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October 2002, Volume 9, Number 10

Eastern Europe

Poland has a 700-mile eastern border, and the Polish government agreed to add border agents, bringing the total to 18,000, and technology to prevent it from becoming a new way into Europe after Poland joins the EU. In 2001, Polish guards stopped 3,576 foreigners on Poland's eastern border.

In 2001, 12.5 million people from Ukraine, Belarus and Kaliningrad went into Poland- no visa was necessary. Beginning in 2003, these visitors will need a visa to enter Poland.

Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda in October 2002 reported that four center-right parties to emerge from elections in September 2002 forged a coalition government, thus preventing former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar from returning to power and complicating Slovakia's bid to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Slovakia has 5.4 million residents.

Russia. Russian officials will be taking the first post-Soviet census in October 2002; it is expected to obtain information on the 800 ethnic groups in Russia. In the 1989 census, which found 154 million residents, there were 120 million ethnic Russians; 5.5 million Tatars; 4.4 million Ukrainians; 1.7 million Bashkirs; 1.2 million Belarussians; 1.1 million Mordovins; and 899,000 Chechens as well as 11 million people of other ethnic backgrounds (Russians often use "nationality" to denote ethnicity). The Russian population has been falling since 1992, and is estimated to be 144 million.

Russia's Labor and Social Development Minister estimates there are 2 to 2.5 million unauthorized foreigners in the country, most from nearby countries such as Ukraine and Moldova.

Kaliningrad (Königsberg) is a Russian province of 960,000 sandwiched between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea. When Poland and Lithuania join the EU, they will be part of the Schengen area, which has no border checks. The EU wants Russians in Kaliningrad who are traveling by rail or car to Russia to obtain visas to cross Lithuania, but Russia insists that "foreigners" cannot control Russians traveling to other parts of Russia. Russia has proposed "tightly controlled" rail and bus traffic between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia, much like the arrangement that was once used to link West Berlin with West Germany.

The European Commission will propose a special passport for the residents of Kaliningrad. If approved by EU governments, the proposal would head off a fight with Moscow that threatened to overshadow the EU-Russian summit in November. It will be called a "facilitated transit document" or Kaliningrad pass, allowing frequent travelers to reach mainland Russia without a conventional visa. Some worry that Kaliningrad, seen as a haven for organized crime, would provide a back door into Europe for illegal immigrants.

Sabrina Tavernise, "Europe offers eased travel to Russians from Kaliningrad," New York Times, September 19, 2002. Oana Lungescu, "BBC, September 18, 2002. "First post-Soviet census to shed light on Russia's many ethnic groups," Agence France Presse, September 11, 2002. Roger Boyes, "From Szczecin to Trieste: New Barriers Rise on Old Route to Freedom," The Times, September 4, 2002.