EU reconsidering its approach to Kaliningrad problem

The EU seems to be reconsidering its approach to introducing a visa regime for the inhabitants of the Kaliningrad region, Russia's enclave in the Baltic, reported the German newspaper Handelsblatt, referring to the European Commission experts.

"We have to find a decision which will not contain the word 'visa', but which will have the judicial properties of a visa," one of the experts said on Monday.

He believes that the future document may be called "a transit permission" or "a pass". The newspaper also quotes "a Russian diplomat, responsible for relations with the EU", who believes that "the search of the decision could go in this direction".

When touching upon the opinion of French president Jacques Chirac about the unacceptability of the visa regime for Kaliningrad citizens in their trips via the EU territory to other regions of Russia, Handelsblatt writes that the comments of the EU Commission boiled down to the statements that Chirac "exposed our real intentions" and that the EU "wants a pragmatic solution" to the problem.

Yet the meeting of high ranking Russian and EU officials, scheduled for Wednesday, July 24th, is unlikely to end in an agreement, the newspaper stresses. The main goal is still to find a decision before December, 2002, when negotiations on admitting new countries to the EU will be over. The EU Commission which is currently negotiating with Moscow intends to submit its official proposals to the Russian government only in September.

Meanwhile, the EU is rendering financial assistance to moves in Kaliningrad meant to improve the control on the borders of the future Russian enclave, in particular in producing passports with a higher protection against falsification, according to Handelsblatt.