Estonia has revealed plans to build a fence on its border with Russia, the government has revealed.
It comes as Hungary and other nations begin construction of their own border fences in an effort to better secure the Schengen Area.
Whilst Estonia has not seen an influx of migrants across its borders due to its northerly location, Eston Kohver, an Estonian security official, was arrested by Russian authorities along the border in September 2014. He claims he was abducted from the Estonian side of the border, which would be a violation of international law. Kohver was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Estonia fears of Russian interference
Another factor in Estonia’s decision to build the fence comes as tensions with Russia and the West over Ukraine continue, with Ukranian film maker Oleg Sentsov being jailed on terrorism charges for 20 years. This has been denounced by both the European Union and the United States.
The fence is planned to be 110km in length and with a height of 2.5m. Construction is slated to begin in 2018.
Although Estonia lies on the edge of the European Union – and consequently, its passport-free travel zone (the Schengen Area) – migrants and refugees do not commonly travel across the border from Russia. A Russian politician Konstantin Kosachev, has blasted the plans, claiming that it is an “ideological” fence that is meant to protray Russia as a hostile country. In the face of alleged Russian incursions into Ukraine, it seems likely that Estonia – both a NATO and European Union member – would want to send a strong message.
But Estonia has said that the fence would help combat contraband smuggling and human trafficking, as opposed to dealing with numbers of migrants on the southern border of the Schengen Zone.
The border fence in Estonia is expected to cost €71m, covering the full land border.