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WARSAW, August 27 (Itar-Tass) — Nearly two thousand Poles have applied for permits for visa-free entry to Russia’s Kaliningrad region a month after the inter-governmental agreement on cross-border travel became effective.
“During this period we have accepted 1,924 sets of documents and issued 1,396 permits,” Russian Consul General Sergei Puchkov told Itar-Tass on Monday, August 27.
“The main purpose of the trips stated in the application is tourism, which is 70 percent of cases, economic ties 20 percent and the remaining 10 percent are other reasons, including family relations,” he said.
According to the diplomat, Poles show big interest in the new opportunities. “There are days when as many as 200 people come here. There are no queues. Permits are issued for 10 days. We work together with visa centres in Gdansk and Olsztyn, which get about a half of applications. We are prepared well and experience no problems,” the diplomat said.
The Polish Consulate General in Kaliningrad is operating as usual and has received over 2,600 requests and issued over 2,200 permits up to date.
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.