So long, Abrene

  • 2007-11-29
  • In cooperation with BNS

A FAREWELL TO ARMS: Abrene's crest will now be consigned to the history books

RIGA 's The last major hurdle in the way of Latvia'sratification of its borders with Russia disappearedon Nov. 29 when the Latvian Constitutional Court ruled that theexisiting border treaty does not violate the Latvian Constitution.

The decision means that the ratification of the bordertreaty can be completed when the two sides exchange their papers.

Constitutional Court chairman Gunars Kutris indicated thatthe court assessed the legal aspects of the treaty, trying to observeimpartiality amid political and economic arguments, and "holding emotionsin check."

The Constitutional Court concluded that "first, thelaw on commissioning the Cabinet of Ministers to sign the Latvian-Russianborder treaty initiated on August 7, 2007 is to be admitted as corresponding tothe preamble and 9th paragraph of declaration of May 4, 1990 of the SupremeCouncil of Latvian SSR on renewing of the independence of the Republic ofLatvia".

"Second, the Latvian-Russian border treaty signed on March 27, 2007 is admitted as corresponding to the third paragraph of LatvianConstitution. Third, the law on Latvian-Russian border treaty is to be admittedas corresponding to the third paragraph of Latvian Constitution."

This paragraph states that Latvian territory is composed byVidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale as determined by the borders stated ininternational treaties.

"Fourth, to admit the formulation of the firstparagraph of the law on Latvian-Russian border treaty -- by applying the OSCEborder inviolability principle -- as not corresponding to the first part of the68 paragraph of Latvian Constitution and void as of the moment of publishing theverdict."

Kutris thinks that "now it is possible to exchange theratification documents, as the Russian party has adopted the same decisionwithout any disclaimers. The border treaty also has reference to all OSCEprinciples."

The verdict includes a legal qualification of the eventsof 1940. The court admits aggression of the Soviet Union against Latvia in1940 and interference in its internal policy, followed by illegal --inappropriate to international norms of the time -- occupation and annexation . The separation of the territorial part of Latvia [Abrene district]for the benefit of the Soviet socialist Republic of Russia wasequally illegal.

However, that is not enough to prevent today's treaty being ratified, in the opinion of the constitutional court, which admitted that Latvia is the clear loser, but that Russia has acquiredde jure rights to Abrene district, now known a Pytalovo within Pskov Oblast.

The court concluded that surrender of Abrene region doesnot infringe Latvian state continuity, as it is affected by the will of thecountry itself and acceptance by other countries. After 1990, Latviaconsistently considered itself to be the successor of the Latvian stateoccupied in 1940 and majority of the countries of the world support thisopinion. Thus the Constitutional Court holds that thepreamble and 9th paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is not breached.

The Latvian-Russian border treaty was signed in Moscow on March 27,and the Latvian parliament ratified the document in May.

Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis' government has come undercriticism from nationalist political parties and the opposition New Era party for'giving up' Abrene, a territory that once belonged to Latvia, in violation ofthe Constitution. Coalition politicians, however, argue that the territory of Abrene haseffectively been lost for decades, completely Russified (less than 1 percent of the population is ethnically Latvian) and that a new treatywith Russia may help launch a new era in bilateral relations.

In May 2005, Russiarefused to sign a border-treaty with Russia asthe Latvian government wanted to attach a declaration, referring to the 1920Latvian-Russian Peace Treaty under which Abrene belongedto Latvia.

This year, however, the Latvian government authorizedKalvitis to sign the treaty, thus annulling the declaration.