The Estonian government has approved a bill for a new border treaty between Estonia and Russia. The agreement will be presented to the Foreign Ministry for signing, after which it will need to be ratified at the parliamentary level. Estonian Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu spoke this week on the outcome of the Tallinn-held meeting between Russia and Estonia, saying, “We supported the continuation of the Estonian-Russian border treaty process with full confidence and we emphasize that the border treaty process must be based on the principle of legal continuity of statehood.”
Many have been skeptical of the treaty, saying that as it currently stands the treaty does not serve Estonia’s practical interests, such as economic and energy security issues. Minister of Agriculture copposed the treaty and its ratification saying:
“I am not convinced that the border treaty changes resulting from the consultations will ensure us the preservation of Estonia’s legal continuity of statehood and the principles of the Tartu Peace Treaty. I believe we should also bind our practical interests with the signing of the border treaty. This is a historical moment where we can bargain these terms with Russia, where we can put on the table our practical economic and energy agenda. These are issues that we unfortunately will not achieve with the border treaty in its current form.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Martin Helme, the head of the Estonian Conservative National Party, who explained his concerns about the treaty, saying:
“There are no promises from the Russian side. To the contrary, I would say this is a big achievement for Russian diplomacy…It’s a mistake we made in 1994-1995 when we said that we don’t have territorial claims. With that we said that everything is fine, while at the same time the other side has continued to have territorial claims on our legal territory…We are playing according to the rules of the other side and saying we have achieved great success. I don’t see any success.”
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet defended the new border treaty, and countered the criticism of the opposition by stating that Estonia needs a border treaty in order to improve relations and security and that it was important to realize that such a document could not encompass all of the issues brought up by its opponents, for example water usage, shipping and international bridges.
In other news, Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov met today with Latvian Transport Minister Anrijs Matiss to discuss, among other things, the important of strengthening the competitiveness of the Baltic Sea region and developing East-West transportation infrastructure. Latvian Minister Matiss emphasised the importance of continued dialogue on mutual coordination in the development of transportation infrastructure, in addition to increasing effectiveness of rail and road border control points. The two transport ministers also reportedly discussed the means for progress in reducing the travel time of the Riga-Moscow passenger train route.