"Olukorrast riigis": How will hiring high-paid executives help border guard

A member of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) at the Estonian-Russian border.
A member of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) at the Estonian-Russian border. Source: Police and Border Guard Board

Hosts of the "Olukorrast riigis" radio show asked on Sunday how exactly will Minister of the Interior, Conservative People's Party leader Mart Helme's decision to appoint a highly paid border guard chief and plan to create another ten well-paid executive positions help improve the guarding of the border.

"It is noteworthy that the same populist party that has promised to change everything it has considered to be wrong… – and unjustifiably high salaries, for me, have been a problem – let's just say €4,800 a month is not a negligible salary," host Andrus Karnau said, referring to the salary of Egert Belitšev who was appointed head of the Police and Border Guard's (PPA) new border guard bureau last week.

In addition to appointing a new border guard chief, another ten executive positions will be created, with the annual salary fund coming to half a million euros, which means rather high salaries, Karnau added. "The question is what will this structure be in charge of as the border guard also had a leadership structure until recently," he said.

Co-host Harry Tuul said that the leadership structure was to be changed. "Nevertheless, we could ask Interior Minister Mart Helme how creating ten new executives can help guard the border more effectively," Tuul said.

Karnau gave the example of Estonian border guard boats that spend a considerable time docked because their crews are incomplete and the vessels cannot be dispatched. "Instead of hiring a new chief for €4,800 a month and spending another half a million a year on other executive positions to be created, we could add a little more and motivate people with proper training to serve in the border guard. To make sure boats that we already have could be fully crewed and sent on patrol," the journalist said.

The editor-in-chief of local paper Lääne Elu added that as far as he knows, Estonia's radar capacity is not sufficient for monitoring western territorial waters, which is why the money could be used to strengthen that field instead.

"I also cannot gloss over the fact that two cordons with a long history have recently been closed – one on the shores of Lake Peipus and the other in Haapsalu, on the Baltic Sea coast. How these steps coincide with Mart Helme's promise of strengthening the border guard remains a mystery," Karnau said.

He also highlighted Helme's initiative for a 3,000-strong internal security reserve force, asking why such a structure is needed considering the Defense League managed to perform all necessary tasks during the coronavirus crisis. "For some reason, we are getting another armed unit – why, what is the need there? I cannot help but feel Mart Helme is building up some sort of parallel structure inside the PPA that could be loyal first to him, not the government or the PPA director general, because of how much it gets paid. I hope I'm being too suspicious here," he said.

"It is peculiar, in a situation where we have agencies and structures, to create new ones instead of strengthening existing capacity. Another thing that's peculiar is how much of this is a show meant for the public's benefit," Tuul agreed.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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