Estonian MEP: Finland's decision to close borders incompatible with EU principles

  • 2021-01-24
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Finland's decision to restrict cross-border travel is not just regrettable, it is also incompatible with the European Union's principle of free movement and undermines the Schengen area, according to Estonian MEP Urmas Paet.

"Undermining [the Schengen area] entails a long-term impact," Paet wrote on social media. "This violation of the principle of free movement creates great difficulties to tens of thousands of people in Finland, Estonia and elsewhere."

"Meanwhile, its impact on public health is very questionable. A sufficient number of examples have surfaced in Europe over the past year showing that travel restrictions have not had a significant impact on the infection rate. This has also been confirmed by international health care organizations. Additionally, a distinction is being made between workers pursuant to their walks of life. While health care workers coming to work in Finland from Estonia are good enough, teachers and constructions workers are not," Paet said.

"The hypothetical risk could also be reduced by requesting that passengers present a negative test result," the Estonian MEP said. "This extensive restriction is disproportionate and the positive impact thereof is this deeply questionable, considering all the major problems it causes for many people and for the EU principle of free movement."

Finland is restricting cross-border traffic from Wednesday next week, the Finnish government said on Friday. People working in certain fields only will be permitted to enter the state. Stringent restrictions on border crossing established in Finland will essentially halt cross-border commute of workers between Estonia and Finland, 

The Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment maintains a list of the work that is considered important for the functioning of society or for security of supply.

However, any critical task included in the list does not automatically mean that entry into the country is warranted. Employers must use a separate form to justify why the job of a worker seeking entry into Finland is essential and why the work must be performed without delay. The worker seeking to enter Finland presents this form in the border check in addition to other documents required for crossing the border.

Entry is still permitted for healthcare and rescue service personnel, including emergency medical care, and for professionals who take care of the elderly in their duties; freight transport and logistics personnel in their duties, as well as for authorities in essential duties, diplomats, staff of international organizations, military personnel and personnel of aid organizations in their duties, as well as for representatives of states participating in international negotiations, and for persons participating in the work of international organizations.

The entry of foreign nationals is also permitted for essential and justified reasons. These include the entry of foreign media representatives; transit of regular, scheduled flights at an airport, travel to a property, private residence or holiday residence in Finland, asset arrangements in Finland, and the entry into the country of a family member of a Finnish citizen residing abroad. 

The entry of foreign nationals from Schengen countries subject to restrictions and certain other countries is permitted for family reasons. Spouses, including cohabitant and close personal relationship, children and parents are considered relatives. This also includes parents-in-law and grandparents. This means that it is no longer possible to visit, for example siblings or cousins on the basis of a family relationship.

Studying in Finland is a permitted reason for entry from the Schengen countries subject to the restrictions and certain other countries.

People traveling with a Finnish residence permit, those in need of international protection or those traveling for other humanitarian reasons, and for compelling personal reasons are still permitted to enter the country.

Certain special groups are permitted to enter the country. Special groups cover those involved in culture, sports and business life, for example.