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State Duma yet to begin Estonian-Russian border treaty ratification process

The Estonian-Russian border treaty is unlikely to be ratified anytime soon. While the treaty passed its first reading in the Riigikogu in the fall already, Russia's State Duma, which has yet to begin the ratification process on their end, will be going on summer break in July, after which parliamentary elections will follow in the fall.

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand told ETV’s nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera” that neither Russian diplomats nor the Estonian Embassy was able to explain why the ratification process has been delayed.

Last fall, Kaljurand and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov reached an agreement that the two governments would submit the new border treaty, signed in February 2014, to their respective parliaments for ratification. On the Estonian side, the Riigikogu did so, where relevant bill passed its first reading in November 2015 already. On the Russian side, however, the State Duma had yet to even begin the ratification process.

The Estonian foreign minister noted that it was unlikely that the current State Duma would get to processing the border treaty. “Considering the fact that the [current] Duma’s powers are set to expire soon — Russia’s State Duma elections are in September — then it is very likely that this Duma will not start processing the border treaty,” said Kaljurand.

She had not, however, received an explanation from either Russian or Estonian diplomats as to why this was the case.
“My last discussion with Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov was in September, but naturally I have been in contact with the Russian ambassador [in Tallinn],” said the Estonian minister. “Our ambassador in Moscow has raised the question as well — in response to which we have received relatively vague replies.”

Baltic Center for Russian Studies Director Vladimir Juškin, however, said that the State Duma going on summer break had nothing whatsoever to do with the ratification of the border treaty, and that if the Kremlin found it necessary to get it done, the Duma would do it.

Juškin speculated that the Kremlin was planning on taking advantage later of the unratified treaty, pointing out that they would need the people’s patriotic euphoria during the Russian presidential elections in 2018.

“According to Russian analysts, they need to wage one more little victorious war in order to keep the euphoria alive — or carry out some sort of foreign policy operation and make Russia’s situation in the international arena even more complex in order to show voters that they really are under siege,” said the center’s director. “An unratified border treaty with Estonia may play some kind of role in such a combination which we are yet unable to picture.”

National Defence Committee Chairman Marko Mihkelson told “Aktuaalne kaamera” that, given the circumstances in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, it would be good if the state border were officially established by treaty. “This of course does not directly guarantee security, however it would surely help lessen the extent of so-called gray areas,” stressed Mihkelson.

The border treaty passed its first reading in the Riigikogu in November 2015; per common practice, it will be ratified in both countries’ respective parliaments simultaneously after it has also passed its first reading in the State Duma.

Russian ambassador: We cannot rule out that the Duma may get it done

Russian Ambassador to Estonia Alexander Petrov told “Aktuaalne kaamera” that while the odds that the current Duma would ratify the border treaty had indeed decreased, it could nonetheless not be ruled out that the State Duma may still be able to get it done, especially considering the fact that the deputies’ summer break would be interrupted by the upcoming parliamentary elections anyway.

“At the same time, I would like to stress the fact that the possibility still in fact exists,” stressed the ambassador. “True, it is less likely now than it seemed to be a few months ago, but so long as there is still a chance, we can hope that the job will be completed. The deputies will be allowed on break conditionally, as Duma elections are coming up in September already, and the active election campaign is going to begin. This will certainly affect the resolution of this issue.”

Editor: Editor: Aili Sarapik

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