Visa freedom behind border talks

  • 2012-09-05
  • From wire reports

New agreement needed, says Sergei Lavrov.

TALLINN - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, when meeting with students in Moscow, that Russia is again ready to start border agreement talks with Estonia. Estonian politologist Karmo Tuur says that the reason for this is that Russia needs the border agreement to get visa-freedom with the European Union, reports Public Broadcasting.
“We want to reduce tensions in relations with Estonia. We wants to again start work on setting the border and launch talks over a new border agreement,” Lavrov said. At the same time, he reiterated the problem of people with no citizenship in the Baltic States and the preamble that the Riigikogu added to the border agreement with Russia, which eventually led to Russia not ratifying it.

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that negotiations lasted for 11 years before the border agreement was signed in 2005 and Estonia does not intend to launch them anew. Paet stated that recently, Russian diplomats have often spoken about re-launching the border talks.
“For the past two-to-three years, different representatives of Russia have spoken about having to start the talks again now, but what should we talk about if after 11 years of discussion, an agreement was reached and the border agreement was signed,” said Paet.

Paet and Lavrov signed the border agreement between Estonia and Russia in May 2005. The Riigikogu ratified the agreement that summer but added a preamble. Less than a month later Russia announced that it will withdraw its signature from the border agreement, claiming that the preamble that Estonia added enables the presenting of territorial claims against Russia. Paet said that Estonia has repeatedly stated that “we don’t have any territorial claims against Russia.”

Tartu University political scientist Tuur estimates that Russia wants to proceed with the border agreement since matters have to be in order with the border if Russia wants visa-freedom with the European Union. “Currently the Russian Foreign Ministry is making efforts to solve the situation where they placed themselves by saying that they withdraw their signature, which is a relatively unprecedented step. Such things don’t happen often and legally it is not an effective step either,” said Tuur.

The professor said that the fact that Lavrov spoke about the border agreement at a meeting with students shows that the topic is important for Russia, but it is not declared so, officially.