Ratas, Helme, Reinsalu still disagree on migrant workers

Government members. From left, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) and economic affairs and communications minister Taavi Aas (Center), at a recent government meeting. Source: Government Office

Migrant workers will not be allowed to stay in Estonia after July 31, Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) said on Thursday. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), however, said exceptions can be made for people working in the agricultural sector.

Helme said of migrant labor at a government press conference on Thursday that: "We have no intentions of extending after that date [July 31]."

He said he believes the employment crisis has more to do with the fact that there are more than 50,000 unemployed in Estonia: "An amendment was made in spring for seasonal workers temporarily stationed here. We made that amendment in April and that gave everyone May, June, and July to adapt to the situation.

"If we can not find enough workers out of those 53,000 unemployed then it is a matter of not trying hard enough."

Helme added Ukraine is not a safe country yet, taking into account their healthcare and the spread of COVID-19.

Reinsalu said the status of workers already in Estonia has nothing to do with the national health argument.

Reinsalu noted it was agreed upon by the EU that essential migration from third countries is allowed, also for seasonal work. "It is reasonable to look for solutions to actually implement them. This also includes the measures set for quarantine, testing, and whatever else."

ERR News wrote on Thursday the two opposition parties in Estonia, Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), plan to hold an off-schedule Riigikogu sitting to discuss ways to alleviate the labor crisis.

Helme said this will not change his attitude on the subject: "I think of this as political show and not an actual proposal."

Ratas supported Reinsalu's approach to make exceptions for some people: "The best reasoning is if we could return to normalcy. We know today that according to the European Union's recommendations, we can not return to our regular rhythm. There are some opportunities which could be implemented along with confidence measures like foreign students, agricultural workers, and seasonal workers. I think that the implementation of this principle is the correct one if it can be implemented."

The government lifted travel restrictions for 14 non-EU countries on Thursday and Ukraine, the leading source of seasonal short-term workers in Estonia, was not on that list. Ratas promised that government will find a compromise on the subject of labor after further discussions.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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