Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said cooperation with Poland had been difficult and the troubles on the German-Polish border came after Poland withdrew from its initial promise and left Estonians wishing to return to Estonia on the border. The promised convoy for Baltic citizens was canceled.
Speaking on "Esimene stuudio" on Tuesday evening, Reinsalu said: "On Sunday night, the Polish state sent a formal explanation that it was possible to form a convoy and asked all three (Baltic) states to submit a list of their citizens. And so we made a public appeal to our citizens Unfortunately, on Monday, Poland withdrew its promise. Poland made a reference - and probably for that reason - to the health of its people and canceled the possibility transiting [through the country - ed] by private car."
Reinsalu said the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs gave confirmation to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania the convoy would take place, and there was a separate conversation with the Polish foreign minister, but, in the end, they all proved to be fruitless.
"The current situation has shown that cooperation with Poland has been difficult, I say that frankly. Last night, the German President also called the Polish President about the situation on the Polish-German border," Reinsalu said.
Poland eventually allowed its buses to enter its country only on buses - large coaches and smaller minibuses.
"Some people have gone to Denmark on the recommendation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have reached an agreement with Denmark, that Denmark will allow the transit of Estonian citizens to Sweden. Some people have certainly gone somewhere else on the border or have returned to Germany. Some people are waiting in a port in northern Germany for the ship that was supposed to leave today, but whose departure was delayed, which should go to Klaipeda. Some people are looking toward the opportunity that we, together with Tallink, were able to work out so that tomorrow night at 11.55 p.m. they can board the (Tallink) Ferry (Romantika), which will pick up our people and to Riga," Reinsalu said.
While Estonia and Latvia both planned to close their Schengen Zone border and install checks overnight Monday to Tuesday, the Polish government closed their borders on Sunday.
The deal was struck late on Sunday night and those wishing to join the convoy had until 8.00 a.m. to register with the foreign ministry via email. Poland then went back on the deal.
Estonians, of which 73 of officially registered, say they were misled by information from the foreign ministry that an escorted column would be allowed from the German-Polish border to the Polish-Lithuanian border.
The humanitarian corridors should have be secured by agreement
Reinsalu admitted Estonians in trouble at the border were given information that ultimately turned out to be untrue.
"It is our duty (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Ed.) to pass on the information that we have at the time, and that information is in real-time. Could the information change - honestly, yes, it has done so. It is our job to listen to people's concerns, register them and work on offering solutions. Unfortunately, extreme decisions also have to be made," he said.
Reinsalu said two things should remain in place in the era of border closure. "One is that people should be provided with humanitarian corridors to reach their homeland. And the other is that international freight transport must remain," he said.
"I hope that a Europe-wide solution can be found in the short term. I believe that some workable principles will be developed in the coming days," the foreign minister said.
Estonians are spread all over the world
Reinsalu said there are thousands of Estonians who want to return to their Estonia. However, there are still many who have not contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are trying to return on their own.
Reinsalu said the state does not plan to reimbursement them. "Reimbursement of return tickets to Estonia, whether scheduled or extraordinary, is not currently on the table," he noted.
The Foreign Minister, said many people have contacted the ministry from around the world. "There are actually quite a few cases where Estonians are in exotic places. We are looking for solutions with other countries that have the capacity to organize charter trips," he said.
Editor: Helen Wright