More Russians get visa-free travelling
The local visa-free zone between Kaliningrad and parts of Northeast Poland will come into force on 27 July and give facilitated cross-border traveling for more than four million people.
The Local Border Traffic Agreement between Russia and Poland will come into force on 27 July, Russian Ambassador to Poland Aleksandr Alekseev told RIA Novosti. Unique in its kind, the agreement covers all of Kaliningrad Oblast and major parts of the Polish Pomeranian and Warmian-Masurian voivodships, including the cities of Gdansk and Olsztyn.
The Russian and Polish sides on Wednesday this week exchanged ratification documents on the agreement.
The deal is based on several elements from the similar Russian-Norwegian agreement, which came into force in late May this year, diplomats say.
Permanent residents in the area will be entitled to cross the border without visas, but with special border permits. They will be allowed to stay in the neighboring country up to 30 days at the time and up to 90 days in the course of half a year.
As previously reported, the Russian-Polish deal was announced last year at the European Border Dialogue Forum in Kaliningrad (Russia) and Elblag (Poland) in November 2011.
However, the deal is controversial. While the Schengen regulations allow for the establishment of local border traffic zones only in a 30 km, and in exceptional cases 50 km, radius from the border, the new Polish-Russian zone stretches over a several hundred kilometer long territory and includes several million people. Still, the agreement will not set presence for other regions, Polish Foreign Ministry representative Pawel Cieplak argues. Talking at the Border Dialogue Forum, he maintained that an amendment will be made to the Schengen legislation, which put the Kaliningrad region in special position in all of Europe.
The Russian-Polish agreement will make it easier for people in the area to cross the border. However, the bigger number of border-crossers will increase pressure on the border infrastructure, including the border stations. Talking to BarentsObserver, Aleksei Ignatiev, leader of the Kaliningrad Regional Economic Development Agency, says endless waiting times at the checkpoints can be expected unless the border-crossing systems are improved.