21st Jul 2019

Lithuania fears delayed entry into Schengen

  • Lithuania will be introducing visas for Russian citizens as from 1 January 2003, and stressed that plans for a visa-free train between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad, passing via Lithuania, should be considered only after Lithuania's entry into the EU. (Photo: EUobserver)

Lithuania fears that the issue on Kaliningrad may delay its full participation in the Schengen border agreement, and maintains that it will not introduce the Facilitated Transit Document,serving the same purpose as a multi-entry visa, for Russian citizens if all the other EU states do not do the same. In a meeting at the European Parliament on Tuesday between delegations from the Parliaments of the Russian Federation, Poland, Lithuania and the European Parliament, no agreement was reached on the issue of visa-free travelling. However it was agreed that a technical parliamentary working group should be set up to study this issue.

Kaliningrad, the small Russian enclave will be surrounded by EU territory once Lithuania and Poland join the EU in 2004. However, the entry into Schengen for the new EU states is not likely to occur before 2006.

Poland: up to Lithuania to make the final decision

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Although Poland is not going to be directly effected by the transit issue, since transit will only take place through Lithuania, "Poland is interested in the arrangements which are going to be reached," Marek Borowski said, Marshal of the Polish Sejm. "We are also interested in supporting Lithuania in implementing measures not to delay the Polish and Lithuanian entry in Schengen," he said. "It is up to Lithuania to make the final decision." Marek Borowski also said Poland and Lithuania might be more favourable to such visa-free trains if the EU gave them a firm date for their accession to the Schengen zone.

Lithuania does not want different entry agreements for Russian citizens

Lithuania will be introducing visas for Russian citizens as from 1 January 2003, and stressed that plans for a visa-free train between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad, passing via Lithuania, should be considered only after Lithuania's entry into the EU. Although Lithuania is supporting the idea on the Facilitated Transit Document (FTD) proposed by the European Commission, it said that "it has to be applied horizontally". "We do not want to create a precedent only for Lithuania," Arturas Paulauskas said, President of the Lithuanian Seimas.

"We are ready to discuss the issue of visa-free travelling but we want first the formal position of the EU and Schengen area. Any other consideration will lead to hesitation. We don't want to slow down our accession to Schengen. It is not acceptable for Lithuania to tie up the Kaliningrad issue to the border treaty ratification," he said.

Russia maintains visa-free travelling position

Russia on the other hand finds the FTD unacceptable and insists on visa-free travelling between the two parts of the country. Russia also rejected a European Parliament proposal for an air link between Kaliningrad and Moscow and Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg, on the grounds that it is "too expensive". They also see the possibility of travelling by sea as "limited". "The most feasible option is travelling from land," Sergey Mironov said, President of the Russian Council.

The "Special Meeting on Kaliningrad" did not aim to reach a solution but rather to exchange views. "We came without mandate," EP President Pat Cox said, "but we came to listen and share perspectives." President Cox said that emphasis should be placed on practical and pragmatic solutions, stressing that besides focusing on the EU enlargement process, the EU-Russia relations should not be put aside.

The EU states, which will give the final position on this issue, will have to reach an agreement between them before facing Russia in the EU-Russia summit on 11 November. EU Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antanas Valionis, will pay a visit to Denmark today, where they will each have a meeting with Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller. The main topics for discussion will be the concluding phase of the accession negotiations and Kaliningrad.

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