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