Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Estonian and European Borders

CARL BILDT: Eesti-Vene piirilepe on Euroopale oluline - Eesti P�evaleht Online

The signing of the border agreement between Estonia and Russia - which I have commented upon earlier - continues to generate debate, and I was asked to contribute with my views in the leading Estonian daily Eesti Päevalehti:

These days it is 100 years since the peaceful dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden, and the modern emergence of Norway as an independent nation.

The union had been an extremely loose one, with very few common institutions or policies. But the dissolution was nevertheless dramatic. Soldiers were mobilized on both sides.

One of the keys to the peaceful dissolution of the union and the peaceful coming together of the new neighbours in the decades that followed was that border issues were sorted out very quickly.

In theory, they could have been tricky. In medieval times, the present Swedish provinces of Jämtland and Härjedalen had been more Norwegian than Swedish. And there were some outstanding border issues in the sea.

But it was quickly decided that the present and future is more important than the past. The border was quickly ratified as it was at the time – and we have lived happily since then.

Few things can poison political relations like open border issues. They can be used by irresponsible forces in both domestic and foreign affairs in ways that are truly destabilizing.

Our new Europe is a Europe without border disputes. History- old disputes between France and Germany have been settled. Possible open issues in Central Europe have been solved. Finland’s border with Russia – immensely painful as the loss of Vyborg was – is disputed by no one. Denmark’s border with Germany – fought over during centuries – is now seen as natural.

It’s only in the Balkans there are some still open issues. But everyone is determined to settle them as soon as possible. Otherwise European integration will not work.

I salute Estonia as its long-standing work to get the border treaty with Russia signed will now be crowned with success.

For too long it was de facto Russia that wanted to keep the issue open in order to be able to accuse Estonia and play politics against the Baltic states at different international meetings. Every government in Tallinn that I can remember has made it clear that they were ready to sign, while Moscow was not.

Although this issue has been settled in reality for a long time, it is still an important contribution to European stability that it will now be formally signed.

Lithuania already has its treaty, and I can see no reason why not Latvia should be ready to follow Estonia, thus finalizing the search for stability anchored in internationally recognized borders in our part of Europe.

Then we must move on with all the truly important issues on our common agenda – how to promote peace, prosperity and freedom for all in our Europe. A lot has been achieved – but a lot remains to be done. Let’s not be distracted and bogged down by the issues of the past.