Eu/russia : Russia and Latvia Wrap Up Border Agreement
Latvia and Russia finalised, on 18 December, a border agreement between the two countries, ending a dispute that has been dragging on for over a decade and that has put a strain on Moscow's relations with the European Union. Latvia's 276-kilometre-long border with Russia became one of the easternmost frontiers of the EU when the Baltic state joined the bloc in 2004.
"The entry into force of this agreement is an important step forward for bilateral relations between Latvia and the Russian Federation as well as for EU-Russia relations," said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in a statement released on the same day.
Following Latvia's accession, the EU has been insisting that Russia sign and ratify the border agreement with Riga. However, Moscow has been reluctant to do it because of disagreements with Latvia over minority rights. Moscow has been insisting that Riga puts an end to practices that are seen by the Kremlin as discriminating against the large Russian-speaking minority. After the small Baltic state regained its independence in 1991, many Russian-speaking inhabitants of Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian descent were denied Latvian citizenship.
The agreement on the border has also been delayed by a dispute over the Pytalovo district of Russia, which both countries are laying claiming to. The 1,294-square-kilometre district, known to Latvians as Abrene, was Latvian territory before World War II but became part of the Soviet Union after Moscow annexed the Baltic States in the 1940s. …