Foreign minister: Working with Finland to resolve work travel issue

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Both Estonia and Finland need the will to resolve issues surrounding freedom of entry into Estonia's northern neighbor, new foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets says, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday night.

After speaking to her Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto at a face-to-face meeting Friday, Liimets said that: "From the Estonian side, we understand Finland's concerns and tried to discuss in this framework how it is possible to maintain labor migration in a way that takes into account the need to control the virus."

Finland on Wednesday returned to a border regime similar to the one it had during the first coronavirus wave in spring, potentially leaving thousands of Estonian citizens and residents who work in Finland barred from entering, or re-entering should they leave Finland, the country; several sectors in the Finnish economy make heavy use of Estonian employment, including the health-care sector and construction, though Finland has imposed exemptions in the case of essential workers.

Liimets told AK that: "We have discussed the proposals that the Estonian side has put on the table. It is up to the foreign ministers to decide, but it is a very broad issue that will be discussed by the ministries of social affairs and the health service," adding that the discussions will continue next week.

One proposed solution is for Estonian arrivals in Finland, to produce proof of having passed negative on a recent coronavirus test, which might even be conducted on board cross-channel ferries (a journey which takes two to three hours – ed.).

Haavisto said that the idea had its merits, but came with legal questions, particularly with regard to making coronavirus tests mandatory.

He said: "The legal issues are complex. One of the main questions is whether it is possible to impose such an obligation on the passenger. These issues need to be discussed by legal experts."

At the press conference following Friday's meeting, Liimets, who entered office earlier this week, said that vaccines and digital solutions to the issue had also been on the table.

Finland's current 14-day coronavirus rate is among the lowest in Europe at 81.1 per 100,000, compared with 530.1 for Estonia. It is one of five countries whose arrivals do not need to quarantine in Estonia, at the time of writing.

Then-foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) criticized Finland's announcement when it was made, just over a week ago.

Eva-Maria Liimets is one of the Center Party's contingent of ministers announced last Sunday, though she is not a party member at present, having worked as a diplomat for many years prior to her appointment.Finland's current 14-day coronavirus rate is among the lowest in Europe at 81.1 per 100,000, compared with 530.1 for Estonia. It is one of five countries whose arrivals do not need to quarantine in Estonia, at the time of writing.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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