The Ministry of the Interior hopes that by the end of next year, 200-300 people have been recruited to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) crisis reserve, that is the internal defense reserve, for which the government has allocated money in next year's state budget, the daily Postimees reported.
"In a four-year perspective, if we use the maximum options, we would need an estimated budget of €18-20 million, but for 2021 we have the resources to create this reserve and contribute two million euros to the crisis readiness of the Police and Border Guard Board," Toomas Malva, internal security and crisis preparedness adviser at the Ministry of the Interior, said. He added that the main expenses include the reserve's equipment and training.
Former interior minister Mart Helme, who was a vocal leader of the establishment of the internal defense reserve, said in late 2019 that the wish is to have 1,500 crisis reservists by 2023. "We see around 1,500 men as the maximum, no more. We simply do not have any more resources for it at the moment," Helme said then. The ministry has the same ambition also under the leadership of current interior minister, Alar Laneman. As the crisis reserve was not given money in the 2019 budget, the new deadline is 2024.
At present, three crisis reserve units have been set up, totaling around 75-80 people. The crisis reserve is divided into regions: North, South, West and East. The crisis reserve of the PPA can essentially be considered as a reserve of assistant police officers who can be convened by order of the government and who report to PPA director general Elmar Vaher. When convened, the crisis reserve of the PPA will guard the border, protect strategic and vital objects or ensure public order.
The internal defense reserve will not be fighting battles against foreign opponents, but the members of the reserve will be sent as an assistant force to the PPA unit or work line that needs a helping hand. As well as when convening the reserve army of the defense forces, in the case of the PPA crisis reserve, the persons belonging to the reserve have an obligation to report for duty and their employer must enable them to do so, Postimees writes.
Egert Belitsev, deputy director general of the PPA, said the authority needs a reserve as a crisis situation requires a lot more manpower. "This year alone and the spring emergency situation showed that there is no crisis scenario in Estonia that would not bring additional tasks to the police, be it restricting movement in an area, reintroducing border control, informing people, increasing surveillance or enforcing an order," Belitsev said.
People who do not have other national defense responsibilities are recruited to the crisis reserve, so that a situation does not arise where a person is, for example, both an ambulance driver and a member of the crisis reserve.
For the Kaitseliit (Defense League) volunteer corps, which helped the police to guard the border in the spring, the creation of the crisis reserve is confusing, as they have been performing the same tasks. "The main reason for establishing or the operation of Kaitseliit is actually the issue of internal security. We have done this throughout history, and at least in our opinion, successfully," Maj. Tanel Rutman, chief of strategic communication at Kaitseliit, said.
"When the military units of the defense forces and Kaitseliit go to perform their tasks, a vacuum is created, and for that we are now looking for people who are not in the defense forces, are not in Kaitseliit, but could help us in situations where internal security is needed," Malva said in response to the question of whether Kaitseliit could not be used instead.
According to Rutman, there is room for improvement in the involvement of Kaitseliit in internal security, and cooperation with the Police and Border Guard Board could be deepened in the form of additional equipment or training. "It is not entirely clear why it is necessary to establish another almost similar organization next to us," Rutman said, adding that a large part of Kaitseliit is oriented namely towards internal security.
Efforts will be made to increase the reserve with the help of current and future assistant police officers. "A member of the reserve can also contribute to the work of the Police and Border Guard Board as an assistant police officer on a daily basis, but in order to belong to the reserve, they must regularly participate in trainings to maintain the skills needed to perform the crisis role," Belitsev said.
Editor: Helen Wright