EU Member States in favour of special Kaliningrad pass

EU Foreign Ministers have endorsed the
Commission’s proposal to introduce a special travel pass for
the inhabitants of Kaliningrad after the Union enlarges and
surrounds the Russian enclave.

The External Relations Council welcomed the Commission’s
Communication on Kaliningrad transit as “the basis for
discussions with Russia”. “In view of the importance of the
strategic partnership between EU and Russia, the EU is
ready to make a special effort to accommodate the concerns,
which Russia has raised about the future transit of persons
between Kaliningrad oblast and the rest of Russia. To this
end the EU will apply the Schengen regime with
flexibility,” the Council concluded.

However, some EU diplomats said that
there were some differences and several Member States “were
open to diverge from the proposals”. The issue of
Kaliningrad thus remains unsolved and will be re-examined
at the next External Relations Council in Luxembourg on
21-22 October.

 

The Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig
Møller

, who currently presides over the Council, said that the EU
would take contact with the Lithuanian authorities
concerning the issue of the feasibility study on the
Russian non-stop train proposal, and on how to ensure a
smooth transition to the facilitated transit document.
"Russian concerns must be addressed in a manner consistent
with the enlargement process and with the political aim of
creating a strategic partnership and enhancing
co-operation," he underlined.

Russia

says the Commission's proposals are counterproductive, and
is threatening to boycott the EU-Russia Summit in
Copenhagen on 11 November unless the Union comes up with a
workable proposal. Moscow wants as few travel impositions
as possible for Russians moving between Kalingrad and the
mainland Russia. To resolve the problem of transit between
Russia and Kaliningrad, Moscow has offered tighter controls
on train and bus tickets to and from its Kaliningrad
enclave, and non-stop trains through Lithuania. Russia also
offered a re-admission agreement to take back illegal
immigrants.

In addition,
Russia's President Vladimir Putin

has proposed visa-free travel between Russia and the EU as
part of a new strategic partnership. Russia had initially
pushed for a transport corridor that would allow its
citizens to travel visa-free between Kaliningrad and the
mainland. However, the EU rejected the proposal, insisting
on an eased visa regime.

The Governor of Kaliningrad, Vladimir
Yegorov,

says that the Commission's proposal would cost the
Kaliningrad region 66 million dollars per year. He has
warned that the special visa regime would endanger
Kaliningrad's economy and the future development of the
region.

 

Due to the EU's enlargement to Lithuania and Poland,
Russian citizens will not be able to travel without visas
between Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad from
1 July 2003 when the two Eastern European countries plan to
introduce visas for Russians.

On 18 September 2002, the Commission
proposed a package of measures to ease transit between
Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad after the EU
enlarges to Lithuania and Poland. Measures include a
special transit document for Kaliningrad, non-stop
high-speed trains for visa-free travel and opening
discussion on a long-term goal of visa-free travel between
Russia and the EU (for details of the proposal see

EURACTIV, 19
September 2002

).

 

The Kaliningrad issue will be re-examined at the External
Relations Council in Luxembourg on 21-22 October and is
expected to be resolved by the EU Heads of States and
Governments at the European Council in Brussels on 24-25
October.

Moscow would like to reach an agreement
on Kaliningrad before the EU-Russia Summit in Copenhagen on
11 November.

 

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