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Transit from/to Kaliningrad Region

 

The Kaliningrad region, the most western part of the Russian Federation, originated in the aftermath of the Second World War. It was an outcome of the Potsdam Agreement 1945 concluded by the three then superpowers: USA, the Soviet Union and Great Britain. According to this Agreement, a formerly German southern part of East Prussia was ceded to Poland, whereas the northern part was incorporated into the USSR in 1946.

 

The city of Königsberg (Karaliaučius in Lithuanian, founded in 1255) was chosen as the administrative centre and renamed into Kaliningrad. As the three Baltic States regained independence, the Kaliningrad region became an exclave separated from the rest of Russia by other states and the Baltic Sea (the distance from Kaliningrad to the border with Poland and Lithuania is respectively 35 and 70 km; the closest city of mainland Russia Pskov is 800 km away).

 

 

Kaliningrad region today

 

Area

 

15,100 km² (including the Russian part of the Curonian Lagoon and the Vistula Lagoon; one of the smallest Russian territories)

Population

 

955,200 (2002 census data)

Density

 

63 people/km² (third among Russian regions, overall average of Russia is 8.6 people/km²)

Ethnic composition

 

78.1% Russian, 7.7% Belorussian, 7.6% Ukrainian, 1.9% Lithuanian, 0.8% Armenian, 0.6% German, 0.5% Polish

Borders

 

the Republic of Lithuania (280.5 km), Republic of Poland (231.98 km), the Baltic Sea (183.56 km)

Biggest cities/towns    

 

Kaliningrad (430,300 inhabitants)

Sovetsk (historic Lithuanian name - Tilžė, German name - Tilsit; 43,600 inhabitants)

Cherniakhovsk (former Įsrutis, German name - Insterburg; 43,300)

Baltiysk (former Piliava, Pillau in German; 31,300)

Gusev (former Gumbinė, Gumbinnen in German; 28,100)

80% of all inhabitants live in towns.

Natural resources

 

The region hosts world’s largest resources of amber (90% of total global resources). Approximately 0.8-0.9 million tons is mined every year (a full capacity could be up to 1.5-2.0 million tons). The region also possesses deposits of oil, coal (1.5 million tons), peat (approx. 3 billion m³), and rock-salt.

Economy

 

Kaliningrad is the only ice-free Russian sea port on the Baltic Sea coast. Fisheries, machinery, fuel, cellulose, paper and foodstuffs industries are at the basis of the Kaliningrad region economy. In order to stimulate the socio-economic development of the region and cooperation with foreign countries that would attract foreign capital and increase the living standards, the region has been designated as a “special economic zone” (SEZ). In 2004, 2189 enterprises of foreign capital, subsidiaries or representations of foreign enterprises were registered. The capital of these enterprises in total amounted to approx. 2.1 billion roubles (61.11 million euros). Most joint capital enterprises have been opened together with Lithuania (603), Poland (568) and Germany (358). The Kaliningrad region attracts Lithuanian investors due to its favourite business climate, proximity of the market and cheaper workforce.

 

 

Transit conditions

 

Due to its geopolitical situation, the Kaliningrad region has long posed considerable difficulties to Lithuania. Since the re-establishment of independence, Lithuania’s statehood had to endure a great challenge – handling the military and civil transit from/to the Kaliningrad region through Lithuanian territory.

 

Later, debates arose if Russian military transit would be compatible with Lithuania’s membership in NATO. The issue of the relationship between the Kaliningrad region and Lithuania also came about in the context of the European Union enlargement. Although initially Russia raised an array of issues that might have had a significant impact on the Kaliningrad region during the EU enlargement (problems of region’s economic and social development, trade, etc.), in the long run, it basically focussed on the problem of the civil transit. Russia’s choice to raise the issue of transit to/from Kaliningrad was determined by political motives.

 

Since 1995, the transit of Russian citizens through the Lithuanian territory was regulated by the Provisional Agreement on Travel of Citizens. This agreement had been annually renewed by both parties until 2003. The agreement allowed Russian citizens with permanent residence in the Kaliningrad region to travel through Lithuania without a visa and stay in its territory up to 30 days. Nor were visas required from Russian citizens travelling by train from Russia to Kaliningrad through the Lithuanian territory and back. Likewise, Lithuanians were provided with visa-free entry to the Kaliningrad region.

 

However, according to the common EU procedure, i.e. the Schengen Treaty, Russian citizens needed a visa to cross the border of an EU state. The Protocol integrating the Schengen acquis into the framework of the European Union (the Treaty of Amsterdam) established that the implementation of the Schengen acquis is compulsory for the candidate states aspiring for EU membership. Thus, Lithuania had to change the existing procedure.

 

Administration of the Kaliningrad region

 

 

Lithuania’s accession negotiations

 

The issue of transit to/from Kaliningrad actively raised by Russia from 1999 onwards was a problem specific to Lithuania’s accession negotiations (as well as the decommissioning of the Ignalina nuclear power plant). At the beginning of the discussions Russia claimed right to passageways not only through the territory of Lithuania, but also Poland and Latvia. However, in the end, the issue was being discussed only in Lithuania’s accession negotiations.

 

This question was not typical; it did not concern only the EU and the candidate state. Thus a double format was being used in the negotiations: Lithuania-EU (according to the Treaty of Accession to the EU) and EU–Russia (according to the Treaty of Partnership and Cooperation). Lithuania took part in the EU-Russia negotiations format as a future EU member.

 

In the course of negotiations, especially in the EU-Russia format, a certain tension was felt in Lithuania for the fear of a „political decision“ by the EU, when Russia would get considerable concessions and Lithuania’s chances of joining the Schengen Area would thus be diminished. Considering the strong dependence of some of the older EU member states on Russian energy resources, the possibility that Russia would link the supply of natural gas and oil to Western Europe to the question of transit to/from Kaliningrad could not be ignored. The issue was of great importance to Russia; it had symbolic significance (especially in the domestic affairs) as the solution of this problem was related to power and prestige.

 

 

Results of the negotiations

 

However, in late 2002, both parties in the EU-Russia negotiations made significant concessions and it was decided that facilitated transit documents were a medium solution to the problem. The final agreement on the Kaliningrad issue in the EU-Russia format was reached on 11 November 2002, when Russia and the EU signed the Joint Statement on Transit between the Kaliningrad Region and the Rest of the Russian Federation.

 

This agreement established Facilitated Transit Document (FTD) and Facilitated Rail Transit Document (FRTD). According to this statement, Russian citizens travelling frequently to/from the Kaliningrad region through the Lithuanian territory were to be issued with an FTD in the consular offices of Lithuania; while an FRTD was designated for the Russian citizens travelling to/from the Kaliningrad region through the Lithuanian territory by train.

 

Lithuania-EU negotiations concerning Kaliningrad were attributed to the Justice and Home Affairs chapter of the Lithuania’s accession negotiations. The negotiations were concluded in April 2002. According to the agreement reached Lithuania has pledged to harmonize its visa policy with the acquis, to introduce a visa regime for the Russian citizens travelling to/from the Kaliningrad region from 1 July 2003, to ensure proper control of the future eastern border of the EU, and to implement the National Action Plan for the Adoption of the Schengen Acquis.

 

The agreements reached in both formats of the negotiations were reflected in the Protocol No. 5 on the transit of persons by land between the region of Kaliningrad and other parts of the Russian Federation of Lithuania’s Accession Treaty signed in Athens on 16 April 2003. The protocol established guarantees for Lithuania that Community’s rules and arrangements applied in the case of Kaliningrad would not impede Lithuania’s timely accession to the Schengen system. According to this protocol, EU also pledged assistance to Lithuania to implement the rules of the transit of persons to/from Kaliningrad by, first of all, covering any additional costs incurred by implementing the specific provisions of the acquis concerning the Kaliningrad transit.

 

In conclusion, it can be stated that Lithuania’s negotiations were a success. Lithuania safeguarded its main interests and initial positions both in the EU-Lithuania and EU-Russia format. The main achievement was the guarantee that FTD and FRTD would not impinge on Lithuania’s membership in the Schengen Area. Moreover, Lithuania succeeded in securing EU funding required for the introduction of FTD and FRTD.

 

 

Prospects

 

The agreed transit procedure was successfully implemented when Lithuania entered the EU. Having finished the negotiations, Russia declared that the achieved result was provisional and that it would later seek for further facilities with respect to the movement to/from the Kaliningrad region. As to the prospects of FTD ir FRTD regulation, the situation might change in the future in the case of two occurrences: firstly, if the EU abolishes visas for Russian citizens (although this possibility is expressed rhetorically both in the EU and Russian positions, it is quite distant and uncertain); secondly, if the idea of fast trains through the Lithuanian territory is realized (however, it is also hardly feasible because of the huge investment needed for this purpose). Therefore, it is not likely that the existing procedure will be changed any time soon, as it satisfies all the parties, and Lithuania does not receive any rebukes from Russia for the way the FTD and FRTD are administered.

 

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