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The Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet replied to the interpellation concerning the cooperation between states in simplification of border crossing (No 352), submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Inara Luigas, Kalvi Kõva, Rainer Vakra, Lembit Kaljuvee, Helmen Kütt, Indrek Saar, Karel Rüütli, Heljo Pikhof, Andres Anvelt, Marianne Mikko, Jevgeni Ossinovski, Deniss Boroditš, Jaan Õunapuu, Urve Palo and Neeme Suur on 20 June.

The interpellators asked the Minister what the state was doing to simplify border crossing between Estonia and the Russian Federation. They also asked about Latvia’s experience where a simplified procedure for crossing the border has been established for residents of border areas and they can visit neighbouring Russia without visa.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Paet said that the most important thing to do was to analyse Latvia’s experience because the relevant cooperation of Poland and Russia and the simplified border crossing at the border of Kaliningrad Oblast should rather be regarded as a special case after all, due to the location of the latter. The same is also the case with the agreement between Norway who is not a member of the European Union and Russia: the agreement applies in the unique geographical conditions beyond the polar circle. The other two countries in our region, Lithuania and Finland, have not concluded such agreements with Russia.

The Minister said that the bilateral agreement between Latvia and Russia on the simplification of the movement of the residents of border areas entered into force as of 6 June this year and has therefore been in force only some months. In the Minister’s words, Latvian officials have also stated that, as at today, it is too early to make far-reaching conclusions on the success of this situation and the costs as well as the concerns connected with the implementation.

“The costs are not the only reason that I would mention as to why we are not so very eager to support the option that Latvia and also Poland have adopted in regard to Kaliningrad Oblast. There are other arguments too. For example, it is interesting to see from Latvia’s experience how much it is actually possible to check the people who actually use this opportunity,” the Minister of Foreign Affairs Paet said in answer to the question on introducing a simplified procedure for border crossing.

Paet said that it is questionable whether the persons who cross the border use this simplified procedure for the intended purpose. “How do they stick to that conditional 30-kilometre or a maximum of 50-kilometre area, does it bring about e.g. “formal” internal migration on the Russian side with the aim of gaining easier access to the European Union, etc? We cannot tell all that today, but these are questions. A wider problem is the issue which I already mentioned, or actually it is not a problem, it is rather an attitude, that we would support the general free movement and not restrict it by drawing some sort of internal lines in the case of such a relatively small country as Estonia,” Paet said.

As to a visa free regime between the European Union and Russia, then, in the Minister’s words, this process has taken time and will certainly take yet more time because visa waiver negotiations have not yet started.

The Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts replied to the interpellation concerning verification of the giving of a digital signature (No 348), the Minister of Education and Research Jaak Aaviksoo replied to the interpellation concerning the language of instruction of vocational education (No 354), and the Minister of Social Affairs Taavi Rõivas replied to the interpellations concerning the guidance material for assessing the welfare of a child (No 350) and reference prices of health services (No 353).

During the open microphone, Mihhail Stalnuhhin took the floor.

The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): http://www.riigikogu.ee/?op=steno&stcommand=stenogramm

The sitting ended at 5.51 p.m.