More capacity at Storskog border crossing point
Norway has spent €1.5 million on demanded temporary expansion of the Storskog border passing point in order to meet the increased traffic across the border to Russia.
But the improvements are only temporary – within a few years there will be a completely new station for passport and customs control here.
“We hope these changes will give better traffic flow and give people a positive experience from crossing the border”, Chief of Police in East Finnmark Police District Ellen Katrine Hætta during yesterday’s opening of the border crossing point. “These are immediate measures taken to meet a situation that has occurred”.
Increased traffic across the border
Traffic across the Norwegian-Russian border is constantly breaking records. In course of the last few years the number of people crossing the border has doubled from 100 000 to nearly 200 000 per year.
In the end of May it will be possible for people living in the border area to apply for a border citizen passport, allowing them to travel to the other country’s border zone without a visa. This is expected to give the development an even further push.
Numbers for the three first months of 2012 suggest that traffic will increase 35 percent compared to 2011.
More efficient border-crossing with new station
Changes include enlargement of the main building with more passport control desks both on the entry and exit side, development of outside infrastructure including roads and parking areas, as well as staff increases and Russian language courses for the police and customs personnel.
The room for passport control when entering Norway has been expanded with 42 m² and two more control desks. Now it is possible to have four control desks open at the same time. The two new desks will be put in operation as soon as all the needed equipment is in place, probably in a few weeks’ time.
The improved station will only be standing for 3-5 years. By that time there should be a completely new border crossing point some 200 meters from the existing station. It is not possible to do any more improvements on the existing building and the surrounding areas because of the bad ground conditions there.
No need for round-the-clock open border
The Norwegian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence believes that it is necessary to have the border open 24 hours a day. Local police personnel do not agree. There is hardly any commercial traffic across the border, only passenger traffic, so there is no immediate need to have the border open in the night-time when all shops and everything else is closed. A widening of the opening hours, on the other hand, could benefit the border crossers. The border is now open from 7 in the morning to 9 in the evening, Norwegian time.
No joint Norwegian-Russian checkpoint
It has been suggested that Norway and Russia should build one common border crossing station for the two countries. This is not a real alternative, as neither Norwegian nor Russian jurisdiction or Schengen regulations open for such a solution, according to Chief of Police Hætta.