Kalinigrad or Knisberg, a closed military zone after the World War II up to the fall of the USSR, has become one of the main points of co-operation between the Russian Federation and the European Union. European relations with this highly populated part of Russia (the Kalinigrad region has approximately 1 million inhabitants), which is also an enclave in the European Union as of May 1st 2004, started a long time ago. Since 1991, the European Union has made a large financial commitment to Kaliningrad, providing roughly €40 million directly in Tacis assistance under the Russia National Programme. The Partnership & Cooperation Agreement (PCA) came into force in December 1997 for an initial period of ten years. This established bilateral relations in different branches between Russia and EU.
There were problems before EU membership, there are more to come…
All the money that Kaliningrad received from EU funds was for the development of its health and business spheres. The projects touching upon various problems focused on water quality on the borders with Lithuania and Poland, decreasing the level of organized crime, and reducing health risks. One of the most burning problems before the May 1st was transit and the quality of the borders with Lithuania and Poland. These problems remained and new ones appeared, something which the conference which took place in Kaliningrad showed. The head of the local authorities, Michael Cikel, met the head of the EU’s Comission in Russia, Richard Rait. In two weeks time he will return to Brussels and the entire two weeks will be dedicated to Kaliningrad region. At the conference the head of the international economic relations department, Viktor Romanovski, and the representative of Foreign affairs department, Sergey Bezbrezjev, were present. Both of them informed Mr. Rait on the topics that interested him. Among them were the impact of Lithuania’s membership on the socio-economic situation in Kaliningrad and a new version of the law concerning the problem of the special economic zone. The representative of the EU was told about the complicated and very expensive procedure of control for goods transported by rail on Latvia’s side, and about the falling stability of insurance guarantees in May, which were quite stable before. Mr. Rite pointed out that the problems of goods transit, which appeared after the establishment of the new laws, should be seriously discussed and fixed in new agreements.
There is no doubt that Kaliningrad will co–operate with the European Union. The question is whether it will not change the status of the local authorities that may gain greater independence and are at the present time getting more financial means to spare. Time will show the reaction of Russia’s state authorities to Kaliningrad’s problematic status as a territory cut off from Russia, surrounded and greatly influenced by the new members of the EU. On the other hand, there may appear a problem of some separatist tendencies. To cut a long story short, the European Union nowadays fully recognises that Kaliningrad is an integral part of the Russian Federation.