Editorial: connections lost? What's the cost?

Estonian Air 2013 Route Map.

PHOTO: worldairlinenews.com

Of course we need the connections. Truth be told, we will always need more of them, and of ever superior quality. International cooperation comes not the e-way only. People do have to meet in the physical realm, and that takes travelling at high speeds and by companies.

Obviously, we wish that as a tourism destination Estonia would not be back yard to some other nation (only). At least as importantly, ideas and rich clients and investors need to reach Estonia.

Putting a price tag on whatever we will miss will inevitably be random. Even so, we know that it is also the faulty flight connections that are stealing our points in competition charts. Who in the nation wants peripherialization? By that, we’ll be trapped both mentally and economically.  

At the moment, it’s bad. The issue is how do we keep growing instead or waning. Meanwhile, the public may not simply shrug off the Estonian Air state aid saga and leave it for historians to dig into. Viewing the well prepared and confident-looking crisis communication, we might as well recall how for years the politicians and officials before cameras told us that all was basically under control and arranged with the European Commission.

In an opinion article in Postimees today, state aid expert Evelin Pärn-Lee points out that the new steps by government also come with hazard attached that the fresh taxpayer money for the new airline is again judged illegal state aid. She thinks it would be right to contest the decision by European Commission in court. The government has set the option aside and from the direct source the public has only heard the rather superficial explanations. Also, the setting aside of other options has essentially been left unsubstantiated – all we know is that economy minister Kristen Michal says they were worse.

A large question mark looms over a private investor or essentially the future owner picked for the new airline. What do the Tallink majority holders plan now? Has the government its eyes on any new potential investors ready to develop an airline that counts Tallinn its home – essentially, to believe in Estonia and make an input? Or, putting it plainer yet: is the confidence of the minister and the new airline management, in this situation, just an inevitable PR-performance but still a bluff in longer perspective?   

In the issues of principle, the discussion needs to be much more open that it has been. Sure it is good that, as Estonian Air is wound down, the ticket messes are kept minimal and the staff will not be left hanging for long. But the government must primarily explain the big choices. Explaining it to the taxpayer with tens and hundreds millions of euros involved. Is it indeed true that at market conditions no-one will ensure us the needed flight connections? And if so, why don’t we fight about the state aid? In that case, we should vociferously strive towards EU rules altered so they hinder not Estonia’s development.