WARSAW, August 23 (Itar-Tass) —— The Polish Foreign Ministry will resume accepting applications for visa-free border crossing by residents of the neighbouring Kaliningrad region of Russia under the inter-governmental agreement on cross-border travel.
The Polish Consulate General in Kaliningrad is operating as usual and has received 2,600 requests and issued 2,200 permits up to date.
The ministry plans to start issuing the first cards for visa-free border crossing on August 24, a week sooner than was scheduled. The average waiting time is 30 days and maximum period is 60 days.
On August 21, the Polish Consulate General in Kaliningrad stopped accepting applications for visa-free border crossing.
Russia ratified the agreement with Poland on a simplified border crossing procedure between the neighbouring regions of the two countries in June of this year. The agreement entered into force on July 27.
According to the agreement, residents of Russia’s Kaliningrad region will be able to cross into Poland and Polish citizens into the Russian region using special permits to be issued by the consulates of the two countries.
The Russian-Polish agreement on local cross-border trips will pave the way to visa free travel between Russia and the European Union, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said earlier.
“Warsaw supports cooperation between Russia and the European Union. To Poland Russia is the second largest trade partner after Germany. We hope that the agreement on local cross-border trips will facilitate the speediest introduction of visa-free travel between Russia and the EU,” Sikorski said.
He recalled that Poland has a similar agreement with Ukraine as well.
The Russian and Polish governments signed the agreement on December 14, 2012, in Moscow. The document covers Russia’s Kaliningrad region and adjacent regions of Poland.
The Kaliningrad region is a Russian enclave in the European Union and borders on Lithuania and Poland, having no direct connection with Russia. This has created problems for the region's communication with the rest of the country over the past 20 years. At the same time, it has become a testing range where Russia and the EU can try out their approaches to visa-free travel planned for the future.
Visa-free travel for the residents of Russia's westernmost Kaliningrad region will help boost cooperation between Europe and Russia, Sikorski said back then.
“It is in the interests of Poland that the Kaliningrad region to become a gateway to Russia for the EU and a trade gateway to stronger ties with the European Union for Russia,” the minister said.