YLE: Finland may announce changes to work commuting entry regime next week

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Central Helsinki. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Finland is considering streamlining its work travel entry regulations as regards European Union states, public broadcaster YLE reports, with a solution expected next week.

Travel restrictions are being lifted, YLE reports (link in Finnish), with priority given to work travel within the Schengen Zone, which would include Estonia.

Under the current regime, valid to June 27, Finland only permits quarantine-free entry from two Schengen Area states, namely Iceland, population less than 360,000, and Malta, population a little over half-a-million, though entry via air travel is permitted.

Estonia's leaders have continued to apply pressure on Finland on the issue this week, given the large numbers of Estonian citizens and residents who commute between the two countries but, since this commuting is almost entirely seaborne, cannot do so.

Appeals have been made to the European Commission, including, in a rare show of unity, by all seven of Estonia's MEPs, Finland's ambassador to Estonia, Timo Kantola – who speaks Estonian – has been summonsed by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), while his counterpart in the opposite direction, Sven Sakkov, has called the situation "tragic", but hitherto Finland has not budged.

The country is not the only member state under scrutiny for harsher border regimes than the European Commission allows, and Finland also imposes the same restrictions on its neighbor to the west, Sweden.

Critics have pointed to Sunday's local elections as the main reason for the delay on lifting restrictions, at a time when vaccinations are progressing and coronavirus rates falling, calling the move political rather than health-based.

A timetable drawn up at governmental level in Finland in April would have seen border restrictions ease in May, had the EU line been followed, YLE reports, but the pandemic situation has so far trumped anything the union has said.

The second priority after commuters is the opening of travel for visits to relatives, while work travel from non-EU countries into Finland is not likely till fall, tourism freedom of movement depends on how situational modeling pans out.

Discussions are also ongoing on the extent to which negative test result proof and proof of vaccination should alleviate restrictions on an individual level, while pressure is also being put on Finnish authorities from inside the country itself, mainly from the primary tourism representative body.

The original YLE article (in Finnish) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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