Slutsky: Duma to ratify Russian-Estonian border treaty this year

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Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky. Source: (RIA Novosti/Scanpix)

The State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, will ratify the treaties between Estonia and Russia on their shared land and maritime borders before the end of this year, said Leonid Slutsky, who is expected to be approved by the Duma as the new chairman of its Committee on International Affairs on Wednesday.

"These treaties will be ratified by the State Duma of the Seventh Convocation in the near future — before the end of this year," Slutsky said, according to whom the treaty on the ratification of Russia's borders with Estonia was submitted to the State Duma "not long ago."

"We have been waiting for this important ratification not only for the relations between Russia and Estonia; it is a very serious issue, which will help resolve many political disputes that are not very constructive," added the Russian politician.

“Having the border treaties take effect is in the interest of both sides,” a spokesperson for the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told BNS on Wednesday in response to Slutsky’s comments to the Russian media. “The bill of the border treaties passed its first reading in the Riigikogu last fall already. We expect real steps from the new lineup of the Russian State Duma.”

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Sven Mikser noted that they would be following closely as the new State Duma got to work, including whether the Duma would initiate the ratification process of the signed border treaties.

“Most of the parties in the Estonian parliament have backed the signing of the border treaties, and the ratification bill has passed the first reading in the current lineup of the Riigikogu as well,” said Mikser.

“Unfortunately, the previous lineup of the Russia State Duma was unable to handle and adopt the ratification law and the process has come to a standstill as a result,” he continued. “If Slutsky’s words are followed by real moves in the newly-elected Duma, the Riigikogu will definitely need to discuss how and at what pace Estonia can move forward with the ratification.”

Estonia still waiting on Russia

Estonia’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov signed treaties on the land and maritime borders between Estonia and Russia in May 2005.

The Riigikogu passed the treaties in the following month after adding a preamble to the bill in which it was explained that in ratifying the border treaties, the Riigikogu had in mind that, in accordance with Article 122 of the Constitution, the border treaty would partly change the line of the state border as defined in the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920 but would not affect the rest of the treaty and would not define the treatment of any bilateral issues not connected with the border treaties.

Russia, however, noted that it viewed the added preamble as opening the way to future territorial claims and withdrew its signature at the end of June that same year, despite Estonia having denied having territorial claims on Russian on repeated occasions.

Negotiations on the treaty between the two countries resumed in 2013, and the foreign ministers eventually signed the agreements in Moscow on Feb. 18, 2014.

As ERR has previously reported, last fall, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov reached an agreement that the two governments would submit the new border treaties to their respective parliaments for ratification.

On the Estonian side, the Riigikogu did so, where relevant bills passed their first reading in November 2015 already. Per common practice, the treaties would be ratified in both countries’ respective parliaments simultaneously after they has also passed their first reading in the State Duma. On the Russian side, however, the Duma had yet to even begin the ratification process.

Russian ambassador blames Estonia for creating unsuitable atmosphere

The BNS reported in July that Russian Ambassador to Estonia Alexander Petrov was quoted in the Russian newspaper Izvestiya as saying that the ratification of the Estonian-Russian treaties had been hindered by tensions in bilateral relations.

"We have repeatedly told Estonia's representatives that the ratification of the border treaties requires a suitable atmosphere — namely, that the parties refrain from creating tensions," said Petrov. "This hasn't happened so far."

The Russian ambassador cited several instances in which Estonia had purportedly created tension between two neighboring countries, including Estonian border guards turning away a Russian delegation on its way to May 9 events in Tartu in the spring as well as several instances in which he was summoned to the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the violation of Estonian airspace by Russian aircraft.

"After each such protest, Moscow has forwarded via the Estonian Embassy information which clearly shows that no violation took place," explained the Russian ambassador. "But this has not changed the Estonian side's position."

Petrov also referred to recent Estonian steps, considered unfriendly by Moscow, as hindrances to the ratification of the Estonian-Russian treaties in an interview with Russian news agency Interfax in mid-May as well.

The Riigikogu successfully completed the first reading of the Bill on the Ratification of the State Border Treaty between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation and the Treaty on the Delimitation of Maritime Areas of Narva Bay and the Gulf of Finland between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation on Nov. 25, 2015.

The treaties must be ratified by the parliaments of both countries, after which they will go into effect 30 days after the exchange of the letters of ratification.

The State Duma of the Seventh Convocation, which was elected to a five-year term on Sept. 18, convened for the first time on Wednesday.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS, ERR

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