Estonia EU representative joins calls for Finland to ease entry regime

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Bird's eye view of Helsinki, looking northwest from the Kamppi district. Source: Kosti Keistinen / Pixabay

Estonia's permanent European Union representative Aivo Orav has joined criticism made by Estonia's leaders over Finland's ongoing border closure, and that of several other member states.

Orav tweeted Tuesday that: "I reaffirmed Estonia's concern that free movement in the EU has not been restored, as some member states continue to apply restrictions to free movement that are disproportionate and unjustified, not applied horizontally, but targeting persons using specific means of transport."

Orav was deputizing for Estonia's interior minister at an EU justice and home affairs committee meeting in Luxembourg Tuesday. 

While Finland is a Schengen Area state, it continues to restrict entry other than by plane, hampering the transit of large numbers of Estonian citizens and residents who regularly commute between the two countries. The European Commission has addressed the situation both there and in several other member states, including Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, foreign minister Eva-Marie Liimets (Center) and two of Liimets' most prominent predecessors, Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Urmas Paet (Reform), as well as Estonia's ambassador to Finland, Sven Sakkov, and his predecessor Harri Tiido, have all hit out at the ongoing situation with Finland's border regime in recent days.

The Finns have given no clear indication when and if the restrictions – which also affect its border with Sweden – may be relaxed, while speculation abounds that this Sunday's local elections in Finland are a factor. Estonia also goes to the polls in October, and unilaterally cut flight links with the U.K. – since restored – at the end of last year, ahead of a pan-EU decision to do same amid coronavirus fears.

Aivo Orav's stance was confirmed on the social media page of the foreign ministry's official EU mission, who tweeted that: "Speaking about Schengen, Estonia emphasized the importance of the free movement of people within the EU. We expect the European Commission to take further measures to ensure that the free movement within the Schengen Area will be restored urgently."

Quarantine-free entry into Finland is possible from Estonia at present, but only by plane. Mandatory quarantine when arriving by sea vessel renders it impractical to commute and forced many Estonian citizens and residents regularly working in Finland to choose which side of the Gulf they would remain on at the start of this year, when the stricter restrictions were imposed, a choice they had had to make last spring when the pandemic first arrived. 

Some exemptions include right of entry for Estonians who are resident in Finland – ERR reports that some people may have been forced to become residents against their will during the current situation – and for essential services, unavoidable reasons and family reasons, it is reported. 

No indication has been given by the European Commission whether infringement proceedings will be initiated against Finland or the other member states, though the commission confirmed to ERR last week that they were aware of the situation and were dealing with it. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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