20th Jan 2022

Solution on Kaliningrad found ahead of EU-Russia summit

Russia and the EU have found a compromise in principle concerning Kaliningrad, Russia's Baltic enclave which is to be surrounded by Schengen territory when Lithuania and Poland join the EU. The deal would enable Russian citizens to travel through Lithuanian territory, using transit documents. A special document would also be available for rail travel, sources told the EUobserver.

Lithuania and Poland are striving to join the EU as early as 2004 and so Russian citizens wishing to travel between Kaliningrad and mainland Russia will be required to go through the Schengen area.

Secret meeting in Brussels

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Both Lithuania and Poland are to impose a visa regime for Russians as required by the EU. Moscow objects to the proposal that visas be necessary for its citizens travelling from one part of the territory to another. This week, after a secret meeting in Brussels, both sides appear to have agreed upon a final solution, making a joint statement at the EU-Russia summit scheduled for next week likely.

A draft EU-Russian joint statement, seen by the EUobserver states that Russians may apply for a facilitated transit document (FTD) for multiple trips only between Kaliningrad and the other parts of the federation. The FTD, will be granted instead of ordinary visas, and will be valid for direct transit, by land, for a limited time. The EU had previously insisted that a visa regime would be necessary for travelling within the Schengen area.

Fast non-stop trains seems to be dropped

An additional facilitated procedure was also agreed for rail travel. Russian passengers’ personal data would be collected when buying a ticket and forwarded to Lithuanian authorities who maintain the right to refuse entry into its territory for any person on the list. An idea for establishing fast non-stop trains through Lithuanian territory looks like being dropped, sources said. Earlier Russian officials had expected to reach a provisional deal on the issue and hoped to introduce a visa-free regime in the near future.

Development of energy co-operation

Other issues to be touched on at the EU-Russia summit, to be held in Brussels on Monday, are the development of energy co-operation as well as fight against the terrorism. As decided by EU ministers this week, Russia will be granted a market economy status, set to improve Russia's entrepreneurs position vis-à-vis the EU single market. However, as a non WTO member, Moscow so far has no chance to enhance economic co-operation by joining the European Economic Area.

A Commission spokesman refused to comment on the shape of any possible agreement.


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