Vladimir Putin Proposes Reciprocal Visa-Free Regime for Russians Entering EU

Russian President Vladimir Putin has written to the Chairman of the European Commission and to the heads of EU member states about the Kaliningrad Region's economic survival in the light of EU expansion.

According to the President's press office, the letters note that Russia will consequently strive for a deepening of cooperation with EU countries, a cooperation 'which is slowly taking on the characteristics of a strategic partnership'. The main aim of this is to turn Europe into an undivided continent, which 'implies Russia's deep integration into the European economic, legal and humanitarian landscape'. The President's letters note that 'further development of this process requires reciprocal freedom of movement for Russian and EU citizens'.

In this context of 'Russia's European choice, of pan-European security and cooperation', Vladimir Putin is proposing to examine the issue of free movement of people and freight between the Kaliningrad Region and the rest of Russia. The President is convinced that 'rapidly reaching a mutually acceptable agreement on this point will provide a new political impulse to relations between Russia and the EU, and will raise them to a higher level'. For this reason he proposed that the heads of EU states look at Russia's new integration initiative, which foresees the realisation of an ambitious goal: a future change to a reciprocal visa-free regime for Russian and EU citizens. 'In expressing its readiness to engage in constructive cooperation to achieve this aim, Russia is counting on its national interests being taken fully into account. These concern free movement to and from a federal region which will soon find itself within the territory of the EU. This extremely important political question will define not only the conditions of everyday life in the Kaliningrad Region, which is an integral part of the Russian Federation, but to a large extent also the future direction of relations between our country and the expanding EU,' the letters go on to state.

In conclusion, the President expresses the hope that 'joint efforts will find a mutually acceptable agreement on the Kaliningrad problem' in time for the November summit between Russia and the EU in Copenhagen.

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