The Northern Dimension and Kaliningrad - European and Regional Integration by Jaakko Blomberg

Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland Copenhagen, 17 - 18 May 2000

The Conference on the Northern Dimension in Helsinki welcomed the evolving co-operation on Kaliningrad in connection with EU enlargement. This reflected the co-operative spirit of the Russian initiative at the Foreign Ministers troika in Bonn, May 1999.

The window of opportunity on Kaliningrad was confirmed by then Prime Minister Putin at the EU-Russia Summit in Helsinki last October. I would like to commend Denmark for rising to the occasion by taking the initiative to host this Conference.

The main responsibility for the future development of Kaliningrad lies with the Russian Federation and the region itself. The enlargement of the EU will not affect the status of the region as a subject and constituent part of the Russian Federation. The future of Kaliningrad is depends on the success of reforms launched by President Putin.

Kaliningrad enjoys a favourable geographic position which will become even more favourable the day it is surrounded by EU Member States. Geography does, however, mean less than ever before, due to globalisation and the emergence of the information society.

The key to Kaliningrad´s - or any other Russian region´s - success is in reforms which strengthen democracy and the rule of law and create a sound climate for investment and trade. The fight against crime, corruption and red tape are key elements also for Kaliningrad.

Foreign investors and other partners are confused as to the division of responsibilities among administrative levels in Russia, including the Kaliningrad oblast. We welcome attempts to introduce more clarity in this respect, in line with principles of good governance.

Kaliningrad will benefit from the EU enlargement in the Baltic Sea Region. Enlargement has already made candidate countries more attractive for investors. Nothing succeeds like success and growth brings more growth, also to regions co-operating with centres of growth. This is also the case with Kaliningrad, which enjoys wide-spread good-will due to its European heritage. Good knowledge of the EU´s single market, including norms and technical standards would enhance Kaliningrad´s possibilities to benefit from the enlargement.

The challenge for Russia and Kaliningrad is how to tackle the risk of a normative divide opening up between Russia and the enlarging Union. There are no attempts to impose EU legislation on Russia. It is up to Russia to make the changes necessary to attract investors. The PCA-agreement is the roadmap for reform and co-operation. The significance of approximation of legislation is an accepted condition for strengthening the economic links between Russia and the Union. A region like Kaliningrad would benefit greatly from such approximation.

Mr Chairman

Russian legislation compatible with the EU acquis is more significant than special arrangements for a certain region. The development of the Special Economic Zone is a sovereign Russian decision. The approximation process would produce a legislative environment which would be predictable, stable and in accordance with international and European standards.

Kaliningrad and its immediate neighbours Lithuania and Poland and their regions bordering Kaliningrad have for quite some time been engaged in cross-border co-operation. The Union and Member States have supported such efforts. One example is the Baltic Euroregion which includes provinces of Kaliningrad, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark and Sweden.

As the one and only EU Member State sharing a common border with Russia, Finland has gained considerable experience from neighbouring area co-operation with Russian regions. Finland´s cross-border co-operation with Russia is based on an Agreement from 1992, which contains both government-level co-ordination and direct co-operation on the national, regional and local levels. This co-operation has brought about an active network of joint projects and twinning across the border. The Fenno-Russian agreement could serve as model for other Russian border areas too, including Kaliningrad.

Last autumn Russia signed the Council of Europe Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation. Russia is currently developing legislation concerning the rights of local and regional authorities to conduct transborder co-operation. This is a positive testimony of Russia´s willingness to engage in cross-border co-operation.

Management and control of borders is closely connected to enhancing trans-border co-operation. In order to join the Union the acceding countries will align themselves with the EU-acquis in its entirety and apply it in practice. This is also the case regarding the border management acquis, better known as Schengen. Even if passports and visas are required, the Schengen regime offers possibilities to address border-region problems. The EU could, through existing financial instruments, contribute to the up-grading of border-crossing stations. Linked Tacis and Phare financing would be instrumental for this purpose. Management of the border between Kaliningrad and future Member States could be developed, benefiting from experience at the efficient and busy Fenno-Russian border.

The discussion on the Schengen visa regime has diverted due attention away from a number of more urgent problems. There is still a lot of red tape. In order to facilitate the efficient functioning of borders we do need the presence of only two authorities: the border guards and the customs officials. We welcome enhanced co-operation and exchange of information between border guards. Kaliningrad is already on the agenda of The Baltic Sea Border Control Co-operation. Customs co-operation is equally important. The basis for expanded co-operation in the region was laid at the Customs Conference at Imatra, in Finland, last October.

The Nida-Initiative, as it is known, has moved the European debate on Kaliningrad in a more concrete direction. Many urgent items for project co-operation were identified in Nida, not only from a Russian-Lithuanian perspective but also from a European and regional point of view. Additional ideas could be generated in Russian-Polish talks on the basis of on-going cross-border co-operation. The Nida list already constitutes a bank of ideas, which could be actively considered by relevant Community instruments, international financing institutions, bilateral programmes of the EU and other states concerned.

The emphasis of Finnish neighbouring area co-operation with Russia lies to the north. We are, however, revising our neighbouring area strategy. The inclusion of Kaliningrad in the core area of our co-operation is under active consideration, in line with the objectives of the Northern Dimension. We have since the mid-nineties been involved in project co-operation with Kaliningrad to develop resources for effective containment of the HIV-epidemic. We intend to reinforce our assistance in this sector. Within the framework of the Visby task force on organised crime we have been engaged in crime prevention. Finland is also ready to share her experience concerning border management.

Mr Chairman

The Northern Dimension provides a wider forum for relevant partners to generate ideas for practical co-operation also in relation to Kaliningrad. I sincerely hope and believe that this Conference will contribute to a deeper understanding of the Kaliningrad question in the framework of the Northern Dimension Action Plan, which is expected to be endorsed at the European Council in Feira.