Материалы для чтения the four freedoms as part of europeanization process: conditions and effectiveness of the eu impact

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State vs. Civil Society

The vertically placed set of indicators – known as directions of incentives vis-à-vis conflict parties – also contains at least one interesting point for further debate. It basically concerns the distinction between the “political society” and “civil society” in Russia. The scheme of the Euborderconf project is grounded in a hypothesis of existence of more or less fixed boundaries between the political class and the non-governmental (civil-society) sector. The distinction between the two is constitutive, and it has to be accepted as a kind of demarcation line.

An important observation has to be made at this point: the civil society in Russia is actually split into two large segments. One tends to gravitate towards the officialdom (and is financially and institutionally sustained by Kremlin), while the second one seeks to be a part of global networks. Let us briefly describe what comes out of this divorce.

On the one hand, there is a meaningful “transnational sector” within Russian NGO community that are overwhelmingly connected with the international organizations and a part of what might be called “humanitarian markets”121. Concomitantly, this sector is strongly dependent upon funds coming from the outside. The transnational sector’s NGOs “are in effect (even if this runs counter to the intentions of the participants) some of the most powerful pacific weapons of the new world order – the charitable campaigns and the mendicant orders of Empire”122.

On the other hand, Thomas Carothers and some other authors make a strong point arguing that the factual boundaries between the state and a variety of non-state actors are blurred and fuzzy, these boundaries are in a state of flux and, strictly speaking, could be even non-existent123. Referring to Ernesto Laclau, “civil society cannot be constituted as a truly separate instance, for its functions both anticipate and extend the state’s role”124. As another scholar observed, the distinction between state and society is not the distinction between the two separate entities, but rather a line drawn internally within the network of institutional mechanisms through which a social and political order is maintained125. This theoretical departure leads us to a reinvention of what Giorgio Agamben – though in a different context – called “a zone of indistinction”, a social area composed of “a strange mix” of NGOs and quasi-political organizations, where the division of function between the institutions is far from clear, and rules are prone to perpetual change126.

Of course, there is always an overlapping area between the political establishment and what is called “the third sector”. There is a strong conviction that “the political vocabulary structured by opposition between state and civil society, public and private, government and market, coercion and consent, sovereignty and autonomy and the like, does not adequately characterise the diverse ways in which rule is exercised in advanced liberal democracies. Political power is exercised today through a profusion of shifting alliances between diverse authorities in projects to govern a multitude of facets of economic activity, social life and individual conduct”127. The question is whether this trend appears naturally, as a by-product of functional interconnections between state and non-state, or is an effect of an intended strategy of creating and expanding this “zone of indistinction”, which is simultaneously a zone of uncertainty. In case of Russia, it might be argued that this is an almost official policy to make the boundaries between the state and non-state institutions as uncertain as possible. Moreover, there is a growing tendency of enlarging the state-sponsored segment of the civil society in Russia through a variety of moves undertaken by the government, which has as its direct consequence the shrinking of the second segment – namely, that one oriented towards international networks.

In blurring the lines between state and civil society, the Russian government tends to install its own version of the civil society which is being constructed in sharp contrast with the foreign-sponsored model. Gleb Pavlovsky, an influential pro-Kremlin political analyst, formulates this conflict in the following way:

The existence of “zones of indistinction” constitutes not only an analytical problem (that one of identification of a boundary between the units of analysis) but a political one as well. This structural gap between the two parts of the whole complicates the EU policies of assistance to the Russian civil society.


In result, three main additions to the Euborderconf scheme could be proposed.

Firstly, what is called a structural type of influence (with two variations – “enabling”, i.e. pointed to the political elites, and “constructive”, i.e. pointed to the civil society institutions) could be divided into:

  1. multi-actor impact, which could be presented by means of “the EU plus” formula. It points to areas of joint (for example, EU – WTO) policies which aim at changing some of the legislation and business practices in Russia. This type of influence ought to lead to greater compatibility with international norms. The most illustrative example is local enterprises’ voluntary acceptance of European quality standards to get better deals with foreign contractors.

  2. networking impact which logically leads to identity changes through formation of “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”128. A networking type of influence may involve civil society (perhaps one of the most tenable examples is the Russian-speaking diaspora in the Baltic countries which possesses of its own channels of communication with Russia through media, arts, family communications, professional networks and informal links) and political elites which have their own circles of communication, including club-like ones (what sometimes is expressed by a metaphor of “meetings without neck-ties”).

Secondly, one may certainly imagine the existence of zones of inter-subjective interaction between the EU, on the one hand, and its neighbours (including Russia), on the other. In these zones of interaction both parties communicate with each other as partners, and, concomitantly, not only the EU is capable of exerting some influence upon Russia, but Russia too may have her legitimate say.



Political Elites


  • EU-driven (binding legal arrangements);

  • Inter-subjective (the EU – Russia Energy Dialogue).


  • Networking (personal connections between the political leaders);

  • Multiple actorship (Northern Dimension and the Northern European Initiative)

Wider Social Level


  • EU-driven (TACIS/TEMPUS programs);

  • Inter-subjective (Russian-speaking diaspora in the Baltic States).


  • Networking (Euroregions);

  • Multiple actorship (Bologna process)


Dr. Andrey S.Makarychev
Draft of the paper to be presented at the conference on

Post-Soviet In/Securities: Theory and Practice”, October 7-8, 2005,

the Mershon Center of the Ohio State University


This presentation conceptually proceeds from the idea of the self-reflexive nature of outward-oriented discourses. Through valuing others, we usually tend to implicitly evaluate ourselves. The way one assesses his/her neighbours and interlocutors is indicative of his/her own worldviews and political standpoints.

In this epistemic context, one may start with the stipulation that Russia tends to conceptually define her identity through relating herself – in one way or another - with Europe. Yet paradoxically, in the Russian discourse, Europe is, by and large, a vague and ambiguous entity with uncertain and unspecified features, a kind of collection of spaces with neither a clearly identifiable core/center nor stable borders – a perfect example of an “empty signifier” constituting a playground for meaning-making. A perfect example of this implicit featuring of Europe as a semantically “empty” notion is given by Mikhail Remizov, a conservative political thinker, who hypothesized that “we yet can only watch the place where she (Europe. – A.M.) is supposed to be”129. As all “empty signifiers”, what we call Europe “can contain everything; within a certain transferential illusion, it is supposed that anything can be inscribed into it. The other side of semiotic emptiness is fantasmatic fullness”130.

Indeed, Europe may be called a territory “lacking its own subjectivity”131 and strongly associated with a multiplicity of perspectives and trajectories132, with a peculiar mix of different vectors and moves inherently open for rethinking and susceptible to multiple redefinitions. This situation may find its verbal representations in phrases like “magnetism without a magnet”, or “a process without a subject”. In Pami Aalto’s thoughtful comments, the EU may be perceived “as a faceless entity, where policy outcomes simply ‘happen’ without anyone or any institutional bodies really being responsible”133. In a rather indicative way, such statements are usually positively accepted in Russia where many political analysts deem that the EU, being a “bureaucratic body almost without political leadership” is incapable of generating new impulses in the EU – Russia relations. Concomitantly, the future of the EU, the institutionalized manifestation of the European integration, is questioned by some of the authoritative Russian foreign policy experts134.

The question looming large at this point is how one can venture to identify her/his country – either by contrast or by association - vis-à-vis such an entity in a permanent state of flux, if not decay? The answer to this question constitutes the core hypothesis of this paper, which could be formulated in hermeneutic categories. More specifically, the issue under consideration might be approached from the perspective of the “hermeneutic circle”, a concept presuming that “the interpretation of a given ‘web of meaning’/social practice can never be tested against an objective standard. Rather, the testing and refinement of particular interpretations is always done on terms of other interpretations”135. To extrapolate this approach to the sphere of the European discourse in Russia, one may come up with the following supposition: since Europe lacks an undisputable set of characteristics shared by the bulk of the opinion makers, Russia needs, first, to explain what Europe is, and then – secondly - to define and reposition herself vis-à-vis this reinvented image. Put it differently, Russia uses the alleged emptiness of Europe as a signifier for filling it with a variety of discourses and playing with them afterwards.

What stems from this preliminary observation is that discourses are, on the one hand, “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak”136. Iver Neumann, for example, builds his concept of identity formation on a premise that the “others”
about whom the self tells stories and who tells stories about the self are … a constitutive part of story telling… Confirmation of stories of self cannot be given by just anybody, but only by those others whom the self recognizes and respects as being of a kind with itself. The others in this set are referred to as circles of recognition”137.
On the other hand, one can argue, discourses form the “speaking subjects” themselves. This approach, being in line with some arguments developed by Foucault, Bakhtin and Lacan, has been already applied to the study of European identity by a number of authors. For instance, Pertti Joenniemi ascertains that the U.S. discursive division of Europe into an “old” and a “new” segment is basically an effort “of measuring itself” and “a re-definition of the American self”138.

The subject of this paper – the discursive construction of Europe in Russia - is a multi-faced process that develops in different dimensions. Paradoxically, the least turbid is the articulation of Europe in what could be called “public narratives”, i.e. stories attached to cultural milieu and grounded in mass conscience. Thus, for ordinary Russians, the prefix “Euro” undeniably means something of a better quality, like proverbial “Evroremont” (Euro-repairs). There is an endless row of neologisms synonymous of top quality, like “Euro-windows”, “Euro-engines”, “Euro-plugs”, “Euro-wallpapers”, “Euro-style” and “Euro-standard” (to be found literally everywhere, from hairdressers saloons to – ironically - toilet paper).

Not less accentuated – and equally intuitive - is a pro-European drive visible (and laudable) in the Russian variety culture. In the pop music, different artistic representations of Europe top all other geographic images. Among the most recent Russian hit leaders were songs like “London – Paris” and some others with clearly – and positively - pronounced European connotations. “The London rain”, “train Zurich – Geneva”, “the Tower bridge”, “dreams about Majorca”, “walking through Paris”, “on the way to Amsterdam”, “the plane won’t take me to Paris” – these are just a few of the most popular and widely known musical examples of representations of Europe in the Russian scene, along with those featuring Baden-Baden, Nice – Cannes, Riga - Moscow and other cities and their couples. What is interesting is that the United States, another country symbolizing – though in a different way - the West for Russians, is featured, first, much more rarely and, secondly, in predominantly negative modalities (songs with titles like “Good-bye, America” or “America that took you away from me” are evidently self-explaining).

The discursive construction of Europe in the political and academic narratives appears to be more problematic. Even the most liberal authors treat the EU policies towards Russia as a “systemic challenge” aimed at “dislodging Russia via arbitrary inclusion of its regions into trans-national regions, as well as transportation and information flows that are to be subordinated to foreign countries”139. Not surprisingly, it is widely believed that
the state entity with its centers located in Strasbourg and Brussels is not a hotbed for those living in Kiev or Moscow, even if they think of themselves as Europeans… In the Euro-East, Russia is performing as an initiator of new forms of the European unity, and definitely is not a hindrance to it. Ultimately, Russia is in possession of a concept of Europe of her own, a wider one in comparison to what Brussels can offer. This gives us the right to pedantically object to the restrictions advocated by Brussels”140.
This intricacy is, according to the concept framing this paper, grounded in the politically accentuated idea of Russia’s alleged exceptionality, which the above mentioned cultural representations seem to ignore if not efface. Exceptionality elevated to the level of political doctrine exerts powerful influence on the Russian political discourse. References to Russia’s specificity have become a sort of political ritual in the Moscow foreign policy circles, which nevertheless keeps open at least two of the most important questions: what kind of exceptionality Russia is referring to, and what stems from it in practical terms?

The hypothesis which is constitutive for the concept of this paper could be formulated as follows: Russian version of exceptionality is a double-faced phenomenon and comes in two versions. On the one hand, it could be easily (re)interpreted as a form of either distancing or exclusion. Indeed, if Russia herself repeatedly claims that she doesn’t fit in some of the most important mechanisms of cooperation with the EU, she has then to be kept away from the integration. On the other hand, exceptionality could signal a need for special, individually tailored solutions based upon non-standard decisions, those stretching beyond the routine logic of governance.

Generally speaking, Russia is simultaneously longing for an exceptional status in her relations with the EU and, at the same time, does not know how exactly she has to turn it into her advantage. Therefore, exceptionality is both a promise and a challenge, a possible asset and a probable disadvantage. This situation of inherent uncertainty and ambiguity, in fact, constitutes a framework for discursive hegemony which could be understood as a process of carrying “out a filling function”141, i.e. a process of saturation of “empty signifiers” with contextual meanings.

In this paper, I am intended to give an overview of Russian discourses focused on Europe which, on a closer scrutiny, turn out to disclose some of the most important means of telling a story of Russia’s self-assertion in the world. I structure my analysis along the three lines that correspond to three different pathways of looking at Europe from the Russian perspective. In the final part of this study, I will try to compare these three perspectives with each other and draw some conclusions pertinent to Russia’s articulations of herself in a wider European context.


The first – and the least obvious - discursive frame that might be useful for understanding Russia’s perceptions of both Europe and Russia’s place in Europe is based on a vocabulary of colored metaphors. They usually are embedded in border-making associations. This is the case of “red lines”, an expression that either delineates the spheres beyond which the compromises between the two parties (Russia and the EU) are impossible142, or delimits the geographic zones of influence (it was said, for instance, that by accepting the three Baltic states into NATO, the Alliance would “cross the red line” established by Russia in her attempts to draw a sphere of its imagined preponderance in Europe).

Some border-drawing connotations are discernible in a metaphor of “gray zone”, which is believed to be located somewhere between the “white” (which, in a figurative sense, equates with the Western democracy) and the “black” (an area of despotism and all kind of illegal activities143). This vision might be interpreted as imposed by Europe, yet presumably, the Russian cultural traditions not only pinpoint but also legitimize similar articulations. For example, as Mikhail Ilyin, a Russian political philosopher, claims, white color was originally meant to connote with the closeness to Europe, as exemplified by “White Russia” (Belarus)144. An opposite signifier is embedded in the “black hole” metaphor to be interpreted as reflecting something irrational, wasteful and incompatible with the Western mentality145. Usually, the “black” and “gray” colors are verbally utilized for underlying and singling out some negative features of social reality, most likely related to, correspondingly, stigmatization and uncertainty.

To some extent, this wording could be presented as a spring-off of the “cosmos - chaos” dichotomy that may be used to differentiate between “insiders” and “outsiders” of the European integration146. “Cosmos” may symbolize ordering and institutionalization developed through concentric expansion147, while “chaos” may be paralleled with “an amorphous Eurasian landmass”148.

This it at this point that the idea of “grayness” might be interpreted in terms used, in particular, by an Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben (and, to a significant extent, inspired by Schmittian traditions). According to Agamben, “chaos must be included in the juridical order through the creation of a zone of indistinction between outside and inside, chaos and normal situation”… This is “a zone that is excluded from law and which takes the shape of a ‘free and juridically empty space’ in which the sovereign power no longer knows the limits fixed by the nomos of the territorial order”149.

Presumably, two readings of this alleged “empty space” are possible. The first one is of distinctively negative semantic connotations. In this interpretation, this is uncertainty that is taken as the key signifier of the “gray zone” vocabulary. This approach looks quite consonant with that one tried by some European authors who treat a “gray zone” as one consisted of buffer states, or as an “interim space saturated with crisis and doubts”150.

At this juncture some parallels with the “gray” (“shadow”) economy metaphor could be traced (a good example could be the case of the Kaliningrad oblast). The same goes for black-colored metaphors which seem to admit a number of negative connotations they are inscribed in. For example, it may be assumed that “by singling out the Baltic states as the black sheep of the European family, Russia could establish herself as a ‘normal’ European nation”151.

“Gray zone”, thus, has to be located “in-between” the core powers in the worst sense of this word, being neither accepted nor denied by the EU152. This is because of this indeterminacy and a weak articulation of interests that “gray zones” are perceived as potential sources of conflict. For instance, a Russian diplomat has attributed the “gray zone” metaphor to the Baltic countries due to their non-participation in the Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe153.

Yet Russia may have at her disposal a different set of interpretative tools allowing for taking some advantage of colors-as-metaphors. The gray zone could be understood in a much more positive sense, as being synonymous with experimentation, piloting, and innovations. There is some ground to believe that Russia is used to feel at home with the “gray zone” status and use it as a space open to experimentations and a variety of innovative moves. Thus, for Dmitry Zamiatin, a Russian cultural geographer,

“Enlightenment was always an external trend for Russia, we always found ourselves in a gray area. This voluntary grayness, nevertheless, represents freedom in its original comprehension, as an ability to accept the outside sources of light”154.
This is at this point that the “gray zone” metaphor could be related to a theory of marginality developed, in particular, by Noel Parker. Zamiatin’s reading of “gray zone” is, by and large, compatible with Parker’s conceptualization of margins as rather autonomous spaces able to develop the strategies of their own, as well as with Karl Schlogel’s assumption that this is in the “gray zones” that the history usually finds its driving impulses155. Margins, as well as “gray zones”, usually have a room to maneuver and a meaningful degree of freedom in exploiting their peculiar location. A marginal territory, pretty much the same way as a “gray zone”, may enjoy greater freedom because of the mere possibility that it might exist outside the center’s sphere of influence.

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