2. Concentric EU Order
In this paper, EU-Russian relations in the north European context are understood as a reflection of a currently forming concentric EU order. This model of European order is sometimes also called ‘empire’ model of the EU. In terms of IR approaches, it can best be situated close to the English School, constructivism and critical geopolitics (e.g. Aalto 2002; Wæver 1997, 2000; Diez and Whitman 2002; Tunander 1997; Zielonka 2001). Previous efforts to treat north European issues in the context of the concentric EU order model include for example accounts speaking of the Union’s ‘near abroad’ in the Baltic Sea region (BSR) (Christiansen et al. 2000). However, here the aim is to dig deeper into how such an order is constructed and maintained. It is argued that the views of the EU and its enlargement process by those who have in various stages been included into the Union’s ‘near abroad’ – e.g. the Baltic states, and Russia’s northwestern regions – in fact help to construct and maintain that very order (e.g. Aalto 2003a; as for Russia, see below).
The model of concentric EU order (Figure 1) conveys a loosely defined centre consisting of Brussels and other loci of EU institutions that is well bound together in terms of institutional density, and then various circles surrounding it, and differentiated according to their degree of integration with it. Thus, the centre is surrounded by a circle of well-integrated insiders who participate in practically all sectors of common policy. Out of the countries in the BSR and northern Europe on the whole, Finland can currently be situated into this group. The second circle consists of semi-insiders. Some of them have voluntarily remained outside certain sectors of common policy, like for example Sweden has in the case of the single currency. Some others such as the Baltic states are in the process of only gradually entering the Union, and are forced to accept transition periods before fully participating in sectors such as free movement of workforce into some member countries, the single currency, and full financial support for agricultural production.
The third circle is of particular interest in this paper, as it includes a group of semi-outsiders and/or close outsiders such as Russia, who have no perspective of a rapid promotion to semi-insider status. They have recently received the label ‘wider Europe’ from the Union, and include countries and regions associated with the Union in various ways through its technical assistance programmes, various partnership treaties, trade relations, and generally, through the pull of what Wæver (2000: 262) calls the Union’s ‘magnetism’. The BSR – denoting Baltic Sea coastal countries and regions – can be conceived as crosscutting all three circles due to the fact that the region includes territories with varying degree of EU integration. The wider north European region – denoting not only the immediate BSR, but also regions beyond it, for example the Barents Euro-Arctic Region, and the Arctic part of Europe which until now has remained outside ‘EU order’ – can be conceived as a slightly more extensive circle crosscutting more pronouncedly also the ‘Russian order’.
Figure 1: Concentric EU order with a focus on northern Europe
As regards Russia, the model allows for differentiating between the two levels along which EU-Russian interaction is examined here. Whilst examining the ‘strategic partnership’ level, the view of Russia as a ‘close outsider’ becomes the most recurring account. And, by examining the regional level, the more integrationist ‘semi-outsider’ term becomes more suitable for depicting the degree of EU integration of Russian regions such as Kaliningrad, and probably to a slightly lesser degree, the Karelian Republic, St. Petersburg, and the Leningrad district. This differentiation implies that the EU’s power to extend its order project from the centre towards the outer circles is understood as lessening the further along the circles one moves from the centre, and that ‘semi-outsider’ Russian territories are integrated with the EU along more numerous policy sectors and to a greater extent than the ‘close outsider’, i.e. federal Russia on the whole.
Another important implication regarding the Russian case is that the EU’s ability to extend its order is conditioned by what sort of recognition the Russians situated on the Union’s outermost circle assign to the Union’s order project. In the presently only hypothetical case of complete non-recognition, the Russian case would naturally not figure at all on this outermost ‘wider Europe’ circle. In the likewise unrealistic case of full recognition, Russia would in fact be queuing for accession to an inner circle. In this manner, Russia and its northwestern regions can be taken to represent one example of the many ‘recognition games’ (Ringmar 2002) in which the Union is involved whilst expanding its subjectivity from the original western European core region to the northern direction.