Prime minister discounts fellow Centre member border militarisation claims

A member of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) at the Estonian-Russian border. If Mr. Riisalu had his way, such professionals would be superseded by recruits straight out of training. Source: Police and Border Guard Board

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) has rebuffed claims from Aivar Riisalu, also of Centre, that Estonia's border is to be remilitarised, including conscript patrols. Mr. Riisalu's statements were met with widespread condemnation from most of the major parties.

"Knowing Aivar Riisalu well as I do, I can see he is strongly patriotic,'' Mr Ratas said at press conference at party headquarters on Wednesday.

''A discussion is required, but it is unlikely Mr. Riisalu's idea will appear in the final party manifesto in that form,'' he continued.

Whilst the party platform ahead of the March 2019 election is yet to be approved, its new slogan, ''a just state for all'' was unveiled at the same conference.

Mr Riisalu, who is also a Tallinn Deputy Mayor, told ERR on Monday that recruits being sent to patrol the border immediately after completing basic training was a central plank of the party platform's chapter on defence, of which he is the author, under the auspices of both the interior minister and the ministry of defence.

A step backwards

However, the corresponding ministers, Andres Anvelt (SDE – interior) and Jüri Luik (Pro Patria – defence) were quick to reject the plan, with Mr. Luik stating using recruits in that way might be unconstitutional.

Mr. Anvelt noted the boots on the ground would be against the spirit of EU unity (in addition to the Russian Federation, Estonia has a land border with EU member state Latvia) and something of a retrograde step given tech solutions available in modern-day border security.

Mr Riisalu's ideal did at least have some features in common with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) border policy; EKRE make remilitarisation of the border a prerequisite for entering any coalition government.

Nevertheless, Mr Ratas revealed that defence expenditure at a minimum 2% of GDP was Centre policy. Estonia's defence expenditure has somewhat exceeded this figure in recent years, in line with NATO requirements; the construction of a properly demarcated eastern border with the Russian Federation, an ongoing project estimated to cost €70 million and slated for completion in 2026, was also a given, Mr Ratas said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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