Estonian Police and Border Guard Agency celebrated its 96th anniversary on 7 November with a ball in North-Eastern town Jõhvi. In order to make sure that the Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas gets to participate in the festivities, the agency sent one of its search and rescue helicopters to fly him specially to the event, writes today’s Eesti Päevaleht.

Mr Rõivas was attending heads of government meeting of Nordic countries, Baltic states and the UK in Helsinki that morning, and would not have made it to the police ball using conventional modes of transport.

“We were able to provide this flight because of advance warning. As it was known already six weeks before that the Prime Minister would not otherwise make it to Jõhvi, we were able to plan a patrol-flight, which involved picking him up at Helsinki Vantaa airport,” said Tuuli Härson, a spokeswoman for the police.

But in the end difficult weather conditions prevented the helicopter from landing in Jõhvi and Mr Rõivas was taken to the capital Tallinn instead.
The ride cost 871 euros and was paid by the Police and Border Guard Agency. It was only last week that the Director General of the agency made numerous statements to the media, where he claimed not to have enough funds to pay sufficiently to his staff.

However this was not the first time Mr Rõivas got flown around by police search and rescue helicopter.

He was similarly flown to Helsinki this Monday in order to be able to attend the President of Estonia signing decisions appointing new Foreign and Environment ministers. This time the delegation of the Prime Minister got to fly the helicopter as well. This flight cost 484 euros and was paid again by the police.

Ms Härson from the police said that search and rescue helicopters have been used four times this year to fly top officials. She stressed that at no time was capability to perform search and rescue operations at danger.

“When such exceptions are made, it is the first principle that search and rescue capabilities must still be maintained,” said Härson. She added that helicopter that is on call duty cannot be used for such flights and decisions to fly another helicopter are made based on particular circumstances.

The Police and Border Guard Agency has a fleet of three search and rescue helicopters.