Finnish officials prepare for eventual Russia-EU visa-free traffic

A Russian passport. Image: YLE  The advent of visa-free movement between the EU and Russia could lead to a threefold upswing in cross-border travel in the short term. In 2011, over 10 million passengers crossed the Finnish-Russian border.

Finland is making preparations for visa-free travel in co-operation with Russian officials. Both the Interior and Foreign Ministries have set up a working group with the purpose of upgrading transport connections at border crossing points and at improving co-operation with Russian officials.

Currently, a valid visa is required for all travel from Finland to Russia and vice versa.

One of the working group’s aims is to promote the implementation of the EU’s Smart Borders system prior to the start of visa-free cross-border movement. The use of a smart border control system based on biometric data is considered to be an essential aid in preventing illegal immigration and combating crime.

Passenger traffic between Finland and Russia has increased significantly in recent years. In 2011, over 10 million passengers crossed the border, a 27 percent increase compared to the previous year. Heavy freight traffic has also increased through almost all crossing points.

In the view of the Interior Ministry, passenger levels could triple very quickly if visa-free travel between the EU and Russia is allowed.

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