Idea of a Visa-Free Zone with Russia Resurfaces ({{commentsTotal}})

Värska is also known for its mineral water spa
Värska is also known for its mineral water spa Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The car park of the Värska Spa Center is full of cars from the Russian Pskov Oblast, regardless of the time of year and day of the week – and more than half of the customers of the water park come from across the Estonian-Russian border.

Howeve, many people from Pskov wish to visit the spa with their friends but have to decide who will be in their travel group based on who has the required Estonian visa, ETV reported on Sunday.

While visa-free travel between the European Union and Russia is not yet in sight, an alternative solution is being discussed for the Schengen area – creating a visa-free zone up to 50 kilometers on each side of the border.

The idea was considered by the Estonian government five years ago but was put on hold.

A conference on business opportunities in Russia was held recently in Värska and it drew dozens of businessmen from Southern Estonia. Residents of Pskov have also taken an interest in traveling to Estonia.

According to Vladimir Zubov, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Pskov Oblast, the move would benefit everyone involved, enliven business in the border areas, and perhaps even help solve some sensitive issues between the two states.

MP Urmas Klaas, head of the parliamentary group for Southeastern Estonia, noted that Norway plans to expand its current visa-free zone with Russia from 30 kilometers to 50 kilometers and its experience should be taken into consideration.

Poland has a visa-free zone with the Kaliningrad Oblast and Latvia has also decided to employ a loosened zone.