Estonia - border opens to guest workers

After protracted negotiations the Estonian government decided on Monday to relax entry requirements for guest workers. The country's agricultural sector is suffering heavily from a labour shortage as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions, which had devastating consequences for the important strawberry harvest in June. Other countries face similar challenges.

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Postimees (EE) /

Conservatives saving face

Postimees discusses why the Ekre party may now agree to opening the border:

“This compromise would have been a significant deviation for Ekre from its own principles if it had not been mitigated by new, tougher restrictions for foreign students - and the additional promise that the Aliens Act will be made even tougher in the autumn. The issue of foreign students is certainly important for conservative voters. Ekre can present the restrictions to its voters as a success that shows that it does not deviate from its principles.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

Strawberries sacrificed for peace in the coalition

For Õhtuleht the agreement comes far too late, however:

“It's premature to talk about the labour crisis being solved. ... The damage has already been done when you think of the many tons of strawberries that went rotten because harvest workers couldn't be found in time. If the coalition has now concluded that even the Ukrainian coming from a country with a higher infection rate no longer poses a threat after a two-week quarantine, one has to ask how the situation differs from that at the beginning of June, when the country urgently needed to let in strawberry pickers. Can we see the government's latest decision as an admission that the stubbornness of a coalition partner is a more important argument than public health and economic recovery?”

Lapin Kansa (FI) /

Finnish berry industry needs a new solution

The berry harvest in Finland also depends heavily on foreign workers, Lapin Kansa points out:

“It will become clear by Friday whether Thai pickers are coming or whether their trip to Finland will be cancelled this summer due to the coronavirus. Time is short because the cloudberries and blueberries will soon be ripe. If no foreign pickers come, the berry industry won't have any local berries to process. … Without berries many companies would run into difficulties. ... The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many weaknesses in our society. One of them is the total dependence of the domestic berry industry on foreign pickers. After the summer we will see whether this fundamental problem can be solved permanently or whether we will have to go on living with uncertainty in the future.”