If the construction of Estonia's eastern border is sped up, the quality will be compromised, Minister of Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said in response to criticism from former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) on Wednesday. Lithuania and Poland have built theirs quicker because the designs were less comprehensive, Läänemets said.
The minister said bringing the construction deadline forward to before 2025 will bring patchy results.
"I see that Urmas Reinsalu has, with his usual brashness, started a discussion about a subject that is not completely clear to him. He claims that Estonia's border can be completed before 2025. I would argue does anyone really want to build a border with holes and technological flaws? [It would be] Beautiful on paper but useless in reality," Läänemets wrote on social media.
The minister said Estonia's new border cannot be directly compared with Poland and Lithuania's.
"First, in one of these countries, the border was built without public procurement. In Estonia, I don't think it's right that a hundred million euros of public money should be used in this way. Secondly, Poland has not built the border completely but has left open areas that are in boggy areas. Estonia's border fence will also be built in bottomless bogs, with special solutions and technology. These construction processes are not as fast as those for building on solid ground," Läänemets argued.
"Cameras and surveillance equipment deployed at the Estonian border will operate over a secure connection controlled only by Estonia, where the flow of communication data cannot be interfered with by a neighboring country and, for example, the transmission of camera images cannot be blocked. This is not the case in all countries, which is why construction work has been faster elsewhere," he added.
"We will equip it with signal transmission via cables vs, for example, in Lithuania where it goes via the air. We are building up a drone surveillance capability, we are also getting surveillance equipment for the Narva River. The long-term plan is to bring a Frontex training center to Narva, which will further enhance security and border management capabilities here," said Läänemets.
He said an access road will also be built along the border and nearly roads will be repaired.
"And let's not forget the best border guards — local residents, some of whom will also get better internet or electricity connection thanks to the border construction. This is also why the construction of the Estonian border differs and takes longer than its immediate neighbors," Läänemets wrote.
The SDE minister said it is also important to understand the border fence's function — to prevent people from crossing.
"Reinsalu's proposal to build a fence without monitoring devices does not let us know the moment someone is about to climb over the fence. It would not create the desired value and there would be no change in the work of border guards compared to today," said Läänemets.
"We have already sped up construction, with some sections completed well ahead of schedule, and those under construction on a section-by-section basis, with construction work, procurement and tendering underway. Half of Estonia's almost 100 km land border is covered by a border fence today, and the money is available for the construction of the remaining sections, but additional money would not speed up the completion of the fence," wrote the minister, giving an overview of the current situation on the eastern border.
Läänemets said completing the border is an absolute priority, but speeding up the process now would create additional costs and an unpredictable finish date.
On Wednesday, Reinsalu criticized the government's plan for the construction of the eastern border, arguing more money should be allocated to the project.
"Interior minister Läänemets claims, that it is not possible to speed up the construction of the border infrastructure to before 2025 using additional resources. This is not true. I clearly remember that at Isamaa's request, the border was discussed last summer. As I recall, the additional amount requested by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) to speed up the construction was €19.8 million. To my surprise, the Minister of the Interior did not advocate for this allocation in the budget negotiations," Reinsalu wrote.
He was replying to comments made by Läänements on Monday.
Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Helen Wright