When will Finland open to Russian tourists
The Presidents of Russia and Finland will hold talks at the end of October 2021. Will there be any chances after this meeting that our northern neighbor will open its borders to Russian tourists by the end of 2021?
ISSUES OF RESUMING TOURISM MAY BE ON THE AGENDA
The Kremlin announced the visit of Finnish President Suali Niinisto to Moscow. According to the official release of the office of the Finnish leader, in addition to the bilateral relations of the states, the presidents will discuss regional and international issues.
In comments to TASS, representatives of the Finnish Embassy in Russia reported that the agenda of the talks between the leaders of the two countries has not yet been developed.
It is possible that the issue of resuming tourist flows may also be raised at the meeting of the two presidents. However, the Finnish diplomatic mission stressed that "decisions on opening or closing the border are made mainly by the Finnish government, based on the recommendations of relevant departments."
WHAT CATEGORIES OF RUSSIANS CAN NOW ENTER FINLAND
Finland has closed its borders to mass Russian tourists since the beginning of the pandemic. Relatives of Finnish citizens, property owners, seasonal workers and other individual categories of citizens can now enter the territory of Finland.
At the same time, Finland is preparing for the return of tourists from Russia. From October 1, 2021, the consulates of Finland resumed issuing visas to business tourists, as well as holders of multiple-entry Finnish Schengen visas for a period of at least two years.
According to the "Vestnik ATOR" in the Consulate General of Finland in St. Petersburg, about 4,700 applications for visas were submitted in October. The absolute majority of applicants are Russians whose Finnish Schengen expired during the pandemic.
RUSSIA IS READY TO RESTART THE ALLEGRO TRAIN
Russia has officially resumed air traffic with Finland, but Russians with tourist purposes are still not allowed. The Russian side is not losing optimism and is actively lobbying for the restoration of the high-speed rail link between Helsinki and St. Petersburg.
According to Russian Railways, the launch of the Allegro train is scheduled for December 12, as "the Finnish authorities have allowed railway communication towards Russia through the Vainikkala point." However, representatives of the Finnish VR Railways are much more restrained in their wording: they only talk about "negotiations with Russian Railways about the possible launch of traffic in the Christmas and New Year season," and no more.
In VR, they remind: in the government document, which refers to the opening of railway passenger traffic, there is a clause stating that only vaccinated foreigners can enter Finland. We are talking about vaccines approved in the EU, which do not yet include Sputnik V.
Therefore, how the railway connection between Russia and Finland will be organized in practice is a very big question. According to Reuters, the Russian vaccine is unlikely to be approved in the European Union before the end of this year.
WITH THE RUSSIAN VACCINE WILL BE ALLOWED, BUT ONLY WITH A PCR TEST
The vaccine issue is a key issue when crossing the Russian-Finnish border. In October, the Russian media actively discussed the topic of the requirement of double testing of foreigners, including citizens of the Russian Federation. As the Finnish diplomats explained, this requirement is not new, it was before, just in October it was extended until the end of 2021.
The Consulate General of Finland added that the requirement to conduct a second test on arrival applies to everyone who does not have the necessary medical documents on vaccination with EU-certified coronavirus drugs.
"You need to take a test at the border, and then another one in Finland 3-5 days after entering the country. Vaccination with Sputnik V does not currently exempt a border-crossing person from a second COVID-19 test. While waiting for the results of the second test, the person should remain in quarantine and avoid contact. Upon arrival in Finland, you should use the Finentry service (https://www.finentry.fi/ru/), which allows you to sign up for a free test. The service is available in Russian," the consulate said.
IN A RESTAURANT OR IN A STORE, THEY MAY ASK FOR A COVID PASSPORT
In Finland, as in Russia, they are trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including in public places. Since October 16, the covid passport system has been launched in Finland: it is an analogue of the Russian vaccination certificate.
"Covid-passport is an alternative to restrictions. Alternatively, and at their choice, institutions subject to restrictions may require their clients to present a covid passport or comply with restrictions imposed by the Government, regional authorities and municipalities. Both private and public institutions may introduce a requirement for visitors to present covid passports based on the EU vaccination certificate," the Finnish diplomatic mission explained.
So Russians will be able to get into a restaurant, cafe or shop that will require a covid passport, only with a PCR test.
"Citizens of other countries aged 16 and older can take a PCR test in Finland and present a negative test result where a covid passport is required," the diplomats added.
THE PROBABILITY OF OPENING FINLAND'S BORDERS TO TOURISTS IN 2021 IS LOW
The last time the Finnish government extended the decision to restrict movement on the border with the Russian Federation until November 7, 2021.
Representatives of the tourism business have no doubt that, based on the growth of COVID-19 cases in Russia, the Finnish border will remain closed until the end of this year.
In their opinion, the Finnish side is unlikely to unilaterally recognize Russian vaccines, so the story of the launch of the railway connection, most likely, will not affect the mass tourist at all.
"It will be a situation similar to the current one. Holders of a residence permit, real estate, as well as those vaccinated with foreign vaccines will be allowed to enter Finland. Even if all citizens of the Russian Federation are allowed to enter, it is unclear how the Finnish side will control the passage of a repeat test by those arriving at Allegro and the passage of mandatory quarantine before receiving its result. It is unlikely that Finns will want to risk public health so much to receive tourists from Russia," observers say.
In their opinion, the opening of Finland's borders to tourism from the Russian Federation is 99% the topic of next year only.