Russia's Kaliningrad enclave to become part of EU and euro zone

Citizens of the Russian region might enjoy full rights of being Europeans

The status of the Kaliningrad region can be fundamentally revised in the near future. Ilya Klebanov, the presidential envoy in the North-West of Russia, stated last Friday that the Kaliningrad enclave would have to be granted the official status of a foreign territory. “The position on the matter is final,” the official added.

The special status of the Russian western enclave implies an adaptation of the regional law to the laws of the European Union. Furthermore, citizens of Western Europe will have a right to visit the region, which will eventually be included in the euro zone. However, making any final decisions regarding the fate of the Kaliningrad region is a matter of distant future, the Izvestia newspaper wrote.

The opportunity of a special status for the Russian enclave situated between Lithuania and Poland has been an object of discussion for several years already. Ilya Klebanov, the presidential envoy in Russia's North-West, visited Kaliningrad last week in connection with the forthcoming celebration of the city's 750th anniversary and conducted a session of an expert workgroup for the problem of the Kaliningrad region. The above-mentioned statement was made after the session was over.

”The Kaliningrad region will have to be granted the official status of a foreign territory. It is common world practice, which has given a good account of itself. The decisions that we have made during this session are final – we will have to continue working on the matter on the basis of these decisions,” Ilya Klebanov said.

According to the presidential envoy, recommendations of the expert council will soon be handed over to the Russian government and the administration of the president. The official did not announce any further details of the decision, although an Izvestia correspondent managed to find out, which aspects of the problem were put on the agenda of the session.

Officials discussed the possibility to pass a draft law “About the status of the Kaliningrad region as a foreign territory of the Russian Federation.” The draft law can be used as a base for preparing a framework agreement with the European Union. It is not ruled out that the Kaliningrad enclave will be included in the euro zone with all consequences that might arise for region's residents from the point of view of the living standard and the financial well-being.

Spokespeople for the regional executive authorities are ready to support the above-mentioned initiative.

”It is impossible to live inside Europe abiding by the Russian law only,” Kaliningrad's vice mayor for international affairs, Silvia Gurova said. “Vladimir Putin signed the document called “The strategy of relations between Russia and the EU” in 2001. The document particularly runs that the independence of the Russian legislation should be preserved in the Kaliningrad region, although the legislation should comply with the European reality as well. We need to synchronize the Russian and the European laws, in the field of economics and transit transportation first and foremost,” said she.

However, it is already clear that the variant of the Kaliningrad region's future as described by Ilya Klebanov will not receive a universal approval in the Russian society. According to Klebanov, the goal of the special status for the enclave is connected with the abolishment of the region's alienation from Russia – socially and politically. One can not say, though, how this objective might correspond with the plans to bring the Kaliningrad regional legislation in compliance with the European law, but not the Russian law. It is also not clear, how the improvement of the living standard in the region can eliminate the “social alienation” of the region from the main territory of the country – it will most likely happen vice versa.

”I do not understand, what a foreign territory means,” Minister for Economic Development and Trade, German Gref, said during his visit to Kaliningrad. “Kaliningrad cannot be a foreign territory of Russia, because it is a Russian territory. If they talk about a new kind of a legal regime, one has to understand what it goes about here first,” the minister concluded.

”It would be enough to pass a reasonable law about a special economic zone. That would simply brush aside the need of a special status for the region,” the speaker for the regional parliament, Vladimir Nikitin, believes.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has not released any comments on the matter yet.

France has several “foreign departments:” Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion, and French Guinea. Citizens of those territories enjoy full rights of French citizens. The USA has Puerto-Rico in the Caribbean, the Virginia Islands, and the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. Great Britain has 14 colonial and dependent territories, including the British Virginia Islands and the Folkland Islands.

Specialists say that any attempts to make Kaliningrad become a part of Europe will affect the level of prices in the region, especially on the real estate market. “Current real estate prices in Kaliningrad can be compared to the ones in St.Petersburg. If the region is recognized as a foreign territory, it will be possible to compare our prices with Moscow,” real estate agent Sergei Kuznetsov said.

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Author`s name Olga Savka