Ott Tammik, ERR News
Russian diplomats have proposed to re-open negotiations for a currently lacking Estonian-Russian border treaty, the foreign minister told Parliament during a foreign affairs hearing on Tuesday.
The ministry hasn't gone ahead with the process because it was not sure whether redrafting the treaty could win parliamentary and public support, asserted Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.
MP Yana Toom expressed concern that Estonia remains to be the only EU country bordering Russia that does not have a border treaty with that country. “Does the Cabinet plan to do something about this and how long must this abnormal situation go on for?” asked Toom.
Paet responded: “There are no tangible changes in the border treaty issue. An offer has been extended from the Russian side in diplomatic discussions to re-sign the border agreement and restart the process [of ratification] from the beginning.”
Paet said, though, that more important than the treaty is how well the de facto border operates. “The importance of the border treaty should not be exaggerated. The main thing is for the border to be accepted in practice,” said Paet.
There have been no major problems in functioning of the border, Paet said, and the two countries have been cooperative. As far as Estonian side is concerned, the treaty concluded in 2005 could come into force right away, he added.
However, Russia's ambassador to Estonia, Yuri Merzlyakov, has previously said that the absence of a border treaty between the countries is stifling trade relations. Specifically Merzlyakov has said that large Russian companies interested in investing in Estonia, particularly those working in the area of transit, have been put off by the lack of a border agreement.
In 2005, Estonia and Russia came close to ratifying the border treaty. But the process came to a halt at the 11th hour when the Russian Duma withheld ratification after Parliament's inclusion of a reference to the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty in the preamble to the treaty's ratification law, which the Russian side claimed to be a territorial pretension by Estonia.
Russia Has Offered Border Treaty Makeover, Says Paet