Introduction of the visa-free travel for residents of the border area is creating economic growth in Russian border towns, says General Consul to Norway in Kirkenes Mikhail Noskov.
Some 1200 Norwegians have applied for their border citizen passport, which gives the right to visa-free travel to Russia within a 30 km limit from the border. This includes the towns of Nikel and Zapolyarny and the settlements of Pechenga and Korzunovo.
The arrangement with visa-free travel for residents of the Border area was introduced on May 31 2012, as BarentsObserver reported.
“These towns are now in a process of changing”, Noskov says. “We see a number of small-scale enterprises growing up as a result of increased number of Norwegian guests”. He mentions hairdressers, dentists, beauty salons, shops and cafes and restaurants as places of interest for the visiting Norwegians.
For many people in Kirkenes a Sunday trip to Nikel or Zapolyarny is now almost as common as a Sunday trip to the nearest Finnish towns. The price of gas in Russia is about one third of what it is in Norway, something that has made many young people apply for the border passport.
Mikhail Noskov, who was appointed Russian General Consul to Norway in Kirkenes this summer, appeared at a seminar called “Life by an outer border”, arranged in Kirkenes by Finnmark University College as part of the Norwegian Science Week, the college’s web site reads.
“The new [visa-free] arrangement has only received positive response and many believe this is the first step towards visa-freedom”, Noskov says, adding that he will continue to work for a softening of visa regulations for Norwegians to Russia, first and foremost by giving more groups the right to free visas.