Estonia seeks to impose contiguous zone regime in Gulf of Finland

The Estonian government is planning to establish the contiguous zone regime in the Gulf of Finland as proposed by the national Foreign Ministry, ERR writes.

The regime will be applied within the 24 nautical miles from the Estonia coast and cover the whole of the Gulf of Finland. It would have a beneficial impact on Estonia’s security, protection of the environment as well as archeological and historical objects found in the sea, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu explained.

Estonian special services at the same time will be eligible to check Russian military vessels and civilian ships sailing out of the Leningrad region ports. If inspections are not granted, they will be banned from navigating through the Gulf of Finland.

“The contiguous zone is a sea territory that is adjacent to the territorial waters which can be imposed by domestic law and where each coastal state can exercise control and punish for various violations of its laws,” ERR was told by a Tartu university law lecturer.

At the same time, the Estonian diplomatic agency rejects the idea that this measure is particularly aimed at punishing Moscow with sanctions in a more effective manner. However, the professor believes that this is one of the hidden motives behind the initiative.

The “contiguous zone” would become an additional naval zone controlled by Estonia that would stretch beyond the 12-mile territorial waters, senior Estonian diplomat Kristi Land explained.

On 23 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it would expel the Estonian ambassador from the country and downgrade the level of relations with the country. The Ministry noted that Estonian Ambassador Margus Laidre would have to leave Russia on 7 February 2023, while chargé d’affaires will now represent the country’s interests in Russia. Tallinn reciprocated by expelling the Russian envoy later.

Updated at 6:03 PM Moscow time on 26 January

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