Eastern border to cost 2.5 times more (1)

Andres Einmann
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Photo: Raigo Pajula / valitsuse kommunikatsioonibüroo

Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt received a calculation from the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) yesterday that suggests development of Estonia’s eastern border will cost more than 2.5 times what was initially forecast.

The initial estimate presented to the cabinet in February 2015 was €79 million, while recent projects require a further €118 million.

“Development of the eastern border will continue as it has in previous years. Activities planned for this year will go ahead. Estonia will get the best possible eastern border that will also serve as the eastern frontier of the EU and NATO, and no concessions will be made there. However, the situation must surely be discussed in the government,” Anvelt said.

The minister has called for an internal audit of project preparations and why the project was delayed.

“The audit must establish whether mistakes were made in planning, whether calculations were based on objective data, and the reason for the cost difference,” he said. The minister wants clear answers before he can move forward with appointing the new head of the PPA.

PPA Director General Elmar Vaher said that Estonia started preparing for the major border construction project in 2015. Estonia’s state border was overgrown, the state did not own land next to the border and lacked access roads, patrol routes, and power.

A lot of factors making the project costlier have come to light. “First and foremost, we are talking about difficult natural conditions, swampy ground, Natura 2000 conditions, high surface water level and the need to divert and drain it,” Vaher listed. The police chief added that technical solutions for border surveillance will also end up costing more. “The PPA informed its partners that the final cost of developing the border will become clear after the planning phase when preparations were launched. Such a grand project can only be budgeted after extensive surveys and a construction, technical, and IT project exists,” Vaher said.

Estonia’s eastern borders spans a total of 338.6 kilometers of which 135.6 is on land. The developed border will be covered with technical surveillance and guard capacity in full.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and Interior Minister Andres Anvelt are scheduled to visit the border today. Former interior minister, chairman of opposition leader the Reform Party Hanno Pevkur said the PPA’s assessment of the cost of developing the border is rather a description of daydreams. “No doubt, this is an unpleasant surprise,” Pevkur told BNS, commenting on the PPA’s calculations.

“That said, it seems the new calculation is rather a description of dreams, and the board should be tasked with taking a sober axe to those dreams,” Pevkur said concerning the recent estimate.

He said that the police will have to turn to common sense and cross out unrealistic desires in the plan. Pevkur said, however, that development of the eastern border must continue.