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Transit Kaliningrad - Russian mainland: proposals and implementation

This Communication takes stock of the discussions held between the European Union (EU) and Russia concerning the transit of persons and goods to and from Kaliningrad oblast. It also contains a set of recommendations regarding the EU's position on this subject.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council of 18 September 2002 - Kaliningrad: Transit [COM (2002) 510 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This Communication takes stock of the discussions held between the European Union (EU) and Russia concerning the transit of persons and goods to and from Kaliningrad oblast. It does not cover small border traffic since this issue is not specific to the situation of Kaliningrad.

Assessment

On the key political issue, movement of people, the Schengen acquis is based on the principle that the EU's security can best be protected if persons transiting through the territory of EU Member States provide adequate documentation. The visa requirement for Russian citizens will remain as long as Russia appears on the list of third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders of the Member States of the EU.

In addition to the flexibilities set out in the "Common Line" * (cheap or free multiple-entry transit visas), the Commission believes that issuing a special transit document ("Facilitated Transit Document") should be considered. The document would be deemed equivalent to a multiple-entry transit visa for bona-fide persons who are Russia citizens travelling frequently and directly between Kaliningrad and the Russian mainland. Lists of frequent travellers could be provided in advance by the Russian authorities. The Document would then be issued at low cost or free of charge by the consulates of the candidate countries concerned.

The Commission is willing to study further the feasibility of visa exemption for passengers on non-stop trains. The security of these trains would require that they travel at sufficiently high speed, and that the coaches are so constructed, as to prevent passengers from leaving the train without the permission of the Lithuanian authorities.

The introduction of the Facilitated Transit Document would require:

  • the full cooperation of the candidate countries and adequate administrative and financial support from the European Commission;
  • the full cooperation of Russia, especially regarding:
  • the establishment of new consulates;
  • the provision of lists of Russian citizens considered eligible for the "Facilitated Transit Document";
  • the readmission of overstayers by way of the conclusion and implementation of a readmission agreement and the ratification of the border agreement with Lithuania;
  • acceleration of the procedure for issuance of international passports to its citizens within a fixed timetable. During a short transitional period, internal Russian passports could be accepted in conjunction with visas/Facilitated Transit Documents.

The EU would need to guarantee to the candidate countries that their acceptance, and implementation, of the above flexibilities would not in itself create any risk of delay in lifting internal border controls, i.e. full integration into the Schengen area.

The Commission recommends that the EU's position be based on the following package of measures in addition to what has already been set out in the Common Line of 13 May 2001:

  • a "Facilitated Transit Document" could be issued by consular authorities in EU or candidate countries to Russian citizens travelling by road or rail. This would assume Russian cooperation in quickly agreeing to the establishment of new consulates requested by Lithuania;
  • the Facilitated Transit Document would not be issued at the border;
  • the EU should examine the Russian proposal to open discussions on defining the conditions necessary for the eventual establishment of a visa-free travel regime;
  • solutions to the problem of movement of people and goods should be paralleled by broader cooperation regarding the future of the Kaliningrad region.

Background

The Seville European Council invited the Commission to submit an additional study on the possibilities for a solution to the transit of persons and goods to and from Kaliningrad. This Communication is the Commission's response on this issue.

Key terms used in the act
  • Common Line: The Common Line agreed by the General Affairs Council on 13 May 2002 (document 8304/02) sets out the basic positions of the Schengen acquis and provides for flexibilities including: issue of multiple-entry visas which could be valid for a substantial period of time. These include favourable treatment for certain professionals such as lorry drivers and could be issued on a case by case basis; before the lifting of internal border controls, flexibility on visa fees; visa exemption for certain categories of persons (e.g. holders of diplomatic and service passports and air and sea crew members).
  • FRTD: Facilitated Rail Transit Document
  • FTD: Facilitated Transit Document

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission of 22 December 2006 on the functioning of the facilitated transit for persons between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation [COM (2006) 840 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The Commission is pleased that, three years after its entry into force, the facilitated transit system is running smoothly and both partners are satisfied with the implementation. The FTD/FRTD system * seems also to fulfil the requirements of the Schengen acquis, as no illegal immigration under this scheme has been noted.

Therefore the Commission sees no need to change the system. In a long-term perspective, the facilitated transit regime will depend on the future development of visa policy arrangements between the EU and Russia.

The Commission will continue to support the transit scheme financially through the External Borders Fund.

Two points still await further examination:

  • The FRTD * is affixed on a separate form and not as required by Regulation (EC) No 693/2003 in the passport of the person travelling. As a consequence, there is no way of checking whether the FRTD is used for a single return trip or frequent trips. The correct application would also enhance requests for FTDs * as they can be obtained for multiple trips at the cost of EUR 5 (frequent traveller);
  • the question of shortening border control formalities could be discussed further on a bilateral basis if Lithuanian, Russian and Belarusian authorities are interested. Two possibilities appear feasible:
  • firstly, instead of two stops (one on each side of the border) to have only one stop at each border. Border authorities of both countries would carry out their controls simultaneously;
  • secondly, provide for an arrangement where both sides carry out their controls while the train is travelling.
 
Last updated: 22.05.2007
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