The Estonian government hopes that Finland will consider severe travel restrictions that will come into force on Wednesday. Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu tells HS that Estonia has proposed a model for Finland that would facilitate Finland’s responsibility for testing employees.
Finland decision to close borders other than essential traffic has caused great concern in Estonia. The decision affects up to tens of thousands of Estonians who travel between countries for work and family.
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Urmas Reinsalu tells HS by telephone that Estonia is asking Finland, with the strongest possible emphasis, to consider ways to avoid restrictions.
“Of course, we do not question Finland’s right to make its own decisions, but we could find some balance in the situation,” says Reinsalu.
Estonia has already developed its own proposal to allow business travel to continue.
The usual work rhythm for Estonians is to work in Finland for five days and return home to Estonia for the weekend.
According to Reinsalu, Estonia is ready to test all employees coming home from Finland when they return and to test them again before they return to Finland.
Testing of employees would therefore be the responsibility of Estonia and would not burden Finland’s testing capacity.
“I understood the Minister [Maria] Ohisalon based on a press conference that one reason to reduce commuting is to ease testing pressure at borders. We could take some of the burden to bear it, ”says Reinsalu.
The Foreign Minister says that he has discussed the topic with the Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haaviston with. Reinsalu intends to send his proposal in writing to the Finnish government.
The Finnish side has not yet taken a position on the proposals. The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not wish to comment on the matter to HS.
“Haavisto is a very polite man and stated that our proposal requires consideration. I hope that our presentation will end on the table of the Finnish government on Monday, ”says Reinsalu.
Reinsalun according to which it would be possible to set up the system immediately. The Foreign Minister reminds that not all Estonians working in Finland visit their home countries on a weekly basis.
According to Reinsalu, avoiding severe restrictions would be important not only for the Finnish economy, but also for human reasons.
“We remember how painful the experience was last spring when hard-working people had to choose between losing their jobs or being separated from their families for a long time. It was traumatic, and we were delighted when we were able to resolve the situation as the number of cases decreased, ”says Reinsalu.
One important reason for tightening Finland’s travel restrictions is to prevent the spread of the modified virus. According to Reinsalu, little modified virus has been detected in Estonia.
“I don’t see Estonian commuters as a major threat as super spreaders of the mutated virus.”
However, the coronavirus has spread to Finnish construction sites, a significant part of whose workforce comes from Estonia. Some construction sites have even had to close due to coronavirus cases.
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Finland Friday’s announcement of tightening travel restrictions sparked some harsh comments in Estonia. Among other things, the CEO of Tallink Paavo Nõgene and MEP Urmas Paet questioned Finland’s decision and said it violated the principles of free movement.
Has Finland’s decision damaged relations between the countries?
“Relations between Finland and Estonia are bomb-proof. Nothing can harm them, ”Reinsalu assures.
Next In a week, a new government consisting of the Reform Party and the Center Party will come to power in Estonia. Reinsalu, who represents the Patriotic Party, will therefore not continue as Foreign Minister in the next coalition. He would like to thank Foreign Minister Haavisto for “good co-operation in challenging Korona times”.
Reinsalu does not believe that the change of power will have much effect on Estonia’s coronavirus policy.
“Winning the coronavirus is our national will. It will not change even if the government changes. ”