Estonia's MEPs take united stance in European Commission Finland inquiry

Five of Estonia's seven MEPs in in Strasbourg shortly after the May 2019 election. Clockwise from bottom left, Jaak Madison (EKRE), Vikerraadio presenter Arp Müller, Andrus Ansip (Reform), Urmas Paet (Reform), Sven Mikser (SDE), Marina Kaljurand (SDE).. Source: Mirko Ojakivi

All seven of Estonia's MEPs have appealed jointly to the European Commission about ongoing travel restrictions imposed by Finland, calling them neither proportionate nor justified.

The interpellation states that: "The restrictions imposed by Finland have long since ceased to be that. Finland is therefore in breach of the principle of free movement within the EU, as a result of which many people have directly suffered and are suffering," BNS reports.

The seven MEPs who signed the appeal, covering the whole sweep of the Estonian political party scene are: Andrus Ansip (Reform), Marina Kaljurand (SDE), Jaak Madison (EKRE), Sven Mikser (SDE), Urmas Paet (Reform) and Riho Terras (Isamaa), with Urmas Paet reportedly instigating the cross-bench appeal to the commission.

Yana Toom on ETV's "Esimene stuudio" Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The seven say that while under the terms of the Schengen Zone of free movement, temporary border controls at EU internal borders are permissible, these must be proportionate, made as a last resort in exceptional situations and limited in time – criteria the MEPs say the Finnish restrictions no longer meet.

While Finland has opened up its borders to arrivals by plane, this has not been extended to seaborne arrivals, which in practice is the mode of transport the bulk of the significant numbers of Estonians who commute between Finland and Estonia will use.

Entering the country requires a quarantine period, impractical for those traveling for work. Finland's benchmark 14-day coronavirus rate per 100,000, at 25, beyond which mandatory quarantine is triggered, is considerably lower than that of many other countries, including Estonia (150 per 100,000).

Finland has also imposed restrictions on arrivals from Sweden, which it shares both a land and maritime border with.

The MEPs say that the matter was raised at European Commission level in February, but this has not led to substantive changes yet.

Riho Terras. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The parliamentarians also asked what steps the commission will take in ensuring the restoration of free movement between Finland and the rest of the Schengen Area, what the time-frame of these steps may be, and what measures the commission will take if Finland fails to implement the steps.

Estonia's prime minister, Kaja Kallas (Reform), summoned the Finnish ambassador to Estonia, Timo Kantola, to discuss the issue last week.

Estonia's tally of MEPs rose by one, to seven, after the post-Brexit redistribution of a little over 20 of the U.K.'s 74 former MEP seats landed the country with an additional mandate.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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