President of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) Jüri Ratas and Speaker of the Eduskunta (Parliament of Finland) Anu Vehviläinen discussed the pandemic situation in their countries and the issues relating to labour migration between Estonia and Finland at a video conference today.
Ratas informed his colleague that the next week the Riigikogu planned to approve a communication to the Eduskunta of Finland on labour migration. He explained that the appeal expressed hope that Estonia and Finland would cooperate to find measures that would reduce the spread of the coronavirus through cross-border movement and enable cross-border commuting of workers between the two countries.
“If cross-border movement is not possible to the full extent in the nearest future, a temporary regime that would allow visiting families should be found in bilateral cooperation,” Ratas said, referring to the communication. “The current situation, where many Estonian people working in Finland had to choose whether to stay in homeland for an indefinite time or to go to work, has been extremely stressful to those thousands of workers and their families.”
Ratas gave his colleague an overview of the spread of the coronavirus in Estonia and said that the situation in Estonia had improved, the speed of vaccination had increased and the hospitals had kept their capabilities. “We do not want to endanger the health of the Finnish people in any way, but we must try to help those people so that they could see their close ones again,” Ratas emphasised. “We understand that this is a complicated issue also for Finland, and we will let the Health Boards to manage the policies of governments.”
Ratas said that it was necessary to be flexible and to try to think what we ourselves could to in order to restore labour migration – like testing on the ferries and rapid introduction of vaccination passports.
Vehviläinen spoke of the Finnish vaccination plan and the plan for exiting the crisis. She said that the Parliament of Finland discussed only issues relating to the corona pandemic and urgent problems.
Ratas also gave a summary the political situation in Estonia and the local government councils elections in autumn. He hoped that the pandemic would be under control by autumn and that the elections would take place, because if necessary, they could be held as i-elections. Finland in its turn postponed their elections.
Digital solutions and cyber security were also discussed at the meeting. Ratas assured that Estonia was ready to move on with the cross-border data exchange between Estonia and Finland. As positive examples, he highlighted the successful digital prescriptions project and the data exchange between the commercial registers of the two countries. He thinks that data exchange between tax registers and common fight against cyber-attacks could be the next steps.
Vehviläinen and Ratas exchanged invitations to visit each other, and expressed hope that the pandemic would be over soon and that the bilateral close parliamentary cooperation could continue already in the nearest future with meetings in person. However, the excellent cooperation between the Speakers of the Parliaments of the Nordic Countries and the Baltic States (NB8) will continue on 20 April via video bridge. The meeting will focus on the pandemic-relates situation in the region, but the Eastern Partnership will also be spoken about. Ratas said that Estonia followed closely not only the rising tensions in Ukraine, but also the developments in Belarus. “We, as the members of the European Union, should remain firm supporters of the progressive developments in our close neighbourhood,” Ratas emphasised.
Photos of the meeting (Erik Peinar, Chancellery of the Riigikogu)
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