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Freedom of movement 22 - Tallinn

“Free movement for me has been a boon, mainly because of where I live, in Estonia. Contrast the fact that I can travel to Finland, in one direction and Latvia in the other, with as much ease as you would travelling between counties in Britain, with the situation with our neighbour to the east – Russia – where travelling requires filling out forms, getting (and paying for) a visa, long queues and checks at the border etc. I can't imagine another place where you'd quite get that difference.

I was here when the Schengen kicked in; before that there were checks going to both those places and beyond, not a lot, but you still had to stop. One of the oddest case studies of this was Valga/Valka, a town which straddles the Estonian-Latvian border. In the old days, you could find yourself crossing the border down a side-street, which would have involved checks, but not any more. Sometimes there would be language issues in other places too, for instance crossing the border between Poland and Lithuania. 

Much more significantly than just my own free movement, everything seems to have moved along with that too, in terms of communications, transport infrastructure, the economy as a whole. 

Naturally it's important not to be naïve – not everyone can take advantage of the Schengen Zone in the same way, and people from outside the zone can, and do, often experience real problems with movement and residency rights. But overall it's definitely been a net gain''.

Nick Rawle