Finnish, Estonian ministers: Bridge spanning Gulf of Finland reopening

Ministers of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Pekka Haavisto
Ministers of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Pekka Haavisto Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Rain Kooli/ERR

There is a symbolic bridge connecting Estonia and Finland: centuries-old close relations between two countries and peoples, the importance of which is especially clear now that the movement of people between the two countries has been halted for several months due to the coronavirus crisis, write Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto on the centennial of Estonian-Finnish diplomatic relations.

The Estonian and Finnish governments met in Tallinn two years ago, on May 7, 2018, for a historic joint sitting, where they agreed upon several lines of action for us to promote together, particularly in the fields of transport, digital, language, culture and education, and as member states of the EU.

Much has been achieved. The opportunity to fill Finnish digital prescriptions at Estonian pharmacies beginning in January 2019 was a significant opening gambit. Since this June, it has also been possible to fill Estonian prescriptions at Finnish pharmacies as well. The entry into operation of the Balticconnector natural gas pipeline in December 2019 joined our countries into a shared natural gas energy network. We have long since been in a shared electricity network.

It has become clear in the crisis situation how important it is to seek and find solutions together. Despite the coronavirus crisis, Finland and Estonia's cooperation has continued smoothly. We have cooperated well in overcoming the coronavirus. Effective measures in Estonia and Finland have been responsible and beneficial to our countries' cooperation.

As foreign ministers, we are in constant contact — even more closely than before due to the coronavirus crisis. Ties between the residents of Finland and Estonia are known to be close and positive. Digital connections are used extensively, especially now that movement has had to be restricted.

 As movement is being restored in stages, Finnish and Estonian border guards have worked side by side at the Ports of Tallinn and Helsinki to ensure smooth monitoring. This is a fantastic example of Finland and Estonia's smooth cooperation on the level of the authorities as well.

Amid the crisis, we cannot forget that we have a jubilee year. This year, on June 8, we mark the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Estonia and Finland, and we are doing so by celebrating one another's embassies in Tallinn and Helsinki.

A lot has occurred over the past 100 years. National efforts and international cooperation has brought us to today stronger than ever before. Membership in the EU is a natural operating environment for Finland and Estonia.

As EU member states, we have contributed to close social and economic integration which has brought us even closer to one another than would have otherwise been possible as independent and relatively small countries.

Following the coronavirus spring, the bridge spanning the Gulf of Finland is opening once again. Lively work-, residence-, study- and tourism-related relations may be restored into even closer relations. This spring's trials will make opportunities offered by the region valuable once again. Crises, by the bye, open doors to the new as well.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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