Estonian employers ask Finland's PM to open border for workers

Thermal cameras at Port of Tallinn.
Thermal cameras at Port of Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Estonian Employers' Confederation has sent a letter to Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, requesting the government of Finland to consider allowing the free movement of workers between Estonia and Finland.

Movement of workers was stopped between Estonia and Finland after the outbreak of the coronavirus. Thousands of Estonians work in Finland and regularly move between the two countries. Finland has not allowed Estonia workers to travel to Finland. The restrictions only do not apply to people who work in healthcare or transport goods. 

The confederation says that Estonia has experience with cross-border movements of workers with Latvia. The agreement that was made on March 20 between the two governments allows workers to cross the border for purpose of employment, and removes the need for the workers to remain in quarantine for two weeks after crossing the border due to employment related travel.

The statistics have shown that following all restrictions and precautionary measures, the free movement of workers has not raised the number of COVID-19 cases in the border cities. Estonia has followed all the restrictions, similarly to Finland, and the level of COVID-19 cases is decreasing.

"Following this positive example, we are proposing Finland to consider easing the restrictions for border crossing and allowing the free movement of workers between Estonia and Finland," the confederation said.

The confederation points out that Finland is one of the most important economic partners for Estonia, and in addition to goods, specialists also move between Finland and Estonia, while the tourism sector, which is most affected by the COVID-19 virus, largely depends on Finnish tourists.

"As countries are moving towards exit plans, we would be grateful for allowing the shipping companies to start operating again as soon as possible. The shipping companies and the tourism sector are prepared to comply with extremely strict hygiene requirements and to initially limit ship occupancy and are ready to negotiate any additional requirements for the traveling workers and tourist, in order to minimize the risks. Finland and Estonia should be a single economic space, where traffic between the two countries would be free for the citizens of both countries," the letter from the Estonian Employers' Confederation reads.

The Estonian Employers' Confederation also said it welcomes and appreciates the continuing freight transport between Estonia and Finland, describing it as extremely important for Estonia, since Estonia's economy is highly dependent on export and freely functioning supply chains.

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Estonia's public broadcaster ERR that Finland will start opening borders gradually and cautiously and that Estonia probably will be the first country with which it is done. The Finnish government is due to discuss the opening of borders on Sunday, ERR said. 

The ministries of foreign affairs and the interior are trying secure free movement of workers between Estonia and Finland, similar to the agreement already in place between Latvia and Estonia. Finland suspended all people entering from abroad due to the coronavirus crisis from in early April.  


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Editor: Helen Wright

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