Tuesday, March 31, 2009

EU and I. Part II.

European Commission
Directorate General for External Relations
Gunnar Wiegand

Dear Mr. Vasiliev,
  I am writing in response to the message that you sent on 28 October to
President Barroso. I regret the delay in replying caused by the need to
investigate the facts of the matter. I would like to assure you that
the possibility for residents of the Kaliningrad region to travel as freely
as possible is high on our agenda. It is a major part of the EU's
strategy to make Kaliningrad a successful region of the Russian
Federation and positive example of cooperation between the EU and
Russia. That success depends to a large extent on a degree of
integration of Kaliningrad with neighbouring regions of the EU and
Baltic region in general.
   We are aware that the combined effects of the Visa Facilitation
Agreement between the European Union and the Russian Federation as well
as the accession of Poland and Lithuania to Schengen have had some
negative consequences for the residents of Kaliningrad (while
undoubtedly visa facilitation has improved the situation for other
citizens of Russia).
   That is why the Commission has pointed to a number of possibilities
that exist to ease the burden for those who travel from the Kaliningrad
region to Lithuania and Poland. Firstly, these are the broad categories
of persons who benefit from the waiving of the visa fee under the Visa
Facilitation Agreement. Secondly, it is possible to issue more
frequently multiple entry visas, valid for a period of one year, up to
a maximum of five years (such visas will be for all the Schengen zone
not, as before, only to Lithuania or Poland). Thirdly, since 1st January
2007, the visa fee is fully waived for children under six years,
students and accompanying teachers travelling for educational purposes
and researchers fulfilling certain conditions.
The Schengen "acquis" also provides for the possibility for Member
States to waive or reduce the visa fee in individual cases, when this
measure serves the promotion of cultural interests, foreign policy,
development policy or other areas of vital public interest or for
humanitarian reasons.
  The Commission has encouraged the Russian Federation, Poland and
Lithuania to negotiate bilateral agreements on local border traffic
which would enable residents living close to the border to cross
without a visa. As we understand there is an intention to negotiate such
agreements in the future.
  I hope you will find this information useful. I wish you all success in
your endeavours.

Gunnar Wiegand
Acting Director Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, Central Asian Republics
Head of Unit for Relations with Russia, Northern Dimension Policy and
Nuclear Safety
European Commission
Directorate General for External Relations
Thu, 10 Apr 2008

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Baltic Republican Party

 On photo, Sergei Pasko (right) and Rustam Vasilev.

The Baltic Republican Party in Kaliningrad renamed the Kaliningrad Public Movement-Respublika.
The Baltic Republican Party (BRP) was founded in 1992, leader Sergei Pasko. Authorities shut down the BRP on 27 October 2002.
The BRP contested court decisions based on the Russian law on political parties, which requires parties to have a minimum of 50,000 members and active branches in half of Russia's regions in order to be registered. In February 2005, ruling on the complaint brought forward by the BRP, the Russian Constitutional Court confirmed the validity of the law on political parties. According to the ruling, all parties that did not meet the minimum requirements would have to "self-disolve by January 1, 2006, or transform into public associations".
The BRP's main goal was to make Kaliningrad larger autonomy within Russia or special international legal status which gives the ability to negotiate its trade deals with the EU and to regulate its own commercial affairs. Many people from Kaliningrad supporting this idea.
The BRP leader suggested that immigration should be controlled by local authorities in Kaliningrad and that dual citizenship (Russian and EU) should be granted to the inhabitants of Kaliningrad.
The leader of the BRP told the Wall Street Journal in February 2003 that: "Kaliningrad will be a partly independent state in connection with the Russian Federation, but we hope to be a subject of the EU as well".
Kaliningrad should become an autonomous region within Russia, but which would bring its laws in line with EU standards.
BRP had collected signatures from residents in favour of the city of Kaliningrad going back to its previous name of Koenigsberg.

The Kaliningrad Public Movement-Respublika.
"Respublika Kaliningrad Public Movement" was created in February 2005 by Sergei Pasko, chairman of the banned Baltic Republican Party and president of the Kaliningrad Entrepreneurs Union.
The main goal of the movement is to obtain international status permitting "independent relations with the European Union, while retaining associate membership of the Russian Federation".
Sergei Pasko had declared to the russian newspaper "Kommersant": "Respublika is not the BRP. There is interaction, but not more. We have shifted to the higher level – we are preparing a legal basis".
The new movement's flag is orange and contains the words "KOD Respublika" (Kaliningrad Public Movement Republic, in Russian).