During their bilateral meeting held within the framework of the meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) foreign ministers in Elsinore, Denmark, the ministers discussed the state of Estonia-Russia relations and developments since their last meeting in December 2008. They also addressed bilateral economic relations, visa policy, and the status of many agreements that are currently being worked out.
Both foreign ministers felt positively about the political consultations that took place between the foreign ministries in January, where the main focus was on the practical issues of bilateral relations and intensifying communication between ministry departments. In June, consultations addressing European topics will take place in Tallinn between the Estonian and Russian foreign ministries.
The foreign ministers acknowledged that cultural relations between the two countries have been developing successfully. “The development of cultural relations is also reflected by the fact that during Cultural Minister of the Russian Federation Aleksander Avdejevi’s visit to Tallinn in January of this year, an Estonia-Russia cultural co-operation programme for the years 2009-2011 was signed,” remarked Paet.
Urmas Paet stated that Estonia feels it is positive that in February Russia eliminated the discrepancy that had arisen with Estonia and Russia’s international cargo agreement, and starting today, 4 June, the highway tax that was temporarily implemented for Estonian cargo trucks by Russia has been abolished.
Minister Paet expressed hope that the bilateral transportation commission would soon resume its work. “Many open questions could be discussed within the framework of the Estonia-Russia bilateral transportation commission, for example the renovation of the Narva bridge,” Paet remarked. “A direct flight between Tallinn and St. Petersburg and better transportation connections would be helpful for developing more contacts between people, as well as for tourism and business relations,” he added.
While talking about visa policy, Minister Paet confirmed that Estonia has done everything on its part to simplify the life of residents near borders since the expiration of the previous border-crossing system. “Estonia issues multiple-entry visas that are valid for many years. In addition to those living near the border, soon this liberal new system will be applied to all Russian citizens that apply for Estonia visas,” Paet emphasised at the meeting. “Another significant simplification is that Estonia is eliminating the requirement for a visa invitation when applying for an Estonian visa as of 30 July this year,” the foreign minister asserted. Paet expressed hope that Russia will soon find the opportunity to make reciprocal steps that would make movement easier for those living near the border and all Estonian citizens.
At the meeting, Paet confirmed Estonia’s readiness to bring the prepared diplomatic real estate agreement to a conclusion and to complete the social security agreement.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed readiness to move forward pragmatically with Estonia-Russia relations. He also mentioned the issue of the slow tempo of naturalisation in Estonia.