Estonia may send ship to retrieve citizens trapped on German-Polish border ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia is looking at options of bringing over 70 of its citizens trapped in the wake of border closures following the coronavirus pandemic, on the German-Polish border or in Germany itself, home by ship, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said Tuesday morning.

"We are currently working on alternative transport. The question is whether to charter a special ship from Estonia," Reinsalu told ERR, adding the ministry is working to determine how many people would be boarding the ship. The vessel could sail from Estonia on Wednesday evening, he said.

While a deal was struck late on Sunday to allow transit via Poland, which closed its borders at midnight that night, ahead of the Baltic Countries who did so overnight Monday to Tuesday, the promised escorted convoy failed to materialize, leaving the Estonians, plus a much larger Lithuanian contingent, trapped on the border close to Frankfurt an der oder.

Eye-witnesses caught up in the impasse said Polish riot police had arrived wielding rubber truncheons in response to Lithuanian citizens getting increasingly frustrated at the situation.

Reinsalu said that as of Tuesday morning there are currently no changes in the status of the crossing of passenger cars at the German-Polish border, in other words the border is still closed. The Polich authorities had permitted buses through, but not private cars.

"Poland has formed some convoy for passenger buses that have crossed the border. A few convoy have now passed, so far as I know," he said.

Poland is also offering a special, 650-seat train departing from Frankfurt an der oder. Priority would be given to families with children, the foreign minister said.

Another option Poland has offered is for 250 cars and their drivers and passengers to exit the port of Sassnitz (in Germany-ed.) for a vessel bound for Klaipeda, Lithuania, according to ERR's online Estonian news.

Baltic leaders express concerns to Polish leadership

Reinsalu confirmed that both he, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and President Kersti Kaljulaid had talked to their Polish colleagues and expressed their concerns about the situation. Leaders of Latvia and Lithuania have done the same, he said.

"I have been in contact with the Polish foreign minister, our prime minister has been in contact with the Polish prime minister, and our president has been in contact with her Polish opposite number. All three Baltic States have done exactly the same thing. Out putting pressure and unequivocal dissatisfaction with the situation are total. There is no question about that."

A video-conference between the Baltic foreign ministers and the German foreign minister is set for Tuesday, where the situation will surely be brought up, Reinsalu added.

Estonia itself imposed border controls under the government's emergency package of measures announced late last week amid the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. This now means that only Estonian citizens, residents of Estonia, and their family members, may enter the country, with some diplomatic, military, commercial and vital service exceptions. Exit from the country is still possible.

All those entering the country will have to undergo 14 days' quarantine at their place of residence in Estonia, again with some exceptions for diplomatic and military personnel.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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