Editorial: quit the PR and guard the border!

PHOTO: Urmas Nemvalts

Not bad basically when politicians/officials in charge get busy publicly prioritising problems of their domain. And we do realise: the times they are a-changing, asking for altered approach. 

Even so, such action smells like campaigning and, alas, comes with hopes attached to score short-term political points. As an extra to political profit, they’ll want to make rivals look bad. And the public may, justly so, be indignant at hints to some parties or politicians not having prioritised stuff that ought to have been top of the list. 

These past weeks in wake of security police officer Eston Kohver’s kidnapped, Estonia’s border has played the sad role of political toy. That should never be, nor even look like it.

While guarding a border is ever important, many have been the challenges since independence was regained. In the beginning of the nineties, Border Guard was in baby shoes and one may safely say for quite some time the boundary proved rather porous. 

Infrastructure just wasn’t there, means of communication and an elementary marking were also absent. But along with the state, Border Guard did also develop. Estonia went for EU, NATO and Schengen membership and that set some criteria.

We were greatly helped by border facilities built, by technology and knowhow, as well as Western experience. Meanwhile, Estonia’s edge becoming an EU/NATO external border birthed other kinds of crimes. Like blocking the occasional illegal entrants trying to use Estonia for Westward advance. Statistics say with this we have so far coped and our partners – states whose internal security is quite dependent on our border – have not found much fault.  

Recently, the security policy situation has undergone a change. Russia’s aggressiveness towards neighbours has again necessitated enhanced effectiveness operating the border. Recently, interior minister Hanno Pevkur has spoken of tidying the boundary line and boosting protection – the latter means strike teams.

On the one hand, we understand the politicians «awakening» – a mere year ago, EU-Russia visa freedom was a scenario totally to be considered. On the other hand, people related to protecting the border have for a long time been talking about the lack of staff, and especially about status of border guards in the merged Police and Border Guard Board. 

Up to now, these words fell on deaf ears and it feels like the wheel must now be reinvented. And it is rather embarrassing when the reinventing comes with party cadre PR-crowing – while the public assumed the domain was being developed dynamically.