Rajavartija* keeps close eye on East-Estonian border

Georgi Beltadze
, reporter
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Photo: Liis Treimann

Narva border point. Across the bridge, there comes a car with Russian number plates. The man behind the wheel exits, heads for the window and hands documents to a border guard.

After a while, the man heads back towards his car. Before he ever has time to re-enter it, the Finnish border guard Tuomas Kiiskinen tells him in Russian: «Zdravstvuite! Vashi dokumenty, pozhaluista!» («Hello! Your documents, please!»).

This is a random documents check on «the front line». The job of Mr Kiiskinen is to make sure the documents are not falsified. For that, he carries a UV lamp. In case of doubt and unable technically to verify a document, he takes it to a building nearby where apparatuses more mighty will help him out.

At the moment, the Russian has all okay. He does have a question to the Finnish guard, however.

«Excuse me! Do you have long lines there (in Finland – edit)?» «Lines?» Mr Kiiskinen asks back, thoughtful. «Yes, on the border,» specifies the Russian citizen. «No,» comes the curt answer. «Very good, I will need to go to Finland tomorrow, that’s why I was asking,» says the Russian.

Hailing from Virolahti in South-West Finland, Mr Kiiskinen is on assignment in Narva for his third time – via the European border guard agency FRONTEX (Frontières extérieures – external borders in French). The organisation was established in 2004. One of its goals is enhancing cooperation between border guard boards of EU member states. 

In addition to Mr Kiiskinen, a Frenchman is also posted in Narva via the FRONTEX programme. All in all, this year will see nine border guards from elsewhere in EU temporarily stationed in Estonia.

Estonian border guards are on foreign missions as well. As at this week, about 30 have been on appointments abroad this year.

Back to the «front line». Mr Kiiskinen picks another target. The number plate is Estonian.

Addressing the elderly driver, I ask him what he thinks of his documents – on Estonia-Russia border – checked by a Finnish border guard. Smiling, he says: «I don’t care. What’s the difference!? They check just like Estonians.»

Mr Kiiskinen says the work is no different here than in Finland. «Basically the work is the same, being based on the same standard job description. When one knows that, there’s no difficulty working as border guard in other nations,» he said.

Even so, Mr Kiiskinen is aware of some peculiarities to be considered, due to local laws.

Asked how often he meets Finns on the Narva border, he says it rarely happens. «Not many Finnish passports seen here. Every such one is unique,» admits Mr Kiiskinen, adding that with Finns it would be a tendency – having recognised his Finnish uniform – to want to be checked by a countryman.

Mr Kiiskinen is assigned to Estonia for a month. The next Finn is due only in the fall. Who and when, time will tell.

* Rajavartija – «border guard» in Finnish.