Finland sends diplomatic note to Russia on land ownership ban
Foreign Minister Stubb to visit Russia to discuss matter
Finland sent a diplomatic note to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday concerning Russia’s decree banning on foreign ownership of land near border areas.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) said that Finland wants to know more about the implications of the move for deals that have already been made, as well as for inheritances and future transactions.
Stubb called the Russian actions “unfortunate”, but said that he does not believe that they were aimed specifically at Finland.
Finland’s and Russia share about 1,300 kilometres. Russia’s borders with all of its neighbours add up to about 20,000 kilometres.
The Finnish Foreign Minister will discuss the implications of the move with the Baltic countries, Poland, and Norway.
He also plans to pay a visit in early February to nearby areas of Russia to meet with leaders of the cities of Vyborg and Petrozavodsk.
Stubb says that he learned of Russia’s decision from the newspapers.
The Foreign Ministry says that Russia’s actions are prompted by foreign policy and domestic policy considerations.
Stubb feels that the matter has no bearing on Russia’s negotiations on membership in the World Trade Organisation or in its ties with the EU.
Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Green) says that Finland should think about the matter calmly, emphasizing that nothing will happen in a week or two.
She also noted that the news did not come as a surprise, and that Finland had been waiting for such an announcement for years.
Brax could not estimate how much property in Finland is under Russian ownership. Between 4,000 and 5,000 Finnish properties are owned by foreign citizens.
There were calls on Thursday from Pertti Salolainen (Nat. Coalition Party), the chairman of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and the committee’s deputy chair Markku Laukkanen (Centre) said that the matter should be handled at the EU level.
“Mixing the EU into this soup will not help”, Stubb said. Salolainen sees the matter as pertaining to the EU very much.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasised that the new decree does not violate international law.
In a statement reported by the Itar-Tass news agency, Lavrov noted that similar restrictions are in force in other countries, and that they do not conflict with international law.
He also noted that legislation on foreign ownership of plots of land had been passed already in 2001, and that the new decree issued by President Dmitri Medvedev simply defines more clearly the areas where the ban is to be applied.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Uncertain impact of Russian ban on land ownership by foreigners in border areas (13.1.2011)