Interior Minister on interior security, border construction, street patrols
Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur (Reform) spoke in the Riigikogu on Thursday, reporting on interior security as well as ongoing construction along the border. He also commented on the recent emergence of so-called street patrol groups.
Speaking about his ministry’s budget, Pevkur said that there was very little room for further cuts, but that the interior security sector was facing new challenges that actually required more funding. “In the process of building up extensive national defense, equal development of national defense, interior security and homeland security must be ensured. If we only invest in one sphere, this could result in failure as a state in other areas,” the minister said.
Talking about ongoing construction along the Russian border, Pevkur said that efforts would require another €55m over the coming years in addition to the €20m already spent. Work on the border has been going on for a while, with the clearing of 136 km of the borderline of vegetation almost completed.
The first of hundreds of new border markers was placed in the village of Parmu close to the point where the borders of Estonia, Latvia and Russia meet. Another 705 markers would be placed this year, Pevkur said.
Also started last year was the construction of a new border guard base at Piusa. The work on the border checkpoint in Narva was completed, and a rapid reaction unit of the border guard was established.
Pevkur also addressed the matter of the recent popularity of street patrol group Soldiers of Odin in his speech. The minister criticized the emergence of groups that tested the boundaries of the law, and said that they undermined rather than increased people's feeling of security.
"While crime was one of the gravest of the population’s concerns for years after Estonia regained independence, it is fortunately not so today. It was just in 2007 that 21% of households believed crime in their neighbourhood to be an issue to worry about, but in 2015 only approximately 12% held this opinion. The share of people who consider crime to be the main problem the country is facing has also fallen. While this opinion was supported by a striking 44% of Estonian residents in 2007, by now the figure has fallen to 5%,” Pevkur said.
He added that right now, 91% percent of residents found that it was safe to live in Estonia. Also, of the various institutions of the state, people trusted institutions of interior security the most. A survey taken last year showed that 95% of residents trusted the Rescue Board, 90% the emergency centre, and 87% trusted the Police and Border Guard, Pevkur added.
"Still, our common and individual security rests on little things, and trust is easy to lose, which is why I call on everyone to trust in the institutions responsible for the protection of public order and the work they do. I do not want some kind of lynch law or gangs to flourish in Estonia that would rather damage the sense of security than increase it by acting on the thin line between the legal and the illegal,” he went on to say.
Pevkur finished his speech saying that Estonia had a strong police force and capable volunteers, and that anyone wishing to contribute to the security of the people living here was welcome to join one of the organizations created especially for this purpose - the Defence League, the assistant police officers, or volunteer rescuers. "Estonia is and will remain a country ruled by law,” he said.