Last November, I wrote this:
I suppose that if significant amounts of people start turning up at the border with Russia, Finland may have to adapt its policy regarding Russia, since given the policy of keeping asylum seekers out it would need co-operation on the Russian side.
In today’s Helsingin Sanomat, there is an article about how the new border agreement between Finland and Russia came about. The core seems to be that no citizens from other EU-countries can pass the border in Salla or Raja-Jooseppi anymore into Russia (temporary measure though, 180 days). The article notes (my translation):
From the end of last year to the beginning of this year around 1760 asylum seekers arrived into Finland across the Russian border. The flow of asylum seekers suprised Finland, because earlier Russia prevented access to the border for those migrants that had moved without proper papers.
Finland tried to negotiate about this issue for months through civil servants, ministers and the President. Both Finland and Russia emphasised all the time that it would be a bilateral solution, not at the EU-level – regardless of the fact that Finland’s border is the outer border of the EU and the Schengen-area.
The article says that it is unclear whether there will be any resistance to this agreement from the EU, but that is because the EU is so focused on the situation in Greece.
All in all, my hunch from November was not quite unrealistic. Finland does need the co-operation of Russia on this issue and if somehow deviating from agreed EU-policy is the price to pay, then it appears that Finland has done so. Thus, I feel I was correct in predicting a change in Finnish foreign policy regarding Russia.
Maybe I should pick up my original Masters’ studies subject again (EU and Foreign Policy).