Owners of vehicles bearing Russian license plates must either remove their vehicles from Estonia or re-register them here, within a six-month period. No new legislation has been put in place to accomplish this; Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet (Reform) simply recapped current Estonian law.
While Russian-registered vehicles were barred entry into Estonia earlier this month, the issue remains of what to do about those already in the country at the time the ban was put in place.
Minister Laanet adds that offending vehicles will not be confiscated from their owners after the six-month deadline, however.
Speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Sunday, the minister said that the principle of either re-registering the vehicle in Estonia or returning it to the Russian Federation "is pre-existing law."
"These people should have registered their cars [in Estonia] in any case, a long time ago, since a permanent resident of Estonia, whether they hold a residence permit or otherwise, has the obligation to register or return the car within a five-day period," the minister went on, referring to the point in time at which current legislation entered force, in early spring.
"It turns out that most of them have been violating traffic law up to now," he went on.
After March 13 in fact, the requirement for Russian-registered cars to be re-registered or returned had been in place.
The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) have the right to pull over and remove from the public roads such vehicles, the minister said, if a fine had not already encouraged them to do so.
Confiscation was off the cards, however, the minister added.
"Confiscation, as such, I believe is surely the last resort in the Republic of Estonia. This violation is not so serious that we should immediately proceed with confiscation, while people's right to their property is guaranteed by the Estonian constitution," Laanet said.
Also talking to AK was Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200), who said the issue is an EU-wide one, making vital the cooperation of EU member states which, like Estonia, border the Russian Federation.
Beyond that, the next step is to rule on what to do with those vehicles bearing Russian license plates which are at large across the EU.
Tsahkna said: "Certainly every state has been discussing what to do with these vehicles."
"But the most important thing is that we have closed the borders. In other words, when we close the borders, we also have broader plans and are preparing together the 12th package of EU sanctions; we must make these decisions together," Tsahkna continued.
"This major decision was that vehicles bearing Russian license plates can no longer enter the EU, across our borders. And I am very happy about that," he went on.
Estonia is joined by Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in barring entry to private vehicles displaying Russian license plates; Laanet provided an overview at last Thursday's cabinet meeting, reiterating that the owners of Russian-registered cars that have already entered Estonia and remain here have six months to make their decision.
AK reported that the Transport Administration's (Transpordiamet) website states that a customs declaration is needed to re-register a car; the vehicle must also be inspected to obtain approval, given the difference in regulations between the EU and the Russian Federation.
The cost of this inspection, the registration fee itself plus state fees would, for instance, come to around €6,000 for a vehicle worth €20,000, AK reported.
The border remains open to some types of non-private vehicles registered in Russia, including passenger buses and ambulances, AK reported.
Estonia's entry ban on Russian-registered private vehicles came into effect at short notice at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, September 13 this year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Anne Raiste.