The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union have brought about numerous dramatic shifts in the Baltic Sea region. A number of most recent developments have sharpened the interest to the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) in both political and academic circles:
the simultaneous accession of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to NATO and EU;
the EU’s adoption of the concepts of “Wider Europe” and “New Neighborhood” policy.
the emergence of the Eastern Dimension blueprint sponsored by Poland;
the scaling back of the U.S. involvement in the BSR (in particular, the de-facto termination of the Northern European Initiative);
the appearance of “Old” vs. “New” Europe divide, discursively framed and politically accentuated;
the more clear articulation of the importance of contacts with key CIS countries in foreign policies of the Baltic countries;
the “technical solution” of the Kaliningrad problem.
The general conceptual background of the project-to-be has to be formulated in terms of institutionalism (institutional analysis). We shall focus our attention on institutional factors shaping the Four Freedoms implementation, including existing policy making bodies, organizations and programs that have their impact upon the state of EU-Russian affairs, etc. Touching upon the consequences of the EU eastward expansion, the project participants are also to employ the key assumption of the school of neofunctionalism, as the leading theory explaining the logic of integration. Institutionalist – functionalist nexus could be well compatible with conceptualizations developed within the regionalist literature, predominantly those related to trans-border communications and the international actorship of sub-national territorial units as applicable to the general topic of the project research (Kaliningrad, Pskov, Karelia).
This general conceptual framework will be supplemented by a number of other topic-specific approaches that are to make the overall output more sophisticated and variegated. Thus, some traditions of the peace research school are expected to make use of such concepts as bordering and de-bordering, securitization and de-securitization, marginality, spatiality, and some others. Within the peace research framework, it is feasible to combine the general institutionalist / functionalist approach with more subtle and nuanced constructivist / cognitivist departures, basically while speaking of the importance of identity factors in the topics under consideration.
Another important addition to the project concept is an accent on the issues of the state - civil society relations as seen from the perspectives of the EU – Russia interactions. This aspects – drawing upon trans-nationalist theoretical background - implies more attention to NGOs in the EU – Russia relationship, different conceptualizations of transparency and accountability, etc.
2. Conditions of the EU Impact
There are different interpretations of the nature of Europeanization which constitutes the heart of the Four Freedoms concept. In Europe itself, it is conceptualized as “the cultural, legal, institutional and economic impact of European integration on domestic structures” of the neighboring countries and their parts. Europeanization may be treated as an instrument of conflict resolution, and as a normative process, with the EU institutions working as actors to reorient the direction of local policies to the degree that Brussels-centered political and economic dynamics become part of the organizational logic of policy making in adjacent countries2.
In the meantime, in the European expert circles there is a widespread anticipation that the EU policy towards its neighbours is meant for “ordering” the EU relations with adjacent countries. In Pertti Joenniemi’s opinion, “the EU seems to be on its way of precluding outsiders from having an equal voice in policy formulation and agenda setting… It appears that the space available for heterogeneous approaches with a variety of voices impacting the outcome along the EU’s northern borders is on its way of closing down and, as to borders, the aim appears to be one of managing rather than overcoming them”3.
The conditions predetermining the EU impact upon Russia in Four Freedoms implementation process might be elucidated through the scheme elaborated within the framework of the Euborderconf4.
Compulsory impact is a form of influence by conditionality, or outside pressure (from economic to moral one). In this sense, compulsory impact might be treated as a form of “symbolic domination”5. For compulsory impact to be feasible, a number of conditions have to be met.
For the EU, the basic condition is to have a coherent strategy of dealing with Russia and her westernmost territories. However, the fact that the EU, in contrast to most of the other trans-border conflicts in its neighborhood, is itself a conflict party in the case of the Kaliningrad oblast (KO), creates a different (if not unique) framework for the EU presence. As a precondition for compulsory impact, the EU had to significantly alter its initial presumptions.
First, the EU not only came to the conclusion that Russia represents a special case in terms of EU’s relations with “non-accession countries”, but concomitantly recognized that the KO constitutes a problem of its own, deserving separation from the general framework of the dialogue with Russia. Second, the EU authorities had to recognize that the enlargement may cause significant disturbances for neighboring countries. Third, the EU had to amend its legislation by formalizing the practice of Facilitated Travel Document which in a way could be seen as a “regionalized visa”. Fourth, the European Commission agreed to partially and temporarily accept existing Russian documentation for road and rail transit of goods. Fifth, the Commission has conceded to start assessing the feasibility of non-stop high-speed trains that could provide sufficient security for visa-free travel from mainland Russia to the KO. The Commission has pointed out that the technical preconditions for that are still missing, but the whole idea might become realizable in the future. It is not clear to what extent the idea of non-stop trains technically differs from the formerly declined idea of «transport corridors», but the progress is quite possible in this direction regardless of semantic differences.
Another problem for the EU is that “the Big Carrot” is in fact missing as an instrument to make Russia more compliant with the EU-established norms. Conditionality may work, therefore, in a limited number of circumstances, like Russia’s accession to the WTO, the Kyoto protocol ratification, and perhaps the issue of the European investments in Russia’s North West.
Within the framework of enabling impact, the main driving force is a dispersed power which ought to entail a number of pathways of appealing to certain groups within Russian political elites and mobilizing them. Within the framework of the enabling type of impact, the EU operates as one of the group of actors, as part of what might be called, following the traditions of the English school, the international society.
Enabling type of impact could be conceptualized through two interrelated notions. One of them is permeability, i.e. a set of communicative and learning abilities of political elites, and their sensitivity to foreign environment. A group of German authors deems that “organization of regional governance is the decisive variable to explain the learning capacity of a region”6. The second concept is mutability, to be manifested through elites’ intentions to reshape the domestic procedures in accordance with international norms7.
In terms of conditions, the basic problem is a lack of meaningful sources of political power others than those associated with President Putin, both regionally and at the federal level This state of affairs highly restrains the EU in its attempts to efficiently deal with the regional elites (that are gradually losing their constitutive power and autonomy) and with the political opposition (like “Russia in United Europe” Committee or Club 2008).
The implementation of a connective impact is dependent upon the attractiveness of ideas that are circulated (concerning human rights, ecology, security, globalization, federalism and subsidiarity, etc.); social, economic, political, educational and managerial practices that are introduced; and social norms (like coroprate charity, volunteering, ethic codes, lobbying, etc.) to be strengthened.
The implementation of connective impact is conditioned by its split into several levels:
cognitive level (as exemplified by a plethora of actors working with information, ideas, orientations and attitudes);
political level (“policy transfer” practices);
institutional level where actors communicate with each other and form networks (coalitions).
On the Russian side, the basic pre-condition for connective impact is the very existence of the civil society institutions in Russia. It is widely acknowledged that they are overwhelmingly weak. One of paradoxes is that their weakness stems to a large extent from their over-dependency on foreign grants which makes them more integrated with the international milieu than with the domestic environment. Therefore, one of most effective ways to activate the NGO community in Russia could be through changes in the federal legislation introducing effective mechanisms allowing for more corporate charity. The EU-driven connective impact could be greater should the EU focus its efforts on influencing the federal-level legislative agenda so that it allows for more room for NGOs to fill those social niches which the state itself is either unable or unwilling to tackle. In this case the major impulses for NGO development would presumably come from inside, which undoubtedly ought to strengthen the civil society in Russia.
The weight of the NGO community in border regions depends upon the local importance of ecological, human rights and humanitarian agendas. For example, environmental groups were quite instrumental in raising the issues of ecology, including clean water supply, forestry maintenance, safety of nuclear waste, etc. Their activists in the North Western regions regularly monitor the compliance of regional authorities with ecological standards and are quite successful in drawing public attention to ecological dangers.
On the EU side, for connective impact to be a success, there should be an external milieu to be able to understand the nature of the problems the border regions faces; provide some kind of institutional arrangements for interaction; and secure funding. The role of the EU institutions is of special importance when the domestic actors don’t contain sufficient potential for structural changes, but at the same time are aware of the importance of the issue under consideration (corruption, gender relations, soft security, good governance practices, etc.). It is also essential that the EU organizations get adjusted to the local environment in order to facilitate the connective impact. This adaptation may take different forms: usually the EU organizations hire Russian administrators and project managers; the information products that are issued by European organizations are adapted to the local milieu (Russian-language web sites, newsletters, bulletins, journals, seminars etc.); and some of the EU-based organizations do not interfere at all in operational activities of the units that they have initiated in Russian regions.
The EU, therefore, projects its norms, procedures and practices onto the regional Russia. This process involves a number of stages: finding pioneers and enthusiasts among local NGOs; stimulating the leading regional institutions in certain issue area; molding networking between most active and knowledgeable NGOs tackling the same set of issues (issue-specific, or closed networking); expanding the scope of the problems that are being dealt with; molding of multiple networks that overlap with each other (a ‘network of networks’) and promoting and distributing the intellectual product which was born out of networking.
One certainly can’t anticipate that EU-inspired actions might have immediate effect on the regional civil societies. There is a difference between ”a highly contingent action” (one which is only taken in quick response to an action by another) and ”a less contingent action” (one which takes place after a lengthy time span – for example, sending a market consultant to Russian enterprise). Also important is that longer time horizons lead to less immediate contingency: ”an actor with a higher tolerance for risk is likely to be relatively less concerned about precise equivalence or immediate contingency than an actor with lower risk-taking preference”8.
Constructive impact could be conceptualized as a networking type of influence that leads to identity changes. A constructive type of influence forms “a web of overlapping and intertwining political, legal and moral commitments that act as the guiding principles for the evolving interaction between Russia and Europe”9. What is peculiar in networking resources is that they are indivisible (it can’t be split apart and divided among all parties involved) and spread all across the partnership (it can’t be exclusively managed by a single participant). Networking divests the state of its formerly unchallenged status of exclusive decision maker, and pushes the state bureaucracy to get into dialogue with resourcefull communities of experts and social leaders. Networking combines two different principles – competition and cooperation. Its effectiveness might be explained in terms of facilitating access to key resources and knowledge, lowering the risks, and speeding up innovations. Networking leads to growing integrity within specific social and economic segments, be it business community or the world of NGOs. Networking strategies of NGOs include important social dimensions (information sharing, education, use of intellectual capital and know how, appearance of joint values and shared ethics, interlacing of responsibility, etc.). Networking relations are primarily about mutual agreements, including informal ones, and trust.
Since connective impact presupposes greater weight of horizontal, networking relations, it may be assumed that the more influential and resourceful the NGOs, the media, the business associations, and professional communities are, the faster and more effective this impact ought to proceed. However, this type of influence is hindered by a number of factors. Firstly, some of the regional NGOs do not meet initial expectations of the EU institutions because:
they often lack clear constituency and social audience;
the Moscow-based institutions have more opportunities than those coming from the regions;
regional NGOs tend to pursue individual – not collective – developmental strategies;
NGOs struggle with each other for resources;
A good deal of foreign resources is misused. Experts have also revealed that neither of the Russian official agencies ever thought about conducting effectiveness survey of international projects10.
Secondly, it is widely believed that “Russia’s problems were aggravated by bad Western advice”11. A Russian version of this opinion says that “the West has supported Russia’s democrats but undermined Russian democracy”12. Some of foreign experts deem that Western influence designed to facilitate the growth of civil society in Russian regions has inadvertently had the opposite effect. Rather that fostering horizontal networks, small grass-roots initiatives and civic development, foreign aid contributed to the emergence of a vertical and isolated (although well-funded) civil society13.
Thirdly, one should not treat all NGOs as strong promoters of Europeanization. For example, in local media and academic communities we can easily find nationalistic and protectionist attitudes. A significant part of regional business associations is ostensibly critical to joining WTO because of the fear to loose competition with strong international contenders.
Fourthly, NGOs are not always applauded in official policymaking circles, and frequently receive negative administrative feedback. Each time state actors and NGOs have to interact, multiple conflicts arise, because administrative structures are very reluctant to share their powers with “outsiders”. Thus, the feedback between the official authorities and the nascent “third sector” is minimal.
Fifthly, advocating for policy changes is a huge problem. The deeper the Russian social actors are to be involved in public actions aimed at influencing policy process and opinion makers, the more chances that the foreign grant makers will be accused in interfering the domestic affairs.
Effectiveness of the EU Roles
Effectiveness is an interactive, context-based – and thus highly contested – concept. However, some ways of identifying the effects of the EU impact are quite feasible. In general terms, the “first-order change” might be seen in the change of policy instruments (for example, passing new legislation or reforming administrative apparatus). The “second-order change” is the alteration of policy goals, i.e. putting new priorities into the agenda14.
Turning to Russia, this pathway may be operational provided that the regional elites are somehow interested in being a subject of outside influence, and that there is a local need in foreign intervention. Having said that, we have to distinguish between the central and non-central elites. The issue of finding a right balance between influencing central and non-central actors is of crucial importance. On the one hand, the more Moscow-centric is the Russian political space, the less chances the EU gets to have a say in its transformation. Since Moscow is eager to be the key voice in formulating the basics of patriotism for the entire country, this is basically the federal elite that claims that Russia is not to become “an object of civilizational impact from the part of other states”. Moreover, the Moscow-centrism necessitates a cultural feeding in the form of an “anti-model”, which might be well ascribed to the EU.
Yet on the other hand, it is basically centers that stand out as driving forces of integration. Moscow (as any capital) is the most urbanized and westernized of Russia’s cities, and in this capacity it has to be regarded as a natural interface with the EU. It is basically through the centers that different cultures interact and communicate with each other, leaving sometimes the borders - as sites of geographic proximity – far behind. As any center, Moscow could be viewed as more changeable in the communicative process with outside actors, in comparison to provinces that are premised on the idea of self-sufficiency and cultural specificity. By the same token, Moscow-as-capital itself is capable of playing a much more important – in comparison to Pskov or Kaliningrad – economic role for many of Russia’s neighbours, including the Baltic countries.
In clear connection with the EU policy, Russia has publicly recognized the right of Poland and Lithuania to introduce a full-fledged visa regime, including their right to deny visa applications and prevent the travel through their territories of those Russian passengers with irregularities in their documents. Yet in the meantime, the EU is as well heavily criticized for imposing more costly and time consuming rules of border crossing. This alienation may turn into a constitutive element of Kaliningrad’s bid for its own identity, irreducible to either European or Russian ones.
Enabling impact, aimed at strengthening some of the identity-related features, could be viewed through a prism of the concept of consociations, which combines the cultural symbolization of policy ideas with certain degree of formalization through providing organizational rules and procedures. A set of “consociational” policy frameworks that have emerged at the vicinity of Russian westernmost regions offered inclusive opportunities for enabling the trans-border interactions. The Nordiccountries, in particular, areimportant gravitation poles due to a number of reasons. For the first, these countries are rather helpful in offering assistance and services in different fields. Secondly, the local administrations of the Russian border localities are interested in gaining access to sea transportation routes and in attracting tourists from the Nordic countries (in particular, a Helsinki – Tartu – Pskov tourist road is under discussion). There are some historical reasons for this since Pskov used to be a part of the Hanseatic League and might anticipate inclusion into a project of reviving it. Moreover, Pskov is part of a Sweden-sponsored «Baltic Tigers» business promotion project, which, in the opinion of local policy makers, might make the regional economic environment more competitive.
Another important factor influencing the surroundings of Russia’s border regions consists of the «Eastern Dimension» (ED) and the Polish policies behind this initiative. Local administrations have some useful connections with Poland to be able to inform about their intentions to be considered in the context of Eastern and Central European regionalism as well.
Trans-border organizations like, for example, the Council on Cooperation of Border Regions (CCBR) may have their roles in exploring the ways out of conflictual interaction. In particular, the Euro-region of “Pskov – Livonia” has figured as a result of this Council’s blueprint which was tabled as a counter-proposal to the strategy offered by the Pskov administration. The acceptance of the CCBR variant signalizes that the local authorities may be pushed aside and superseded in some of the practical issues of trans-border cooperation.
There are multiple impediments to the EU compulsory impact pertaining to the Russian side. As the most recent study of “Vozrozhdenie” Center in the Pskov oblast reveals, despite the fact that many local experts tend to deem that the connections with the EU are the only reliable source of the region’s successful development in a long run, most of regional-level decision-makers appear to have rather vague knowledge about what the EU is as an institution, what is useful in the practice of Euroregions, and how the concepts of Wider Europe or Neighborhood Policy are linked to the Pskov oblast. Social attitudes of its residents are characterized by lumpenization, fear of innovations and a complex of perennial dependence on external poles of power.
Connecting impact is conditioned by the EU interest in pluralizing the Russian regional scene through reactivating some of its “dormant” elements. This type of impact requires more or less important role of the NGO community. This is to a large extent through the non-governmental sector that the EU may incite regional endeavors to get greater domestic subjectivity. A “connective impact” displays some observable success as to policy transfer practices.
Again, in the case of connecting impact the EU may face a challenge of properly identifying their partners. From the first glance it might appear that the center-based NGOs have to be approached. However, the paradox is that unlike other largest cities of Russia, Moscow appears to be void of a local community with a distinct locally-grounded conscience. It might be argued that the local community is weak and fails to be a subject of development.
Against this background, this is St.Petersburg – the administrative centre of the North West Federal District – that is turning into a headquarters of non-governmental initiatives and resources for other regions and cities bordering on the EU. This is very much due to the fact that St.Petersburg is a city with well developed NGOs working in close contacts with European partners on a variety of issues like human rights, soft security, local sustainable communities and the improvement of self-government, tolerance and inter-ethnic communication, anti-discrimination policies, human capital and development, charity promotion, environment, anti-corruption initiatives and transparency, social responsibilities of business.
Ideally, a connective impact may be materialized in forming of different types of coalitions between the actors located on opposite sides of the border which are still missing. More immediate effect of an enabling type of impact could be anticipated in the form of cultivating “a space of close interaction” manifested through the emergence of certain social spheres that are specifically meant for overcoming the border-related complexities and inconveniences. “A space of close interaction” has to be based, on the one hand, on a set of cultural and communicative (informal) practices that bridges the gaps between the communities separated by border, and on the other hand has to be structurally supported by a set of facilities aimed at promoting tourist exchange, business-to-business contacts, etc.
Constructive impact appears whenever the EU proves able to project its identity-related policies onto Russian border regions. Recognition in Europe and presenting oneself as a city open to Europe are strong arguments in identity building. From its part, the EU is interested in developing the provincial identities as seen from a de-bordering perspective, instead of supporting nationalist ”scripts”.
Perhaps, one of the best examples of the possibilities to be exploited might be found in the so called “Northern discourse” which is being formed in Russia’s North West in clear connotation with a number of similar European discourses on the Norden. Very much like in the case of the Nordic debate in Europe, the concept of North in Russia de-problematizes an old opposition between the West and the East, and tries to find a compromise between globalization (in the form of envisioning a new “world order” based on a Northern way of life or thinking of a “Northern variant of globalization”) and regionalization (which comes up through such categories as inclusive trans-border cooperation and federalist ideas of multi-confessionality and poly-ethnicity). In similarity with the Scandinavian and Northern European cultural traditions, the North in certain segments of the Russian discourse is being presented as an expanse to be managed by concerted efforts of free people who are expected to concentrate their energies on strengthening their social bonds.
In fact, there is a good ground for the EU constructive impact through a variety of local articulations that contrast the trade-based history of the Russian North with the presumably imperial background of Moscow. Unlike Moscow, which is depicted as an over-ambitious entity that tends to “defend territories which are not evidently necessary to us”, the North in the Russian discourse is featured in ostensibly peaceful terms, as a space friendly to a Scandinavian spirit of safeguarding individual freedoms.
Obviously, a variety of specific patterns of constructive impact have to take into account the local milieu which is supposed to be influenced. The most serious impediment for this type of impact lays in structural gaps between the models of urban development in Europe (where cities were traditionally based on the ideas of autonomy and freedom) and Russia (where most of the cities are developing basically as industrial units dependent on a limited number of employers). It may be, nevertheless, hypothesized that the constructive impact might be more effective in the regions with strong liberal conceptualizations embedded in today’s reading of their political and social pedigree. In particular, Pskov has (re)interpreted the “Nordic message” predominantly as a story pointing to commercial and inter-cultural communications between the “West” and the “East”. To some extent, the “Nordic lesson” has been accepted and acknowledged in Pskov in terms of reconciliation and pacification, which is, historically speaking, rather appealing, taking into account that this city has been many times seized and dominated by western powers.
For measuring the effectiveness of the EU connective and constructive types of impact the following set of indicatorscould be proposed:
Expansion of the social scope of beneficiaries of the EU programmes;
involvement of citizens into community affairs;
socio-psychological effects (proliferation of feelings of greater safety and societal security);
increased investments in human and intellectual capital. A group of experts has revealed that ”spillovers in higher educated regions are higher than in less educated ones”15;
changes in functioning of institutions. EU assistance might be a meaningful catalist for political change and fostering accountability and transparency of local bureaucracies16. Most valuable are those project aimed at modifying the functioning of the least reformed and most red-tape institutions;
consolidation of democratic practices, including: a) identification and promotion of those groups in the society that are prone to form pluralist liberal principles of political order; b) limitation of the roles of radicals in the process of setting the regional democratic order17;
Greater compatibility with the EU norms. The most illustrative example is local enterprises’ voluntary acceptance of European quality standards to get better deals with foreign contractors;
Emergence of synergetic effect based on appearance of gravitation poles of different initiatives in regional communities.
As for the compulsory and enabling impacts, the criteria could be different:
Region’s membership in international organizations and associations (more specifically, the number of such organizations, amount of financial commitments, the number of public servants participating in international programs);
development of twin-city partnership;
sharing experience with European partners (numbers of EU experts attended professional forums in the city under consideration, and consultations held);
frequency of international events in the region (fairs, expositions, conferences, etc.);
openness of information (number of international databases available for local administrators, quantity of information shared with foreign partners).
In the table below I venture to deploy the Four Freedoms concept within the framework of the four pathways of the EU impact upon trans-border relations with its immediate neighbours.
Actor-driven type of influence
People (readmission and visa talks)
Goods (WTO accession)
Services (WTO accession)
Capitals ( money laundering legislation – UN, IMF, WB)