Former prime minister: cutting border investment 'very foolish'

Taavi Rõivas (Reform).
Taavi Rõivas (Reform). Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Former prime minister and European parliamentary candidate Taavi Rõivas (Reform) has dismissed as "very foolish" a suggestion made by minister of finance Martin Helme, that investment in the construction of the Estonian-Russian border facilities should be reduced.

"Saving money on Estonia's security is a very foolish thing to do. Moreover, because a secure eastern border is a profitable investment, reduction in smuggling will bring tax money into the state budget," he said, recalling that the construction of a state-of-the-art eastern border demarcation was decided about in spring 2015, BNS reports.

"We allocated €70 million. The first Ratas government halved this amount, on the pretext that the state cannot build at a rate faster than would cost €10 million a year," Rõivas continued.

"Construction of the eastern border must not be left incomplete in order to save another ten million or so," Roivas said.

"After all, wasn't it EKRE that pledged a 'closed borders' policy, and nothing less than defense personnel on the border? And now they are watering down the only border that genuinely needs to be tight," the former prime minister said.

EKRE had previously argued for a militarized eastern border.

Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) said earlier on Thursday that the plan for the construction of the eastern border and its cost need to be reviewed.

"We are first and foremost talking about a number of very expensive public sector government buildings. Another thing we are talking about, after all, is the construction of the border, planned with all bells and whistles, where a much more rational plan must be introduced, and there are also a number of smaller things," Helme said at the government press conference on Thursday.

According to initial information, the construction and maintenance of the eastern border may cost a total of €320 million.

In addition to the ongoing border infrastructure work, the border treaty with the Russian Federation has yet to be ratified at the Riigikogu, several years after it was first drawn up. Various opinions have been voiced by coalition government members on whether the current administration would actually do that.

Russia itself has dragged its heels on moving the treaty forward, noting that the original agreement dealing with the newly-independent Estonia, the 1920 Treaty of Tartu, was not applicable here and that efforts to reinstate it would be either revanchist or irredentist. Formerly Estonian territory now in the Russian Federation includes the area around Petseri – present day Pechory, in the Pskov Oblast.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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