TALLINN – According to the Estonian Ministry of Climate, the closing of the Koidula border crossing point in the southeast would lead to the loss of a critical movement possibility for the residents of Setomaa and long queues at the Luhamaa border crossing point, which would damage the Estonian transit sector.
Two international bus lines serviced by an Estonian carrier pass through the Koidula border crossing point, which, among other things, also connect various regions of southeastern Estonia, for example Rapina, Varska, Varska sanatorium and Koidula, within Estonia. As these are bus lines operating on a commercial basis, there is a critical demand for the transport services in question, according to Sander Salmu, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Climate.
"The closure of the border crossing point would result in the cancellation of route permits and, as a result, the termination of the cross-border transport service. Therefore, in order to preserve domestic movement options, the state would have to launch new routes on the basis of public service contracts, which requires additional state budget funds," Salmu said in a letter to the Ministry of the Interior.
He pointed out that the opening of new international bus lines on alternative routes will depend on the arbitrary decision of the Russian Ministry of Transport as well as on the economic considerations of the carriers.
"A significantly longer route through Luhamaa, for example, would mean additional expenses concerning both time and money, the accompanying increase in ticket prices may not correspond to the passengers' ability to pay, and there is a high probability that the provision of cross-border public transport transport services in the region will be terminated," the deputy secretary general said.
"Taking into account, among other things, that the Pechory region and Setomaa are closely connected historically, for the less well-off people of the region who use public transport services today, this may lead to the loss of critical mobility opportunities," he added.
According to Salmu, the Association of Estonian International Road Carriers did not support the closure of Koidula border crossing point.
"Following the possible closure of the border crossing point in Ivangorod, only one border crossing in Luhamaa would remain to serve Estonian-Russian road transport connections. Due to the resulting queues, additional time and money costs, cargo owners operating in international business will choose alternative cargo corridors and carriers from other countries, as a result of which the Estonian transit sector could be damaged," Salmu said.
As a negative effect, this would lead to a decrease in business opportunities, loss of jobs and a decrease in export-import opportunities. The ability of the Koidula border crossing point to receive certain groups of goods, which are not serviced at the Luhamaa border crossing point, is also cited as an important reason for continuing the work of the Koidula border crossing point.