Reinsalu: Estonia ready to accept IT firms from Belarus, but not refugees

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu on
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu on "Otse uudistemajast". Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia is in no hurry to open the border for refugees from Belarus but is ready to accept Belarusian IT companies, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has said. Both Latvia and Lithuania have said they are ready to do both.

Speaking on Wednesday on ERR's online broadcast "Otse uudistemajast", Reinsalu said: "I have spoken with representatives of the Belarusian community in Estonia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is preparing relevant proposals for our government. We are also holding consultations with other ministries in order to find out what opportunities we have, on an equal footing, with the aim of helping primarily Belarusian IT companies to move to our country, including with visa issues. Proposals will be made and the government will discuss them."

Discussing issues about applying for visas, which Lithuania has simplified for Belarusians who may be fleeing political persecution, he said: "For Lithuania, Belarus is an immediate neighbor, they have a common border. Do we need to change the principles of our visa policy? I think not, we should keep them. However, we should be ready to make exceptions."

He said Estonia is ready to attract IT firms from Belarus and the relevant work is already underway.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already drawn Enterprise Estonia's attention to the fact that we could think about what we can offer and make such proposals. And, as far as I know, this work is already underway on several projects. There are exceptions made in our migration legislation for IT professionals, and we must work on this. I hope that Enterprise Estonia, as an investment foundation, will take concrete steps in this direction," Reinsalu said.

On Tuesday, ERR News wrote about how the Baltic states are trying to attract IT businesses from Belarus due to the continuing unrest in the country. While Latvia and Lithuania are loudly publicizing their efforts, which include creating "fast-track services" to help companies relocate quickly, Estonia has not announced any new measures.

Newspaper Eesti Päevaleht wrote at the start of September that Enterprise Estonia was not doing anything special to attract business despite Estonia selling itself abroad as a digital nation.

Enterprise Estonia told ERR News last week that it has so far made offers to two companies. Latvia announced earlier this week that 12 companies are in the process of relocating and 60 have expressed an interest in moving to Lithuania.


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Editor: Helen Wright, Kristjan Kallaste

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