Introduction of Visa Regime by Poland and Lithuania Will Lead to Economic Crisis in Kaliningrad Region

The introduction by Poland and Lithuania of a visa regime for Russian citizens traveling between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia will lead to the stagnation of Kaliningrad's economy and will aggravate those social problems that the EU is so afraid of catching. This opinion was put forward yesterday at a press conference in Kaliningrad by regional governor Vladimir Yegorov and Alexander Sakanov, the chief federal inspector of the Presidential Plenipotentiary for the Northwest Federal District's staff.

A large group of journalists from leading Western media organisations has arrived in Kaliningrad to get acquainted with the problems which are springing up in the region in connection with Poland and Lithuania's forthcoming entry into the EU and the intention to introduce a visa regime for travel to the rest of Russia.

During the press conference Yegorov and Sakanov emphasised that the majority of negative social phenomena are the result of the economic situation. They claimed that over the last two years the region's economic production has been growing rapidly, and that this year alone growth exceeded 19%. Against this background there has been a clear fall in crime, drug use and serious diseases. The statistics for these are now lower than in Russia as a whole or in Poland and Lithuania. According to the governor and the chief federal inspector, the isolation of the region by a visa regime will complicate economic ties not only with Russia's other regions and neighbouring countries, but also with over 180 states that work with Kaliningrad.

According to Yegorov, estimates suggest that it will cause a loss of USD 1.5 billion for Russia's Baltic enclave and will lead to a sharp fall in the standard of living of almost one million people. As a result there will be 'an increase in social ills wanted neither by Russia nor Europe'. 'Unfortunately, officials in the EU either don't understand or don't want to understand this and have rejected all Russian initiatives, stubbornly insisting on the limitation of free movement of people and goods between the Kaliningrad Region and the rest of Russia,' said Yegorov.

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