Estonia eyes a military Schengen Area

Multinational Brigade at the Combined Joint Offensive Operation doing a deliberate attack during last year's Trident Juncture 15 Photo: Jfcbrunssum
Multinational Brigade at the Combined Joint Offensive Operation doing a deliberate attack during last year's Trident Juncture 15 Photo: Jfcbrunssum

The Estonian Government last week approved a procedure that both speeds up and simplifies the granting of permission for military vessels and aircraft to enter the state, streamlining the process of allies arriving in Estonia, it said in a press release.

In accordance with the new procedure, permission for foreign military vessels to enter territorial and inland waters and permission for foreign state aircraft to enter air space must be granted within seven working days. This is the maximum term permitted; in practice, it only takes a few hours or a few days to grant permission to allies.

According to Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso, the country’s security needs include the smooth movement of allied forces from one country to another, and the established procedure is a clear step in that direction. Following the application of the regulation, Estonia is one of the fastest and most flexible in this area among its allies.

“Unfortunately, there is still a lot of bureaucracy in Europe, which slows the movement of forces even between allies; as opposed to the civilian world, where we consider free movement across borders to be self-explanatory,” said Hanso, as quoted in a press release of the ministry. “With this new and smoother organisation of work, we also wish to show our NATO colleagues that the repositioning of forces can be organised much faster. Our long-term goal is to create a system in which the movement of allied armed forces from one NATO or EU Member State to another would be as smooth as civilian movement through the Schengen Area.“

Based on the same the procedure, diplomatic clearance or a permit to fly must be granted for each entry, although there are exceptions. Diplomatic clearance that is valid throughout the calendar year may be granted to a military vessel that is part of a permanent NATO naval unit, if entry is related to the performance of tasks by that unit. A permit to fly for one year may be granted to the state aircraft of a NATO member state and European Union Member State.

The given regulation shall not be applied to the state aircraft and military vessels of NATO Member States that are participating in ensuring the inviolability of Estonia’s airspace and territorial and inland waters.

In comparison to its allies, Estonia’s new regulation is one of the fastest. There are states in Europe where the duration of the proceedings for the granting of permission is up to 30 days.