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1.1.2007

Current Developments

Developments in the area of migration are currently aimed primarily at securing the border. Lithuania has not yet settled completely into its new role as a border country of the EU.

At present the primary concern is to implement the strategic plan for securing the border, which provides for the establishment of an effective infrastructure and sufficient border posts by 2010. Above all, stronger controls and effective securing of the external borders are regarded as the most important step in implementing the Schengen Agreement.

Improved cooperation with neighbouring countries to the east in matters of migration and asylum in association with EU neighbourhood programmes is also of high importance. One example of this is Lithuania's participation in the TACIS programme by which the EU, among other things, wants to work more closely with neighbouring states in the areas of economics, institutional reforms and nuclear security. In this context, Lithuania and Austria are assisting Ukraine with reforms to its laws on migration and refugees.

Relations with the neighbouring Russian region of Kaliningrad represent a further important issue and future challenge. This region is separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuanian, Latvian and Polish territory, so that travellers from and to Kaliningrad by direct land route have to cross at least one of these EU countries. During negotiations for admission to the EU, this specific situation had led to tension between Russia, Lithuania and the EU, as Moscow in particular insisted on its people having visa-free access to Kaliningrad. Although it was possible to solve this matter by means of a compromise, the problems of securing the external border remain. Here Lithuania, like Poland and other border states, relies on the EU for technical and financial support. In this respect, in March 2006 the EU made an inspection visit to Lithuania and attested that the Kaliningrad transit programme was being implemented satisfactorily. The most important goal in this context remains the implementation of the Schengen Agreement to which Lithuania has already been admitted. To judge by recent developments, this can probably no longer be expected for the year 2007.

With regard to Lithuania's immigration policy, it can be assumed that it will become more rigid in the future. The newly devised application procedure for non-EU citizens is a first indication of this trend.

Benjamin Brake

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