Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2008

Assesment of the Finnish-Russian Border: The Case of Vaalimaa Border Crossing Point

Vadim Kononenko, Jussi Laine

October 2008

Finnish Institute for International Affairs


The “Friendly EU Border” project, as a part of which the present report has been prepared, commences from the assumptions that external EU borders represent an important aspect of the EU’s policies in the field of security and of Justice and Home Affairs. Finland, a country with a long external border with Russia, has been a member of the EU since 1995. Thus, Finland’s experience is pertinent for other EU Member States that joined the Union in 2004 and 2007, most of which share their external borders with third countries outside the EU. The EU membership has certainly affected the operations of the Finnish border control, but – perhaps even more notably – the Finnish border control expertise has had a crucial influence on the way border control has been developed on European scale.

In this respect, it is also appropriate to take a close look at tasks and duties of the authorities working at the border, the quality of services rendered by them and the way in which coordination between different tasks is organised. In all, the assessment puts forward a particular view on the place of the Finnish-Russian border as regards the EU’s external borders in the east and the relevance of the Finnish-Russian border for EU’s policies vis-à-vis its neighbours.

The aim of the present evaluation is to examine the situation and the functioning of the Finnish-Russian border. The report focuses on Vaalimaa border crossing point. The relevance of the Vaalimaa case is that dealing approximately with 2,500 passenger cars, 800 trucks and 60 busses a day, it is the busiest border crossing point at the Finnish- Russian border and the entire EU’s border with Russia. No generalizations should be drawn based on research made at a single border crossing point, however, the recommendations that the report puts forward might be of relevance for other sectors of EU’s border.

Our working method has been one of observing and listening to the people who are related to the work of the border in numerous ways. The information received by interviewing officers of Border Guard and Customs form the backbone of this report. In addition, we talked to a number of local experts and 70 passengers in order to obtain their points of view. Moreover, the research involved statistical data collection and analysis, as well as legislative analysis, which forms the basis for the evaluation of the quality of services rendered at the border crossing points surveyed and for the identification of the problems encountered there. The primary data was then combined with available up-todate secondary data and other relevant studies in order to achieve a full understanding of the situation at the Finnish-Russian border.