must know how the euros are used. Otherwise, embarrassments will continue with councils responsible for nothing and boards plagued by corruption.

To achieve anything of principle, even the former stables need to be thoroughly cleansed. In this, the role of Heracles must be played by investigative bodies and politicians themselves. As for the rivers, media and rest of society will fit. Unrealistic to expect the Herculean speed of one day, but arriving at the conviction that the stables indeed need cleaning and that we will have to get busy – this is half the victory.

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