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So long, Abrene

Nov 29, 2007
In cooperation with BNS

So long, Abrene
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's ratification of its borders with Russia disappeared on Nov. 29 when the Latvian Constitutional Court ruled that the exisiting border treaty does not violate the Latvian Constitution.

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

Constitutional Court chairman Gunars Kutris indicated that the court assessed the legal aspects of the treaty, trying to observe impartiality amid political and economic arguments, and "holding emotions in check."

The Constitutional Court concluded that "first, the law on commissioning the Cabinet of Ministers to sign the Latvian-Russian border treaty initiated on August 7, 2007 is to be admitted as corresponding to the preamble and 9th paragraph of declaration of May 4, 1990 of the Supreme Council of Latvian SSR on renewing of the independence of the Republic of Latvia".

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

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

"Fourth, to admit the formulation of the first paragraph of the law on Latvian-Russian border treaty -- by applying the OSCE border inviolability principle -- as not corresponding to the first part of the 68 paragraph of Latvian Constitution and void as of the moment of publishing the verdict."

Kutris thinks that "now it is possible to exchange the ratification documents, as the Russian party has adopted the same decision without any disclaimers. The border treaty also has reference to all OSCE principles."

The verdict includes a legal qualification of the events of 1940. The court admits aggression of the Soviet Union against Latvia in 1940 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 was equally 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 does not infringe Latvian state continuity, as it is affected by the will of the country itself and acceptance by other countries. After 1990, Latviaconsistently considered itself to be the successor of the Latvian state occupied in 1940 and majority of the countries of the world support this opinion. Thus the Constitutional Court holds that the preamble 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 under criticism from nationalist political parties and the opposition New Era party for 'giving up' Abrene, a territory that once belonged to Latvia, in violation of the Constitution. Coalition politicians, however, argue that the territory of Abrene has effectively been lost for decades, completely Russified (less than 1 percent of the population is ethnically Latvian) and that a new treaty with Russia may help launch a new era in bilateral relations.

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

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

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