Ratas: Ratification of border agreement unlikely in coming years

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said on Tuesday he did not consider ratification of the Estonian-Russian border agreement likely in the coming years but stressed the importance of maintaining a dialogue with Russia.

Speaking on ETV's Esimene stuudio, presenter Andres Kuusk asked Ratas (Centre) about the UN Security Council, the Russian-Estonian border treaty, relations with Russia, climate change and Estonia's climate goals.

Dialogue with Russia

When asked what he thinks of Kersti Kaljulaid's invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tartu, Ratas said he considers it important both countries talk to each other.

"Of course, we keep that dialogue based on the values ​​that are important to Estonia and important to our allies," said Ratas.

He disagreed with a comment made In mid-December by Chairman of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutski who said in the foreseeable future the Estonian-Russian border agreement would have a chance of being ratified.

"I do not take it very seriously because over the years it has been shown that the Russian Duma has not actually had this interest. Rather, it has been ignored," Ratas said.

However, Ratas believes a border agreement between Estonia and Russia is necessary. "Concreteness, clarity is better, it is needed. But I don't think it will be very likely in the coming years," Ratas said.

The prime minister said in the current Estonian government, there is no consensus on the issue of ratification of the border treaty. Ratas emphasized that the principles of the Tartu Peace Treaty should not be overlooked when talking about the Border Treaty.

UN Security Council

Following Kuusk's question about Estonia's goals in the UN Security Council, Ratas said: "If we take our Security Council goals, one of the goals is a world order based on international law."

Discussing the killing of the Iranian High General by the United States, Ratas said the government trusts the US's information, calling the country its most strategic, closest ally.

"If we take the events that happened at the end of last year, where US military bases in Iraq were bombed, and the US embassy has been hit, then these are very specific cases, and I certainly trust our ally's assessment of the need to deploy self-defense," said the Prime Minister.

"Of course, it is in Estonia's interest and wishes that the tensions do not escalate in this case and that these issues can be resolved through diplomatic means. We will certainly work towards this in the Security Council," Ratas said.

Although NATO has suspended its training mission in Baghdad, Ratas said it is not yet known what will happen to the Estonian troops there. 

Speaking about Estonia's competence to speak on difficult topics in the UN Security Council, Ratas: "It is also no secret that in the next 24 months Estonia will gain quite a lot of experience there and naturally it will require a lot of diplomatic skills. I think that Estonia has increased its position in international relations every year and our competence has increased."

Climate change

Kuusk asked about climate issues and said while Tallinn is eight degrees celsius hotter than the average temperature for this time of year, and bushfires are burning across Australia, there are people in Estonia who say that it has nothing to do with global warming, it is a climate hysteria, and trying to solve it will cost a too much.

"It's going to cost a lot, those investments are huge. But surely this human activity has a lot to do with it. We can hardly say that we will achieve climate goals without moving out of our comfort zone, without investing more. But I believe it will be beneficial for the future. I believe it is beneficial and right for the economy, for innovation and for our entire ecosystem," Ratas answered.

He also emphasized the importance of striking a balance in achieving climate goals, pointing out there are thousands of jobs in Ida-Viru County which depend on oil shale. Ratas suggested that an alternative to oil shale could be wind power but this solution is not without its critics and people with a "not in my backyard" attitude.

Ratas said he was sympathetic to Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. "She has put climate issue very strongly on the table and [it has become] very topical through her actions and speeches. Scientists have talked about this for a long time, but for some reason, this momentum has not been reached, in the way it has been achieved by a young girl. And I think it's good that not only Europe is talking about it, but the UN is talking about it," Ratas said.

Ratas believes it is a problem that some big countries often do not sign-up to climate targets.

At the same time, Ratas justified an investment of more than €100 million in a shale oil refinery. "We need to look at what it brings to our economy: exports and jobs. Here, Eesti Energia has calculated that over the next 10-15 years there will be a market for shale oil," said Ratas. He also said the topic of building a nuclear plant should be on the table.

Ratas said one of the most pressing issues in the economy is the lack of workforce. However, there is no plan to increase the quota for third-country workers. He stressed that in certain sectors and wage levels, the issue of labor has already been taken out of the quota.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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