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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Kaliningrad snag in EU summit
Kaliningrad border post
The Kaliningrad issue is a matter of pride for Russia

The European Union summit in Seville is to discuss on Friday the dispute with Russia over travel to and from Russia proper to the enclave of Kaliningrad.

The enclave will find itself behind the EU's borders when its neighbours Poland and Lithuania join the union.

Map showing Kaliningrad
Moscow has rejected the European Union's proposal that Kaliningrad citizens obtain EU visas to travel, calling the idea "insulting".

The issue has become a matter of pride for Russia, although Kaliningrad itself is doing its best to persuade the EU that its economy and border security are improving so that Brussels need not fear illegal immigration or crime from across the border.

So while blunt words are exchanged between Moscow and the EU, some officials in Kaliningrad are going on a charm offensive instead.

They do not know whether President Putin's impassioned declarations that Russia will never accept its citizens having to obtain visas to travel to and from one part of Russia to another will have any effect on Brussels.

People such as Silvia Gurova, Kaliningrad city's deputy mayor, are trying to show that this tiny enclave will be a reliable neighbour for the EU and not a source of economic migrants.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
"Insult": Putin rejects EU visas for Kaliningrad residents

She says the region's image abroad has been unfairly tarnished by its previous social problems, as well as the petty smugglers who ply their trade across the Polish border.

But the deputy mayor implores the EU to look at how far Kaliningrad has come over the past 10 years, since it was declared a free economic zone.

"The idea was to make ourselves a gateway to the huge Russian market," she says.

Out in the cold

"I would say that we were probably too ambitious - at the beginning of the '90s the idea was to make ourselves a Hong Kong on the Baltic.

"I don't think it worked to that extent, but nevertheless it really helped us to survive.

"We still have more than 3,000 joint ventures registered in the region.

Ms Gurova is optimistic that Kaliningrad can do even better in attracting business and creating jobs.

The German car firm BMW already has an assembly plant here, as well as many lesser known firms.

She and others in Kaliningrad describe themselves as Russian Europeans and say they do not want their region to be left in the cold by the visa dispute, when they are doing all they can to make Kaliningrad a better neighbour.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | Europe
30 May 02 | Media reports
15 Feb 01 | Europe
01 Feb 02 | Europe
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