Riigikogu rejects EKRE call for Estonia to leave Russia border agreement

Estonian border (picture is illustrative).
Estonian border (picture is illustrative). Source: (Sergei Stepanov)

The Riigikogu has voted down a bill which would have canceled Estonia's signature to the Estonian-Russian border treaty, by 53 against to 28 in favor.

The proposal for withdrawing from the agreement, signed in May 2005 between then-foreign minister, now MEP, Urmas Paet (Reform) and Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, came from the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

EKRE said that the agreement gives tacit assent to the continued occupation of territory which belonged to Estonia, by the Russian Federation.

EKRE deputy chair Mart Helme said the Paet-Lavrov agreement had been a serious error.

He said: "Via this agreement, the Republic of Estonia concurs with the Kremlin's view that the Tartu Peace Treaty has expired."

"It at the same time permanently gives de jure recognition to the continued occupation by Russia of the post-Tartu [peace treaty] Estonian territories, and cedes the areas beyond Narva and a part of Petserimaa, and depriving us of the right to demand compensation for those occupied territories."

"There is no substantive justification for transferring 5.2 percent of Estonia's land area, territorial waters and airspace to a foreign power," Helme went on.

Helme also said that the hitherto still-born ratification process of the 2005 agreement should be finally ditched.

"While the border agreement has not been ratified by either country's parliament, now is the time to stop that process. Russia has launched a full-scale war against Ukraine and threatened retaliation against all states that have assisted Ukraine. By withdrawing from the agreement, the Estonian state would be giving a strong assessment of Russia 's policy of conquest and the threats to its neighbors," Helme, a former Estonian ambassador to Russia, went on.

Helme also said some Reform Party politicians' view that the newer agreement would better ensure Estonia's long-term security was wishful thinking.

"Ukraine had both a land border agreement and a naval base agreement with Russia. Russia threw these in the trash-can with an easy move of the hand, and started fighting, despite the agreements. The transfer agreement does not give us any additional guarantees," Helme added, and said that no alternative border agreement should be drawn up either.

"Estonia is not in a hurry to conclude a border agreement. No dictator or empire is forever. So far, the current temporary line of control is suitable for us, and this maintains the hope of the Seto people to regain their original territories from the future, democratic Russia," Helme went on.

Marko Mihkelson (Reform), chair of the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee, said that in the current circumstances, the ratification of the border agreement cannot in any case proceed, adding that his party rejected withdrawing Estonia's signature to the 2005 agreement.

The 1920 Treaty of Tartu dealt with the post-War of Independence Estonian state and its border with the fledgling Soviet Russian state. Its border delineation lay somewhat to the east of the present-day border, and included Jaanilinn (present-day Ivangorod, a literal translation of the original name and lying on the other side of the Narva River from Narva) and its hinterland in the northeast, and, in the southeast, the town of Petseri (present-day Pechory) and environs, and also much of the shoreline of Lake Pihkva (Pihkva järv – Pihkva is the Estonian name for the nearby Russian city of Pskov - ed.).

The southeastern border cuts historical Setomaa, a cultural unique area, in half and has led to issues such as problems with crossing the border to visit family graves.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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