Estonian Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said, that it is not realistic to speed up work on the country's eastern border infrastructure in order to complete it before 2025. Läänemets added however, that even if the border infrastructure is not completed, Estonia is well-prepared to respond to different scenarios, including an influx of refugees, if necessary.
"There are no changes to the plans to build the eastern border at the moment, because we are moving at a very fast past with its construction. When we talk about the border fence, half of it is ready, and the other half is in the process of being built, the tender is out or being prepared. We have also completed certain sections faster than planned," Läänemets told ERR.
Läänemets added, that if the work continues at its current pace, the eastern border will be completed in 2025.
"This is a realistic deadline," the minister said, adding that the fence is not the only thing maintaining the border.
"If something should happen by chance in the meantime, we have the manpower and all sorts of other means to secure the border, even if [the fence] is not quite ready," Läänemets said.
However, since unforeseen events in the immediate neighborhood may occur before 2025, ERR asked whether the border fence could be built even faster, by using emergency government reserve funds for instance.
"As I said, tenders are either underway or about to be announced. We probably wouldn't be able to speed up the pace very much. You have to take into account that part of the land border is very marshy. Building there is not just a case of digging a hole and putting in some kind of filling and then a fence. It is much more complicated to do it there, plus there are the communications, which have to be installed in the same way," said Läänemets.
According to Läänemets, Estonia is prepared to react to a range of different scenarios even if they occur at less developed sections of the eastern border. "We have completed different exercises, and practiced for these situations. We can also involve the Defense League (Kaitseliit). We remember that barbed wire has already been transported there [for use] on a temporary basis, and it may also be possible to place temporary barriers on the border," Läänemets said.
According to Läänemets, there is currently no danger of mass border crossings into Estonia. At the same time, the number of border guards stationed on the eastern border has been increased.
"A couple of days ago we increased the number of personnel at the border, created a certain level of readiness to react within a certain period of time, and practiced some other response options," Läänemets said.
"If a lot of people do arrive at the border, who want protection or want to cross, then we are ready to deal with those things there at the border, so we don't need to take these people into Estonia, but can do it there on the ground," he added.
When speaking about potentially closing the border, Läänemets said that entry to Estonia must be guaranteed for EU citizens. He added however, that the question still remains of whether to close the border completely to Russian citizens.
Editor: Michael Cole