Estonia hoping to persuade Finland to re-allow work-related travel

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The Tallink Megastar en route to Helsinki, Finland. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

As the government of Finland has decided to ease coronavirus related restrictions and re-allow work related migration between Finland and Sweden, Estonian officials are set to meet with their Finnish counterparts on Wednesday to discuss reopening work-related travel across the Estonian-Finnish border.

Finland is about to start easing travel restrictions on EU internal borders during May and June. First, travel between Finland and Sweden will reopen, after which work related travel and  travel to family members and relatives in other EU member states will be allowed, daily Postimees reported.

"The Finnish government has many concerns at the moment, but we hope to reach an agreement," Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said at a press conference last week.

Märt Volmer, deputy secretary general for European affairs at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that while all countries are basing their actions on the epidemiological situation in their own territory and the need to protect public health and prevent the spread of new strains of the virus, the human dimension of work-related migration halting for a long time was extremely saddening. 

"Thousands of Estonian people working in Finland have been cut off from their families, and this is something that should not happen in the EU," he said, describing the restoration of work related travel as a goal of top priority in the discussions with Finland. 

According to Volmer, Estonia has handed relevant proposals to Finland on repeated occasions, in order to allow work related travel to resume in the usual form and not put the health care system of either of the countries at risk. 

The Estonian proposals should offer a feeling of confidence to Finland, Volmer said. The proposals to be discussed include temporary restrictions after a person returns to Estonia, and also testing for coronavirus. "Similar measures include the requirement already applied by shipping companies, for instance, that all passengers must have a valid and fresh certificate of a negative test when boarding," Volmer said.

The next meeting with Finnish colleagues is scheduled for Wednesday. "Estonian and Finnish colleagues are meeting regularly both on the level of members of the government as well as, under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the ministries of social affairs and the interior, the health boards and other relevant authorities; also the bilateral COVID-19 work group meets regularly," the deputy secretary general said.

"The appeal to the parliament of Finland adopted in the Riigikogu with 83 votes in favor also gives a very strong mandate," he added.

Work-related migration has been a central topic for the work groups since the end of January. "What our goal is in the current state of affairs -- to go on explaining our proposals and to convince Finland, while being active preventing the spread of COVID-19 and being prepared to apply additional health protection measures in cross-border movement, to ease the restrictions on work-related migration before the end of May," Volmer said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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