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Speaker of Russian upper house waiting for Estonia on border treaty

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Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko.
Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko. Source: (Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Scanpix)

Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko has placed the responsibility for moving forward with the ratification of the Estonian-Russian border treaty on Estonia, stating that Moscow has done everything needed for its ratification.

"This question should be addressed to the Estonian side, not the Russian side," Matviyenko, the speaker of the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, said in Pskov on Thursday when asked by an Estonian journalist when the border agreement will move forward from its current standstill.

"We have done everything necessary to regulate this topic," she said at an international forum of border regions in the Northwestern Russian regional capital. "We hope that our Estonian partners will go through their road toward signing this agreement."

It was not clear from the report what Matviyenko meant by "signing," as both countries have already signed the border agreements, which now need to be ratified, a process in which Estonia has progressed further than Russia.

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Marko Mihkelson (IRL) aid that Matviyenko is misinformed if she is placing the responsibility for moving forward with the ratification of the Estonian-Russian border treaty on Estonia.

Mihkelson said that Matviyenko's statement reflects sincere ignorance of the fact that the border agreements have already been signed and the Estonian side has by now moved a step ahead toward the ratification of the agreements, the press office of the Riigikogu told BNS.

"At the same time, we are of the opinion — which is also known by the Russian side — that the final ratification of the agreements can only happen once the Russian Duma is ready for it," said Mihkelson. "Blaming Estonia for this is completely unwarranted."

Estonia continues to wait 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 Russia 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, in fall 2015, 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 blamed Estonia for creating unsuitable atmosphere

The BNS reported in July 2016 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 that 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.

Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky said in October 2016, following the Duma elections in Russia, that the Duma might ratify the border treaties with Estonia before the end of the year. No concrete steps have yet been taken in the Duma to do so, however.

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.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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