Border treaty missing in Russian State Duma work schedule

Estonian and Russian foreign ministers Urmas Paet and Sergei Lavrov at signing of border treaty. PHOTO: Pm

Duty list of Russian State Duma for first half of 2016 makes no mention of ratification of border treaty entered with Estonia though members of both parliaments have agreed that the treaties would be ratified during the current membership of the Duma. 

Estonian foreign ministry press representative Maria Belovas said that the ratification not mentioned in the approximate work schedule displayed on State Duma website must not be interpreted as a sign that the Russian side is not intending to so it.

She added that Estonian and Russian sides have agreed to move ahead with ratification in synchronisation at both parliaments while more detailed time framework has not been discussed.

«We have acted in the understanding that the Russian side is also interested in ratification of the border treaties and hopefully the process will be concluded during this membership of the State Duma,» said Ms Belovas.

Riigikogu foreign affairs committee chairman Sven Mikser has told Postimees that to manage ratification during this membership of the Duma, it ought to be completed in spring. State Duma elections are held on September 18th, but they essentially end their work in spring as after the summer break the Duma will no longer convene before the elections.

Mr Mikser said Estonia-Russia border treaties have passed the first reading in the Estonian parliament and the Estonian side is now waiting for the foreign affairs committee of Russian State Duma to deliberate the treaties.

«The next step for the ratification of the border treaties ought to be the State Duma foreign affairs committee putting the treaties on its schedule, discuss them and send for the full assembly of the Duma for deliberation,» said Mr Mikser.

Mr Mikser said the ratification must not be perfectly synchronised between the countries, neither will the final votes have to take place simultaneously. «But we have planned for parallel procedures and to move in the same tempo,» he said.

Riigikogu Estonia-Russia parliamentary group  head Igor Gräzin said that in the current situation it is firstly Russia that is interested in the ratification of the border treaties, as being in international isolation it is very important for them for any legal contract to enter into force with a EU member state.

«The EU and the USA have cut most relations with Russia, imposed economic sanctions and restrictions to individuals related to the events in Ukraine. Russia’s interest is break out of this blockade at whatever point and achieve some treaty or legal document with anyone in the EU. The interest behind that, to some degree, is dividing the EU,» Mr Gräzin told Postimees.

Mr Gräzin (Reform) noted that for 20 years Estonia has lived without the border treaty and might easily do so for the 20 years to come.

«For us, the border treaty changes nothing, the boundary line has held. The security police officer Eston Kohver case is an excellent example. Estonia and Russia were arguing over where Eston Kohver was apprehended, in Estonian or Russian side. Not once was there an issue about where the border goes, this has long ago been agreed at centimetre sharpness,» said Mr Gräzin.

Thus, Mr Gräzin said let’s not fall over hasting with the border treaty.

According to Mr Gräzin, there will be a good opportunity to talk about the ratification to a Russian State Duma delegation soon to visit Estonia.

The Estonia-Russia parliamentary group paid a visit to Moscow at the end of last year, and the visit by Duma deputies to Estonia is currently being prepared.  

«Obviously the Russian State Duma delegation is willing to come to Estonia, the question is when they can come; while I am not in the know of what the Duma is busy with, I have understood them to be discussing state budget issues. Just a week ago I was in contact with them and sent them the programme for the potential visit,» said Mr Gräzin.

Estonian and Russian foreign ministers Urmas Paet and Sergei Lavrov signed the Estonia-Russia border treaties in Moscow on May 18th 2005. One treaty was regarding the land border, the other on the sea. The Riigikogu ratified the treaties on June 20th 2005 with 78 votes for and four against.  

At the proposal of five factions, the Riigikogu added a preamble stating that while ratifying the treaty, Estonian parliament meant that the border treaty, in accordance with Constitution article 122,  partially altered the border line as established by the Tartu Peace Treaty of February 2nd 1920 while not affecting the rest of Tartu Peace Treaty nor determining the handling of mutual issues unrelated to the border treaty.

At the end of June 2005, Russia announced it was withdrawing its signature from the border treaties entered with Estonia. According to Russian officials, the preamble added at Riigikogu allows for territorial demands from Russia in the future.

After years passed, in 2013 Estonia and Russia again launched talks about the border treaty and on February 18th 2015 Mr Paet and Mr Lavrov for the second time signed the border treaties.