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Cablegate: Court Rules Latvia-Russia Border Treaty Complies With

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INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RIGA 000884

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PBTS PREL RS LG
SUBJECT: Court rules Latvia-Russia border treaty complies with
Constitution

1. Summary. Latvia's Constitutional Court (ST) announced November 29
that the Latvia- Russia Border Treaty, which provides Latvia's
acknowledgment to the transfer of the Abrene region of Latvia to
Russia in Stalin's era, complies with the Constitution of Latvia.
The court ruled that the Treaty itself does not breech the
Constitution, thus removing any legal barriers for exchange of
instruments of ratification between the two countries. End summary.

2. The text of the border treaty was agreed in 1997 but political
tensions left it dormant for ten years. It was signed in Moscow on
March 27. In May, Latvia ratified the agreement. The main
opposition party New Era (JL) and several dissident MPs from the
ruling coalition objected to the agreement and asked the
Constitutional Court to evaluate whether the Treaty complies with
the Constitution. The agreement recognizes that Abrene is part of
Russia. Abrene was part of pre-WWII Latvia's territory and was
moved by Stalin from the Latvian SSR to the Russian SSR at the
request of the residents in the 1940's. Opponents of the treaty
argued that the Constitution specified Latvia's territory as being
four regions and its borders defined by international agreements,
which they argued was retrospective, and meant specifically the 1920
peace treaty between Latvia and the USSR. Amending this part of the
Constitution requires a referendum. The government expressed its
contrary view that the language was prospective and the constitution
was written to allow the borders of Latvia to be modified by future
international agreements. The court ruled that the Treaty itself
complies with the Constitution. Judge Juris Jelagins stated that
there were no grounds for the government to call a referendum on
transferring Abrene's region to Russia.

4. Comment. The negative CC ruling would have placed Latvia in a
very difficult legal situation as there would be a conflict between
domestic and international law. The main responsibility for that
would be on the ruling coalition since it decided to proceed with
the Treaty even while waiting for the ruling by the Constitutional
Court. The ruling removes all remaining legal barriers to resolve
Latvia's long-running border issue with Russia. While this is an
important step in Latvia - Russia relations, it will not bring about
any immediate, significant changes in the overall relations between
the two countries.

Bailey

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