Baltic Sea – A Region of European Cooperation, Kaliningrad, 8.2.2001

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to visit Kaliningrad and address you at this conference. I am impressed by your City, its history and especially by this venue, the University building itself and the high level of teaching and research done in the footsteps of Immanuel Kant. This was confirmed by my inspiring and fruitful discussion with Rector Andrei Klemeshev earlier today.

Kaliningrad seems to be a topic on everybody’s lips. Recent press coverage has again drawn attention to the central location of Kaliningrad in Europe. Your location at the Baltic Sea and your future as the part of Russia which is encircled by the enlarged European Union deserves, indeed, our special attention.

The division of Europe ended more than ten years ago and our continent has transformed itself from an area of potential confrontation to a region of real transnational co-operation. During the cold war Kaliningrad was primarily perceived as a military base or threat, overlooking the fact that it was also home to a population of a million people. I see all the more reason therefore to concentrate today on such issues as trade and investments, environmental and health questions, the movement of people and goods, cross-border and regional co-operation. In doing this I am not neglecting security issues, but rather concentrating on the real issues at human security in today’s Europe which no longer are primarily military. All of these are addressed in the perspective of the Union’s enlargement.

Even if it seems superfluous I want to make clear that Kaliningrad’s status as a constituent part of the Russian Federation is not challenged by any country. Speculations in the press and the scientific community should not influence detrimentally the co-operative atmosphere on Kaliningrad, which we have been able to develop since the German and the Finnish EU presidencies.

Kaliningrad is a central question in the enlargement of the European Union. The enlargement will in principle affect all of Russia, but especially those Russian regions bordering the new Union. The adoption of the EU acquis by Poland and Lithuania will inevitably change some existing practices. Work has started on how to tackle these questions but Kaliningrad will remain on our agenda even after the enlargement.

Kaliningrad as part of Russia is the firm basis for our future co-operation. It is also the criteria for all functioning solutions to the specific problems arising in Kaliningrad from the enlargement. Kaliningrad can, in any real sense, become a part of the Union only if Russia joins the EU.

Russia will benefit substantially from the enlargement of the Union. Kaliningrad with it’s central geographic location at the Baltic Sea area, soon in the centre of the Single European Market, is particularly well placed to benefit as a whole from the enlargement. Whenever and wherever possible neighbours will trade with each other.

The enlargement will lower the level of tariffs between Russia and the new EU members and thus give a further boost to trade in the Baltic Sea region. Logistically Kaliningrad will become more attractive for investors. The enlargement will also increase stability and predictability for investors. Kaliningrad is thus offered the opportunity to benefit from a flourishing region of increased trade and investments.

This requires active work to harmonise trade practices and parameters of other economic co-operation. It is important to address the still existing normative divide. The Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between Russia and the European Union offers instruments to build co-operation in this respect. Russia has committed itself to approximate its legislation to European and international norms and standards.

Nobody is imposing their legislation on Russia. The choice, whether to choose the European route or unique national solutions and thereby define its role in the European future is up to Russia. The Russian choice will reflect strongly on Kaliningrad, which is separated from the mainland Russia. Effective implementation of the PCA-agreement would solve many of Kaliningrad’s concerns. The development of Kaliningrad also in the future lies with the Russian Federation and the region itself.

Ladies and Gentlemen

In a recently published report the Stefan Batory Foundation has studied Kaliningrad from a EU- and Polish perspective. According to the report the Northern Dimension should be regarded as an attempt to overcome the unfavourable tendencies resulting from differences between the EU and those Russian regions which share a common border with present and future EU-countries. The objective of such a policy should be to create a friendly neighbourhood area.

This is a good interpretation of the Northern Dimension. The main idea of the ND is interdependence. The Dimension is the formula for co-operation between Russia and an enlarged Union.

The European Union endorsed last summer at its summit in Feira an Action Plan for the Northern Dimension. The Feira conclusions on the Northern Dimension mentions Kaliningrad as one of the priority questions.

The Commission and the Swedish Presidency have taken the leading role in implementing the action plan. We are indeed very satisfied with the Swedish EU Presidency and its emphasis on partnership with Russia and the Northern Dimension. Kaliningrad is one of the main priorities of the Swedish Presidency.

The Presidency and the Commission have just finished a round to Capitals of the seven partner countries. The partners have had an unique opportunity to influence EU external relations and cross-border policies. The implementation will be discussed on ministerial level in Luxembourg April 9th 2001. The EU member states, the Commission and the Northern Dimension partners – Russia included – will there together discuss the implementation process. Next week foreign minister Anna Lindh and commissioner Chris Patten will be visiting Moscow and Kaliningrad.

The Action Plan suggested an EU study on the prospects of Kaliningrad. The Commission has now responded to this challenge and published a good and fruitful Communication, which is under discussion in the EU Council. The Communication is a thorough study of the prevailing situation and clearly reflects EU’s interest to tackle the challenges pertaining to Kaliningrad in connection to enlargement. It lists upcoming problems such as visa-arrangements, transit traffic to mainland Russia, environment, energy, fishery and cross-border trade.

This is a good foundation for a fruitful dialogue between the EU and the Russian Federation. Kaliningrad has given its own inputs to the work at the Northern Dimension Conference on Kaliningrad in Copenhagen last spring. The so called Nida Declaration jointly prepared by Russia and Lithuania is also important as a basis for concrete project co-operation not only between EU and Russia but also with neighbouring countries.

Also the decision by the EU’s Tacis Program to reinforce its activities in Kaliningrad contributes to the implementation of the Northern Dimension Action Plan. Corresponding activities by the Phare program are equally important.

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) agreement, with its subsidiary bodies, is generally at least in Brussels, seen as the right forum for exchange of information and future co-operation between Russia and the Union on Kaliningrad.

An additional good idea could be to establish a supplementary task force, within the PCA-framework, to deal with Kaliningrad and the proposals made by the Commission. This way also the Kaliningrad regional authorities could participate more efficiently in the work. The prevailing political situation in the Russian federation and in Kaliningrad in the wake of the recent gubernatorial elections seem to offer new opportunities for addressing problems related to Kaliningrad together with the European Union and other concerned partners.

On the regional level the role of the Council of Baltic Sea States in the implementation work has been emphasised by the German Presidency. We believe that the incoming Russian Presidency will continue this effort. The Council can serve as a forum where also the neighbouring countries and project financiers may discuss co-operation related to Kaliningrad with Russia and the European Union.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are many good proposals in the Commission’s Communication on Kaliningrad for example pertaining to improving of border-crossing facilities. Finland has a long experience in co-operation with Russia and the Baltic States. Kaliningrad could also gain from our experience. Funding for new facilities must be found together with Russia and the neighbours as well as from the EU-instruments Tacis-CBC and Phare-CBC.

Our co-operation with the Russian regions bordering Finland – Murmansk Oblast, the Republic of Karelia, Leningrad Oblast and the City of St. Petersburg – is well functioning and mutually beneficial. An intergovernmental agreement was concluded with Russia in 1992 to establish a co-operative mechanism both on central and regional level. The annual programs are prepared directly with the Russian regions. This structure has ensured continuity and the commitment of all parties. A comprehensive network, which covers all sectors of society , including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), has been created.

Regional co-operation with neighbouring areas constitutes the Finnish national instrument for the implementation of the Northern Dimension. We believe that our agreement with Russia could serve as a good example for other countries in the region as well.

The main problematic issues for Kaliningrad in the EU enlargement process are visas and transit traffic. It is understood that the acceding countries will apply the EU-acquis on border management, known as the Schengen regime. The Commission’s Communication provides valuable ideas and options for a dialogue with Russia on these issues. The solutions are to be found through increased efficiency and a functioning market economy.

Even here can Finland share its experiences with other countries. The Finnish-Russian border is busy and well-functioning. The good co-operation prevailing between the Finnish and Russian authorities ensures that we better can handle unwanted elements engaged in cross-border crime, trafficking in cars, drugs and human beings, especially women. As it happens Finland is today hosting a meeting in Helsinki that brings together the Finnish and Russian police, border and custom authorities to discuss issues related to border region problems.

The issuing of visas should bee made more efficient. Long terms and multiple entry should be the rule. The cost for acquiring travel documents, both passports and visas, for transit to ”mainland” Russia could be lowered.

Transit traffic in goods will probably be more economic and efficient through a unified Union than today, when several international borders have to be crossed. Stringent competition rules will keep transit traffic costs down.

The environment has been a focal point in EU and Nordic assistance to Kaliningrad. So far have we concentrated on efforts to reduce water pollution. This will continue since a cleaner Baltic Sea will benefit us all. But environmental problems will remain an important field of co-operation since Kaliningrad is the second worst source of pollution in the Baltic Sea region after St. Petersburg, generating more than 400,000 tons annually of domestic and industrial waste. Today I feel we should concentrate our efforts to improve the water quality in this city.

The problem of communicable diseases has become an other public concern in the Baltic Sea co-operation in the past years. The Prime Ministers in the Baltic Sea region have established a high level Task Force to look for new solutions to counter this threat to public health in the region.

Finland has 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 and we will allocate from the neighbouring area budget additional funds to continue this valuable work. The main objectives of the program is to strengthen the resources of the AIDS centre in Kaliningrad in providing medical care and support for HIV-infected persons by providing experts and laboratory equipment.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me finish by mentioning some co-operative efforts by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Council’s intention, in line with its new adjacent area strategy called ”Closer Neighbours”, is to expand activities in Kaliningrad. The Council is eg planning to open an information office in Kaliningrad. The Nordic Investment Bank NIB and the Nordic Environmental Financing Corporation NEFCO already are partners in the Water and Environmental Services project for the City of Kaliningrad. In my view the planned Nordic information office in Kaliningrad could concentrate on activities aimed at strengthening the civil society. It could become a focal point for the NGOs in Kaliningrad and their corresponding partners in the neighbouring countries.

I am sure that also this Conference will serve as a booster for future NGO contacts and co-operation. The Nordic countries, the EU and its membership candidates are all ready for a far more intensive co-operation that we have today. I am glad to note that the same is true for the Russian Federation. Let’s make Kaliningrad an example of EU, Nordic and Russian co-operation.