TALLINN - The preamble to the Estonian-Russian border treaty has come under fire from two former Estonian prime ministers, who say there is nothing to discuss.
The addition to the treaty was the reason for its dissolution in 2005, when Russia withdrew its endorsement of the document. The preamble said that Estonia would be entitled to land within the Leningrad and Pskov regions. Estonia claims that it is not actively seeking land.
Former Prime Minister Mart Laar, chairman of the Estonian Pro Patria and Res Public Union party (IRL), says he sees no need to discuss President Toomas Hendrik Ilves' proposal to reopen discussion of the Estonian-Russian border treaty with the preamble added to it.
In an interview with the newspaper Eesti Paevaleht, Laar expressed the opinion that there would be no such discussion. "I do not believe that the president intends to address such a written statement to the parliament," Laar said. "I cannot see any need to discuss the issue," he added.
Former Prime Minister Tiit Vahi said he believes that the Estonian parliament might drop the controversial preamble altogether. In an op-ed piece for Eesti Paevaleht, Vahi wrote that he believed the two-thirds majority needed to remove it could be achieved.
While conceding that the preamble would grant Estonia certain privileges, Vahi pointed out that the treaty also provides for trade under most-favored-nation rules as well as for Russia's tax-free transit and use of Estonian ports. "Does Estonia wish at present to actualize those articles, too?" he asked.
Laar said that after its targeting of Finland, it seemed as if Russia no longer had any clear neighborhood policy.
"It is a relatively peaceful country, but the matter with the timber duties is tough indeed," Laar said referring to Russia's wish to establish customs duties on round timber, which could significantly affect the Finnish pulp industry. "Compared with it, everything they have been doing here are relatively moderate steps," Laar added.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it has held the same position on the treaty issue since 2006. "Estonia sticks to its former position that it has no territorial claims with respect to Russia, and Estonia sees no obstacles for the entry into force of the current treaty," Mariann Sudakov, the ministry's press secretary, said.
Only six weeks after signing the border treaty with Estonia, Russia announced that it was revoking its signature, withdrawing from any obligations stipulated in that treaty, and demanding renegotiation from scratch.