However despite the seeming optimism, relations between Russia and Poland are far from ideal, as the foreign ministers of the two countries do not have enough pragmatism in addressing the most pressing and topical issues.
According to observers, the Polish diplomacy in Kaliningrad cannot be considered a success, which is evidenced by a number of facts widely discussed in the media since the beginning of fall 2012.
In particular, one of the most discussed topics was the Indian outsourcing company VFS Global’s victory in the tender for provision of visa services in Kaliningrad, Chernyakhovsk and Sovetsk.
According to the media reports, the Kaliningrad Information Center for Tourism Development, which also participated in the bidding to provide visa and border movement application service, offered the most beneficial terms: its cost of service was 11 Euros, while VFS Global’s — 17 Euros. Moreover, the Indian company said that at the time it did not have a building of appropriate size for the reception of visitors. However, despite the difference in price, lack of infrastructure and remoteness of the main office, the Poland’s choice fell on Indian partners, and that aroused the suspicions of the director of the Information Center for Tourism Development Vladimir Radzinovsky.
“The course of the bidding and the further proceedings give reason to suspect collusion between the Polish diplomats and the representatives of the company that won the tender,” he stated.
According to some journalists, suspicion of “collusion”
However, the head of the Passport and Visa Department of the Consulate General of Poland in Kaliningrad Janusz Jablonski said that following 2012, the Indian company fully met the expectations of the Foreign Ministry. According to him, the number of documents for visas and local border traffic (LBT) cards received by VFS Global reached 1.5 thousand per day, while in the Consulate General this figure did not exceed 700.
Nevertheless, many observers consider the implementation of preferential visa regime between the residents of the Kaliningrad region and the northern provinces of Poland not effective enough.
The LBT agreement came into force on 27 July 2012, but in August admission of applications for LBT cards was temporarily stopped. The Consul General of Poland in Kaliningrad Marek Golkowski explained it by a large number of persons willing to visit the republic in a privileged mode, but soon Kaliningradians who had already submitted the documents, complained that they could not get a card at the appointed time.
Now it is also impossible to apply for LBT card in the Kaliningrad department of VFS Global as there are no dates available in February 2013.
“The registration for March is not started. You can obtain the information about the beginning of registration on the website of the visa center, or via our call-center,”
Another step of the Polish Consulate General in Kaliningrad, which caused outrage of Kaliningradians, is related to Schengen visas. In late 2012, the Polish diplomatic mission in coordination with the Foreign Ministry significantly tightened the issuance of these documents for Russians, while the VFS Global visa center increased the cost of its services. Now to get multiple Schengen visa, Russians have to provide hotel booking form in Poland for at least 7 days, and the proof of payment.
However despite the difficulties, Russian and foreign analysts indicate a warming trend in uneasy relations between Russia and Poland. Thus, for example, Evgeniya Vojko, foreign policy expert of the Russian Center of Political Conjuncture called the ties of the two countries “moderately positive.”
“When Bronislaw Komorowski won presidential election in Poland, political system became relatively stabilized and came to a common denominator, as both prime minister and president are members of one political force – Civic Platform. This party is disposed towards quite constructive relations with Russia. Some time ago, sharp points connected with historical issues in relations between Moscow and Warsaw were removed, or at least smoothed. They are not discussed at the highest political level. The emphasis is on the development of trade and economic relations,” she said.
According to her, visa issue remains one of the most painful topics for Russia and Poland, but the difficulty with the issue of LBT cards the expert connects with the technical reasons.
“I do not think that there are any political obstacles to simplify visa procedures. The scheme itself has not been fully worked out and is still in the stage of searching for optimal models. I think there are some technical difficulties rather than any political reasons,” Evgeniya Vojko noted.
She also stressed that recent rhetoric of official Moscow and Warsaw had noticeably changed.
“It had a positive impact on the process of obtaining visas, but the impact was not yet as strong as it might be desired in Russia,” the foreign policy expert said.
Konstanty Gebert, a Polish journalist, ECFR associate fellow, finds no political reasons, which could complicate the procedure of issuing permits for local border traffic as well.
Full text news agency "PenzaNews": http://penzanews.ru/