EU: Transit to Kaliningrad allowed, but not for sanctioned goods

EU countries have to carry out checks on transport between Russia and Kaliningrad, its exclave on the Baltic Sea, to prevent Moscow from circumventing the sanctions, the Commission said in guidance out Wednesday.

But the guidance still allowed trucks and trains to go between Russia and Kaliningrad, which are separated by Lithuania and Latvia.

Under the new guidance, EU sanctions don’t ban the transit of trucks between Russia and Kaliningrad unless they’re carrying sanctioned goods. There’s no specific sanctions regime applying to rail transport on the route, but EU countries do have to carry out “effective controls,” as the transit of sanctioned military and goods that could be used for military purposes is banned regardless of the mode of transport.

Countries have to monitor trade flows between Russia and Kaliningrad and use “targeted, proportionate and effective controls and other appropriate measures,” according to the Commission.

The guidance was in response to the tensions that followed Lithuania halting the transit of freight trains carrying banned goods from Russia to Kaliningrad last month. Lithuania and the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted Vilnius was implementing EU sanctions, but Moscow threatened retaliatory action.

Borrell said the EU’s diplomatic arm the External Action Service and the Commission would reassess the sanctions guidelines “in order to control the sanctions but not obstruct the traffic between Kaliningrad and Russia.”

The text asks countries to check transit volumes against the historical averages of the last three years to detect “unusual flows or trade patterns which could give rise to circumvention.” 

“In such a case, Member States shall take all necessary measures provided for under EU law, including where appropriate the refusal of transit and the holding of the goods in question,” according to the guidelines.