While the land border between Estonia and Latvia, along with the latter's border with Lithuania, opened up from midnight Thursday in the so-called 'Baltic bubble', permitting free movement for citizens and residents of all three countries as part of the stepping-down of restrictions in place in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the maritime border between Estonia and Finland is likely to take a little longer to return to normality. At the same time, Finland will be treating Estonia differently from other countries, including even neighboring Sweden, Finnish interior minister Maria Ohisalo (VIHR) says.
Restoration of normal connections with Finland, already part-achieved this week with the opening of ferry links to Estonians with employment contracts in Finland, is seen as important for the Estonian economy. Cargo shipping continued between the two countries throughout the emergency, nonetheless.
According to Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat (link in Finnish), Ohisalo said her government would be making decisions on the schedule for reopening its borders over the next two weeks. Finland's own emergency situation declared in response to the pandemic expires on June 14, almost a month later than Estonia's, which ends at midnight on Sunday.
Ohisalo also noted Estonia was in better shape than Sweden – whose approach to the pandemic has been to largely avoid imposing restrictions – which has a land border with Finland, so far as coronavirus infection rates go. This could mean that Estonia will be treated differently from Sweden in the restrictions-lifting timetable.
Ohisalo added that no decision had been made on whether to join the "Baltic bubble" - effectively a restoration of the status quo pre-pandemic, since Finland and Estonia are both in the Schengen Area and the EU. Finland's first tourism "corridors" were likely to link with Estonia, the Nordic countries, and the other Baltic States, the Finnish minister added, though Sweden's figures kept full free movement off the table for the time being, even as Norway (whose travel restrictions are to last all the way through summer, only ending on August 20, though citizens of other nordic countries may get travel permission ahead of that) and Iceland's coronavirus stats were much better.
The proposed tourism corridor between Finland and other countries may even extend as far as Greece, Ohisalo added, though nothing concrete had been established, beyond that the 14-day quarantine period will continue to be requested from foreign citizens upon arrival.
Editor: Andrew Whyte