Reinsalu: Other EU countries recognize Estonia's right to close borders

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

According to Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, other EU member states recognize the right of those bordering Russia to close their borders to Russian citizens.

"I am saying today, that the countries of this region retain the legitimate right, because of their location, to take whatever steps they deem reasonable for their own security interests," Reinsalu told ETV morning program "Terevisioon" on Wednesday, ahead of an informal "Gymnich" meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague to discuss the issue.

"When I have explained this to the foreign ministers of other EU countries, they admit that it is indeed a problem, that there are around a million adults living in Estonia, and that 300,000 citizens of the aggressor state have crossed into our territory (over the last) six months. How many border guards do we need for each citizen of the aggressor state? Will the whole country just guard the border?" Reinsalu continued.

Asked whether this could mean that, should a pan-European agreement to restrict the entry of Russian citizens into the EU not be reached, countries on the EU's eastern border will implement their own restrictions, Reinsalu replied:

"They can do it on their own territory. But I have to say that when this (step) has been put on the table, foreign ministers of (other) European Union countries have admitted (its) legitimacy, referring precisely to the fact that, for countries bordering Russia, the situation and context is very specific and different to those of countries 2,000 kilometers away."

The Estonian Foreign Minister said he had discussed the issue with his Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Finnish counterparts on Tuesday, and that joint action by the countries bordering Russia was possible if the European Union as a whole refused to impose more stringent restrictions on Russian citizens.

Responding to allegations that a ban on travel to Europe would prevent Russian dissidents from fleeing the country, Reinsalu pointed out that, since Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine began in February, 10 million visas have been issued to Russian citizens by countries in the Schengen Common Visa Zone. Addtionally, while approximately 1 million Russians have entered the EU since the start of the war, only 3,000 have applied for asylum.

On Wednesday, EU foreign ministers will discuss measures to curb Russian aggression in Ukraine, at an informal meeting in Prague. The desire of countries on the EU's eastern borders to restrict entry to the EU for Russian tourists, will also be on the agenda.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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