The government's plan to close the Koidula border checkpoint in Southeastern Estonia would increase the load on the Luhamaa checkpoint, necessitating investments in the latter. For locals in and around Setomaa, however, the closure of the Koidula checkpoint would make crossing the border that much more difficult.
Located just a few kilometers away from Petseri (Pechory), the historical capital of the Setomaa region which fell on the Russian side of the redrawn border in the 1990s, Estonia's Koidula border checkpoint serves around 600 crossings a day.
Should the Koidula checkpoint be shut down, the Luhamaa checkpoint, located some 40 kilometers to the south, would require additional investments in order to serve the resulting increase in border traffic — raising the question of how the move is expected to help save on costs.
"The closure of the Koidula border checkpoint would mean higher traffic volumes primarily at the Luhamaa border checkpoint, and that would likely lead to additional investment needs and [the need to] reconstruct the Luhamaa border checkpoint in order for it to be able to accommodate increased traffic volumes," explained Peter Maran, chief of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) Koidula checkpoint.
The proposed closure, however, would have the biggest impact on the lives of local residents.
"Nearly 50 percent of those crossing the border at the Koidula border checkpoint are citizens of the Republic of Estonia, followed by Russian citizens and Latvian citizens," Maran highlighted, adding that Estonian citizens' use of the Luhamaa checkpoint is significantly more limited.
People in Setomaa Municipality, where both checkpoints in question are located, are critical of the government's plan. Among other concerns, several locals would end up losing their jobs as a result of the checkpoint closure, and several businesses would lose their employees.
"We're gonna lose some 20 jobs, right there from Koidula alone," Setomaa Municipal Mayor Raul Kudre (SDE) said Thursday. "At our largest employer, Värska Resort, 14 people cross the border each day to come to work. If we close these opportunities down, it's a lose-lose situation for us."
Estonia's Koidula border checkpoint is served by both county bus lines via Räpina as well as Elron's passenger rail service via Tartu.
Editor: Aili Vahtla