Construction of Estonian border delayed by several governments
Over the next week, a 40 km temporary barrier will be constructed on Estonia's eastern border with Russia as tensions rise with Belarus. The building of the permanent border has been delayed by several governments over the last decade.
On Sunday, ETV's weekly current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal" (AK) looked at the reasons behind the delays.
Discussions about building the border became prominent after the abduction of KAPO officer Eston Kohver by Russian counterintelligence on the south-eastern border of Estonia in 2014. This raised concerns that there was no barrier.
At the time, Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur (Reform) promised to build a permanent border by Estonia's 100th birthday in 2018.
"It was not possible to complete this, of course, there was also a change of government. But in any case, to build a high-tech and high-quality border for Estonia was a goal that I set in 2014," he told AK.
If this promise had been kept by the following governments, there would be no need to erect a temporary one now, AK pointed out.
Planning work started but in 2018 it was recosted and the price doubled. Building work will now likely last until 2026.
The Center-Isamaa-Social Democrats (2016-2019) agreed to build the €190 million wall in full in 2016. But the Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition (2019-2021) which followed reduced its scale. EKRE, which held the position of minister of interior, knocked €57 million off the budget by reducing its scope.
Former Minister of Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said the wall started to be built during his tenure in the spring of 2020. Some of the changes he made were technology-related.
"This whole story would have dragged on so much that we wouldn't have a single meter of the border built right now," he told AK.
"And if I had continued as a minister, I would have accelerated all these design acquisition periods with the same idea, so that this physical barrier could be built as soon as possible," Helme added.
Currently, the first section of the border has been built and a tender was issued for the second stage in spring 2021. The first section is 25 km long and the second 39 km.
The process has now been sped up by the current government due to the migrant crisis caused by Belarus on its borders with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani (Center) has promised the border will be constructed as quickly as possible.
"I am working to ensure that the entire border is completed earlier, by 2025, at least then with all the monitoring technology," the minister said.
He said it is likely the infrastructure, without technology, will be installed earlier especially in the most critical areas.
"The construction contract has already been drawn up, the work is in progress," said Jaani.
AK reported the government will spend €100 million on constructing the 136 km border infrastructure while the European Union will fund €23 million worth of monitoring equipment.
It is not possible to build a barrier on some parts of Estonia's border because it runs through the middle of Lake Peipus and bogs. In total, the Estonian-Russian border is 294 km long.
Last week, the annual snap military exercise Okas 2021 called up almost 1,700 reservists who will construct the temporary razor wire barrier on Estonia's eastern border over the next week. Work has already started in Narva and the areas in the southeast.
Jaani said last week this will mean almost the whole border is covered by a barrier when the temporary border has been installed.
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Editor: Helen Wright