The parliaments of Estonia and Latvia yesterday simultaneously ratified the agreement on maritime borders between the two countries, signed by Prime Ministers Tiit Vahi and Andris Skele last month. Yesterday’s parliamentary vote to ratify was overwhelming in Tallinn and unanimous in Riga. The agreement divides the Gulf of Riga, including the highly productive fishing areas, among Estonia and Latvia. It also commits the two governments to signing by September 1 an agreement regulating fishing by either country’s vessels in the territorial waters of the other. (BNS, August 22)
The agreement ends a dispute dating back to 1993 when Estonia drew a maritime border in the Gulf of Riga, with Latvia maintaining until recently that the gulf should be indivisible. The 1993 median-line border left Latvia only a narrow sector because Estonia owns all islands in the Gulf of Riga, including Ruhnu Island which lies in the center of the best fishing area. The two countries subsequently engaged in annual "pilchard wars" as Estonia’s coast guard escorted Latvian vessels out of those waters. Nevertheless the dispute was not allowed to impair bilateral political relations. This fact, and now the amicable settlement is seen as evidence that Baltic solidarity has prevailed over narrower interests. It may also encourage progress toward resolving the dispute between Latvia and Lithuania over waters believed to contain oil and gas in an undelimited section of their offshore waters.
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