Non-governmental actors and Kaliningrad Democratic Credentials in Trans-national Environment

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Non-governmental actors and Kaliningrad Democratic Credentials in Trans-national Environment

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5.3. Non-governmental actors and Kaliningrad Democratic Credentials in Trans-national Environment

2000 election to the regional legislature has brought some good results in terms of raising region’s democratic expectations. First, “patriots” and nationalists have lost about 6% of the vote in comparison to the previous campaign. Second, more than 23% of the voters have supported the ostensibly pro-Western parties: “Yabloko” of Grigory Yavlinskii, “Novaya sila” (“New Force”) of Sergei Kirienko, and local block “Amber Land – for Creativity”. There is a meaningful business fraction in the Kaliningrad legislature as well. It came as no surprise that Kaliningrad oblast Duma was among first regional parliaments all across Russia to form the fraction of the Union of Right Wing Forces, the most pro-liberal national political party. Vladimir Nikitin, young pro-market reformist, was elected the head of regional legislature, which was positively accepted by governor Egorov. Yet the problem is that local democratic forces are very much dispersed, and the search for unity among them is still underway.

Kaliningrad is a region with well developed municipal governance. Kaliningrad city mayor Yurii Savenko is one of key speakers on the region’s international roles and one of main actors in practically solving a plethora of international issues unfolding at the grass-roots level. In his words, more than half of his working time he has to spend on negotiating with foreign visitors1190. The Association “Karlskrona – Kaliningrad” was created1191. Kaliningrad keeps sister-city relations with Kalmar (Sweden)1192. The municipality of Slavsk has developed twin-towns relations with Ronneby, Sweden1193.

There are many independent, civil society institutions operating in the region as well – like “Youth for Freedom of Speech” which organized international summer camps1194, or environmental group “Ecodefense”. Most of them unfortunately are not welcomed by authorities1195. “Ecodefense”, for example, has complained that regional high-ups pay no adequate attention to black oil pollution at the coastal areas1196. Local observers say that only in fall 2000 the top members of Kaliningrad administration has shown up at the meeting of a group of NGOs – the Baltic Institute, Forum Syd of Sweden, and Resource NGO Development Center of St.Petersburg - gathering to discuss Kaliningrad-related issues1197.

To make KO more sensitive to trans-national trends, local NGOs have to raise their voices in the regional political agenda which is still dominated by bureaucratic interests. Fighting corruption, defending property rights, forming free press, and spreading civic values – these are the most obvious spheres in which NGOs might speak up.


There are different scenarios for further trans-national regionalization in Kaliningrad oblast:

1. KO as the region with special privileges – like:

  1. having at its disposal all taxes collected;

  2. being directly represented in EU decision making institutions;

  3. providing Kaliningrad residents with one-year Schengen visas that allow transportation to and/through Baltic countries1198. Yet this arrangement will stipulate distinguishing Kaliningraders from other Russian citizens by introducing special inset or supplement to the passport under the condition of having housing and job in the region. Valerii Ustiugov, the representative of Kaliningrad oblast in the Council of Federation, has assumed that region’s special status will necessitate tightening control over immigration flows, up to “closing up” from the rest of Russia1199.

  1. Kaliningrad en route to separation, further distancing, or at least greater autonomy from Russia. Kaliningrad has already “slipped the furthest from Putin’s grasp”1200, deems Vladimir Shlapentokh. In corroboration of this scenario, sociologists say that not more than 10 per cent of local youth think that the oblast has to keep being an integral part of Russia1201. The Baltic Republican Party, the leading voice of Kaliningrad separatism, repeatedly calls for a referendum on the new status of KO as a republic in association with Russia, followed by subsequent negotiations with Moscow on conditions of delimitating the powers1202. Yet the political and electoral positions of the Baltic Republican Party are very weak in KO, it lacks a strong leader, effective international communication and finances1203.


As we have seen, many of projects concerning KO have failed or turned out to be ineffective because of weak institutional base. In an anecdotic way, the local media has described the departure of Vladimir Putin’s mother-in-law from Kaliningrad – which is the native city for Putin’s wife family – as a “destabilizing factor”, having in mind the probability of further neglecting of the region from the part of the President. These alarmist attitudes reveal, on the one hand, an “inferiority complex” existing in KO1204, and on the other hand - the need to find institutional solutions to strengthen KO credentials overseas and its international roles.

Institutions in KO have to become the “structures of incentives”1205 for further internationalization of this region. This has to affect all institutional factors – party system, policy innovation, accountability, elite recruitment, patterns of leadership and collaboration between key actors1206. The logic of institutionalism suggests that even if Russia as a whole does not feel ready to behave as a Baltic country, some of its territories might more easily and rapidly become “Baltic regions”. Kaliningrad is a case in point1207 - in institutionalist logic, its future model may be described as “European laws on Russian territory”1208. This might happen as a direct result of the standard setting practices applicable to a variety of public policy spheres – domestic rules of business regulations, environment protection and product safety standards have to be compatible with those of the EU countries1209.

Hence, the institutionalist agenda prioritizes projecting new norms and principles of the governance over pure economic moves, and might give a glimpse of hope for the Kaliningrad exclave. Most important are not separate economic projects – like building new roads or new energy stations, but forming the internationally-friendly infrastructure, creating the institutional ambit for effective regional governance. In other words, instead of asking “where the funds might be found”, Kaliningrad officials have to think in terms of “how to set new rules of the game”.

One may find strong institutionalist roots in EU approaches to KO. The European Commission does not support any special/exclusive associate status of Kaliningrad; neither EU is going to establish an individual fund for this region. Rather it wishes to extend on KO its norms, rules and principles which it deems effective and workable.

Ignoring EU institutional standard setting, the Kaliningrad oblast risks of further isolation1210. Russia has to accept that either it catches up, or it will be marginalized. To decently meet the challenges, Kaliningrad has to adopt EU institutional standards in order to be able to take full advantage of trans-boundary exchanges.

In order to stay in tune with internationally accepted standards, Kaliningrad has a long way to go. Foreign observers usually complain about:

  • the lack of due financial transparency in collaborative projects;

  • inadequate and imprecise information provided by regional authorities to outsiders;

  • weak or non-existent control from the public over environmental and nuclear issues.

The response to these and other troubles might be found in institutionalist approach. The future of Kaliningrad has to be seen through the lens of region’s inclusion into region-wide processes of integration. In this sense, governor Egorov’s policies deserve justifiable criticism, since they are based on exclusively relying upon presidential good will, while paying scarce attention to nurturing local economic milieu, improving investment conditions, fighting crime and corruption, and investing in human capital. In a sense, Egorov’s vision of KO perspectives is a mix of Realpolitik and vulgar functionalism. For example, he believes that border checks are an appropriate instrument to stop the smuggling of amber from KO to Poland. In institutionalist perspective, meanwhile, the smuggling will keep going on until domestic conditions are created to make the amber processing and trade profitable in KO.

Useful institutional clues could be for instance found in material of The Committee for Spatial Development in the Baltic Sea Region (CSD/BSR). On the one hand, it has issues a number of practical recommendations fitting into the logic of functionalism – like the norms of housing and sanitation, public amenities, exploitation of non-renewable resources, preservation of cultural heritage, safety of technical supply, regulation of land use, and other important areas. On the other hand, there is strong institutionalist message here as well - Kaliningrad authorities have to reorient their strategies towards more innovation, consumer orientation, replacing planning with marketing, providing better accessibility to public goods and services, and enhancing public debates in communities about future living conditions1211.

It seems that institutional reforming is one of priority tasks for the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS) established by the authorities of North West Federal District – of which KO is a part – in 2001. The Doctrine of the Development of Russia’s North West presented by this think tank is based on the assumption that in order to be integrated into a larger territorial unit – the federal district, KO needs special managerial techniques, based on human capital, the culture of innovation, and non-administrative networking1212. CSS experts advocate adoption of new mechanisms of regional integration within NWFD, with keeping special eye on KO1213.

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