Finns are divided on the idea of introducing a visa-free travel regime on the Russian border. The strongest opposition is found in the south-east of the country.
Visa-free travel between Finland and Russia has long been on the agenda. It would ease tourist travel between the two countries, and both governments hope that would bring economic benefits.
Despite the possible advantages, a new survey shows that nearly half of Finns oppose freeing up the visa regime. Some forty percent of Finns support a visa-free policy, with 49 percent opposed to the measure.
Paradoxically, opposition is strongest in eastern and south-eastern Finland—border regions that ostensibly have much to gain from increased Russian tourism. A recent study suggested that, if implemented, the proposal would create 12,000 jobs in Finland.
Eastern regions most opposed
In the latest opinion poll on the issue, however, 91 percent of respondents in South Karelia were opposed to visa-free travel, with 65 percent of those surveyed who were from Kymenlaakso answering negatively.
Under-25s were most open to removing the visa requirement, with opposition among respondents increasing with age. In party political terms, Green League and Left Alliance supporters are most positive about a border without visas.
Despite the support of National Coalition minister Alexander Stubb, whose portfolio includes foreign trade, the idea has little support among NCP supporters.
Russia and the EU are currently negotiating on the issue, but there are obstacles. It would require Russia to introduce biometric passports, for example and border agencies would have to take on more employees to cope with increased travel.