The Estonian government has instructed the ministries to develop a position on the introduction of the contiguous zone, which will allow Estonia to apply its laws and detain violators in a wider sea zone. This will significantly complicate the work of Russian courts.
The introduction of the contiguous zone makes it possible to verify compliance with Estonian legislation within 24 nautical miles of the Estonian territorial sea baseline. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu, this would affect the security of Estonia, the protection of the environment, as well as the archaeological and historical objects found in the sea.
What is nearby zone
Alexander Lott, an employee of the Norwegian Center for the Law of the Sea, explained that the contiguous zone is a maritime zone adjacent to the territorial sea, where the coastal state has the right to exercise control, as well as to punish various violations of its legal acts.
The introduction of the contiguous zone is important for economic and security interests, as well as for interests related to the protection of cultural property,” he said.
Lott added that the right of the state to exercise its authority in the contiguous zone extends to customs and tax matters, as well as, for example, sanitary and immigration regulations and the seizure of various items found on the seabed. Also, the contiguous zone will allow the Estonian authorities to prosecute violators outside the border of the territorial sea.
How the contiguous zone will affect Russian ships
A maritime law expert from the University of Tartu believes that one of the hidden motives for introducing contiguous zone is the pressure on Russia.
Of course, the contiguous zone is primarily designed to introduce such measures. That is, to control ships that somehow violate the customs or tax laws of the coastal state. The contiguous zone is the most effective way to call them to order, Lott said.
If the “contiguous zone” regime is introduced, Estonian intelligence services will be able to monitor Russian warships and civilian ships leaving the ports of the Leningrad Region and Kronstadt. In case of refusal to inspect, they will be prohibited from passing through the Gulf of Finland.