MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once again criticized the European Union, Estonia and Latvia for failing to address alleged violations of minority rights in the two Baltic countries.
In an interview to the German paper Handelsblatt, published on the Foreign Ministry's Web site, Lavrov said that the EU had failed to meet two important obligations it had taken by extending the EU-Russian partnership and cooperation agreement to new members.
The minister said that the first pertains to transit to and from the Kaliningrad enclave via Lithuania and the other to the rights of ethnic minorities, which he said were being violated in Estonia and Latvia.
Lavrov said that attention had been repeatedly drawn to the last-mentioned circumstance in the Council of Europe as well as in the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe. The minister referred to views by the Council of Europe human rights commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles and the OSCE Ethnic Minorities High Commissioner Rolf Ekeus.
He added that only recently Gil-Robles distributed a report pertaining to the Baltic countries, expressly drawing attention to problems connected with ethnic minority rights in Estonia and Latvia.
The Russian minister said that Moscow was not making any hysterical statements in that issue. "We are convinced of the need to establish normal relations with Latvia and Estonia," he said.
Lavrov said President Vladimir Putin's invitation to the Baltic presidents to take part in World War II anniversary ceremonies served as proof of this. He referred to the opportunity of a summit between Russia, Estonia and Latvia at which border treaties could be signed and declarations of relations between the countries, such as there was one with Lithuania, could be signed.
He criticized Estonia and Latvia, saying that leaders of the two countries had needed Russian-speaking residents' votes at the time of the restoration of independence, but now regarded the ethnic minorities as superfluous.
The minister said that the EU, which had ignored that problem when it admitted Estonia and Latvia into the bloc, would now have to do something in order to improve the ethnic minorities situation in those countries.