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Russia: Foundation Urges Poland To Improve Kaliningrad Ties

  • Bogdan Turek

Warsaw, 25 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A report issued by the Poland-based Stefan Batory Foundation urges Poland and the European Union to establish closer relations with the Kaliningrad exclave.

The foundation's Jakub Boratynski told reporters today in Warsaw that Poland, as a future member of the EU, should have a "more dynamic" policy toward Eastern Europe, particularly with respect to the Russian exclave, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

Boratynski said this policy would help break what he said was Poland's image in the West of being "anti-Russian" and too "pro-Ukraine."

Boratynski said better relations with Kaliningrad are of key significance for Poland, Lithuania, and the EU.

In the eight-page report released today, the foundation said an impediment to better contacts with Kaliningrad is that Moscow's policy toward the exclave is "unclear."

It said free trade zones there created by Moscow are a" fiasco" because the business regulations are changed too frequently.

The report said that in the coming years, one should not expect changes in Russia -- or in Kaliningrad -- that would enable business activities to be conducted in accordance with EU standards.

The report proposed trying to form what it calls a "friendly-neighbor area" east of Poland, after Poland and Lithuania join the EU sometime in the coming years. The residents of the Kaliningrad region would then be allowed to travel freely to neighboring countries -- Poland and Lithuania -- and have easier access to visas for all the Schengen convention countries.

The report acknowledged that the EU would have to approve of any special travel privileges.

The report said any inclusion of the Kaliningrad region into a wider European framework would take at least a decade to achieve. It would also help to improve relations with Belarus.

The report said the process of including Kaliningrad within a wider European framework would help balance the ties of the region with the East, and would help prepare the exclave to fulfill its role as a Russian window to a united Europe.

The Batory Foundation was formed in 1988 by U.S. financier George Soros to promote cooperation among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The foundation has offices in 31 countries.