The Union’s enlargement policy naturally has its biggest impact within the Union and the acceding states themselves. However, with good grounds it can be argued that it is also the single most important EU policy that Russia confronts in northern Europe, with eight of the BSR states having become EU members by May 2004. Russia’s EU strategy notes that enlargement has an ‘ambivalent’ impact on EU-Russian co-operation and on Russian interests, connoting both positive and negative aspects (‘Russia’s…’). Such ambivalence comes up well in president Putin’s remarks during the EU-Russia summit in May 2003, on the need to find a ‘solution which would allow us to turn the upcoming expansion of the European Union into a factor which will bring our nations and peoples closer together’. If such a ‘solution’ was still needed by spring 2003, at a time when the EU had given its blessing for the enlargement project, it obviously seems that from Russia’s point of view, the mixture of hopes and concerns that it has vis-à-vis enlargement had remained inadequately addressed by the Union and its member states.
The positive aspects of enlargement as seen through the Russian eyes are to an extent constructed by a negation. Since the 1990s, Russian foreign policy makers have signalled Russia’s approval of the idea of EU enlargement partly because it is positively contrasted to NATO enlargement, which Russia vehemently opposed (Baranovsky 2002: 172), until it gave up its uncompromising stance just prior to the 11 September events. In addition, as implied by a Russian federal level policy maker in an interview, the EU accession of the Baltic states and Poland creates real prospects of the northern direction gaining more attention in the Union. This can provide advantages to Russia, which has its direct interface with the EU precisely in Europe’s north (interview). However, the point about the EU’s increasing ‘northernness’ has its immediate negative side too, in the possibility of new dividing lines forming along Russia’s borders as a result of enlargement (e.g. Alekseev 2001: 42).
Such negative aspects became the central focus in 2002, when the Union and Russia were engaged in a heated debate over the impact of Kaliningrad’s encirclement by Lithuania’s and Poland’s EU accession, and of the related issue of implementation of a hard Schengen visa regime around the oblast’ that would be irritating to the Russian state, and costly as well as harmful to the Kaliningraders. After first offering Kaliningrad as a ‘pilot region’ for developing EU-Russian relations in a co-operative manner, the Russian foreign policy makers actually made the region a ‘test case’ as to what extent the Union was willing to meet Russia’s interests. In this case, they were declared to be about the continued free movement of the Kaliningraders to and from the oblast’ to Russia proper. More covertly, one may read efforts to safeguard Russia’s territorial integrity and to seek equal access to the EU’s policy radar (Aalto 2002). Such a changed, more demanding ‘test case’ approach reflected Russia’s growing frustration for the failure of Brussels to listen to Russia’s proposals such as a ‘Baltic Schengen’ arrangement, and for the proposal to maintain the visa-free travel for Kaliningraders visiting EU space for less than 30 days, an arrangement which was in force during the 1990s (Sergounin 2001: 189). The Union proved consistently unwilling to compromise on its own EU-wide, essentially universalising Schengen policy, speaking only of increased, but still in the Russian eyes inadequate technical assistance for alleviating the ensuing problems for the Kaliningraders and Russia on the whole (e.g. ‘Communication…’). With Kaliningrad by then having received a mere 3-3,5 million euros of TACIS funding a year, the Russian side opted to make the feared visa problems of the Kaliningraders the dominant issue in the overall EU-Russian negotiations, in order to ‘test’ the Union’s interest in developing the EU-Russian partnership.
Such a privileging of the visa issue can of course be justified by the fact that the Kaliningraders make about eight million transborder trips a year (Fairley 2001: 10). But at the same time, it naturally took place at the expense of other burning issues. In Kaliningrad’s case alone, they include the socio-economic disparities between the oblast’ and its neighbours, which underlie the many social problems perceived by the Union and its member states as emanating from the region, and issues of economic development prospects in the region after EU enlargement. As for the latter, Russian analysts have suggested that as a consequence of reduction in the shuttle trade, which gives livelihood to an estimated 10,000 people, and the introduction of tighter monitoring on flows of goods, people and money, open unemployment in Kaliningrad could soar from the present 1.0-1.5 per cent to 15-20 per cent. This impact could then pass on local consumer demand, retail trade, small businesses and ultimately on Kaliningrad’s tax revenue. Moreover, lower tariffs resulting from EU enlargement may also work to Kaliningrad’s disadvantage. An inflow of higher quality, affordable price goods from Lithuania and Poland can put pressure on Kaliningrad’s agriculture and industry (e.g. Smorodinskaia 2001: 64). To respond to the new situation, modernisation of Kaliningrad’s economic infrastructure would cost an estimated 650 million euro and addressing the environmental problems properly approximately 3 billion euro (Sergounin 2001: 159; Smorodinskaia 2001: 67). According to estimations of the Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences, lifting Kaliningrad’s economy to the EU level would take about $36 billion until 2010 (Kortunov 2003: 114). Finally, there are issues related to Kaliningrad’s 90% dependence on imported foodstuffs and 80% dependence on energy imported from Lithuania as a legacy of the Soviet era.
After seeing several negotiation rounds ending up inconclusive, president Putin went as far as to nominate the chairman of the Duma’s International Committee, Dmitry Rogozin, his special envoy to conduct ‘shuttle diplomacy’ on the Kaliningrad question. Putin himself asserted in the tense EU-Russia summit in May 2002:
All of our proposals on guaranteeing the transit of people and goods between the Kaliningrad oblast’ and the rest of Russia unfortunately do not find understanding in Brussels. In fact I need to put this even more clearly: what is being required from us in essence means only one thing – that the right of Russians for free contacts with their fellow countrymen living in one or another part of the country, be made dependent on decisions by another country… Dear colleagues, I count on your understanding. Today, when the Cold War has already been buried, returning to approaches of this kind is absolutely incomprehensible… To us [solving this issue] represents the absolute criteria for determining the quality of our co-operation, a ‘litmus test’ of our co-operation. (‘Vystuplenie…’, 29 May 2002).
The vital interests that the Kaliningrad question symbolised to Russian foreign policy makers is vindicated by the fact how finally reaching a political compromise on the transit issue in the next summit in November 2002 only worked to raise further questions related to the EU’s Schengen borders such as Russia’s proposal to scrap visas between EU and Russia altogether (see below). In the summit, it was agreed that for single trips by train to and from Kaliningrad, a Facilitated Transit Document (FTD) in place of a Schengen visa can be obtained by producing a passport when purchasing a ticket. For multiple entry transit by all forms of land traffic, an FTD can be obtained from a Lithuanian consulate, subject to necessary checks. For both types of FTD it was agreed that the old Soviet/Russian internal passports are valid until the end of 2004. After that an internationally accepted passport is required (Joenniemi and Sergounin 2003: 100). A plan for building a high-speed, non-stop train connection linking Kaliningrad with mainland Russia through Lithuanian territory was also agreed, with construction work set to start in 2005 (‘High-Speed…’). The centre-to-centre character of how the political agreement was reached was evident in the decision to leave into Lithuanian-Russian bilateral negotiations all technical questions as to how the provisions are practically implemented, despite Russia had repeatedly during the build-up expressed its preference for Lithuania to be more closely consulted and involved. Yet, all remaining technical issues were solved by summer 2003, including a Lithuanian-Russian readmission treaty, Lithuanian-Russian agreement on one-year free of charge multiple entry visas for the Kaliningraders and Lithuanians, and the Russian Duma’s ratification of the 1997 agreed on Lithuanian-Russian border treaty (Joenniemi and Sergounin 2003: 100-101).
Hence, the EU made minor changes to its Schengen regulations by agreeing on the FTD concept and increased its technical assistance to the oblast’ by promising 15 million euros more of TACIS funding during the External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten’s visit to Kaliningrad in 2001.1373 Russia, for its part, accepted Lithuanian/EU control over the eligibility of Kaliningraders for multiple entry transit through Lithuania. Judging by the approving comments of the Russian leadership, it seems obvious that the solution witnesses the EU passing Russia’s ‘test’ for considering deeper relations. At the same time, it is perfectly clear that the Russian side also itself faced a ‘test’ in the Kaliningrad question, which taught it a lot about the goal-orientedness and rigorous nature of the Union’s geo-policies, and of the Union’s subjectivity more broadly. In a word, Russian foreign policy makers faced a Union which is becoming the major subject of northern Europe, and requested a sufficient degree of recognition of Russian interests in the building of such a subject.
With the ‘test’ passed, and the FTD arrangement functioning smoothly,1374 in his meeting with students of the Kaliningrad State University in June 2003, president Putin mentions Kaliningrad merely as ‘one of the first [Russian regions] where the inhabitants can enjoy the advantages of Russia’s increasing integration with the EU’ (‘Vstrecha…’, 27 June 2003; emphasis added). Despite some Russian observers and political actors still call for Kaliningrad’s continued pivotal position in EU-Russian relations (e.g. Kortunov 2003), it seems that in the eyes of the Russian leadership, the region has filled a large part of its task. This has reduced Kaliningrad’s potential as a pivotal or ‘pilot’ region in EU-Russian relations. Kaliningrad has lost some of its capacity to symbolise Russia’s interests, and the diplomatic activity has been channelled to more large-scale projects.
For Russia, the CEES is probably the most important large scale project in the EU direction regardless of the serious problems of EU-CIS balance in Russia’s economic integration plans as noted above, and other thorny issues such as Russia’s different prices for oil and gas for foreign and domestic buyers, which delays Russia’s WTO membership. The number two issue, the request for abolishing visa requirements between the EU and Russia altogether, would surely be required in order to develop the CEES concept on a more practical plane. Otherwise the flow of goods, services, capital and labour remains rather restricted (Vahl 2003).1375 But, what in general underlies Russia’s ambivalence towards EU, and its perceptions of the multiple effects and problems ensuing of its enlargement, and what thus feeds the various Russian criticism of and counter-proposals to EU geo-policies, is Russia’s critical view of the universalising tendencies in the Union’s geo-policies.
As it is well known, for example the EU’s enlargement policy is based on requirements for the candidate countries to conform to the so-called ‘Copenhagen criteria’ designed to make them compatible with existing EU regulation and EU members. The organising assumption is the Union’s character as an association consisting of ‘European’ states. The fulfilment of the specific criteria for membership candidate status is monitored through annual Progress Reports, which include in political terms ‘checks’ on the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and the protection of minorities. In economic terms, they include the existence of a functioning market economy capable of coping with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union. Finally, the Union expects candidates to be able to take on the obligations of membership, including the goals of political, economic, and monetary Union. The candidates are thus required to scrap any bilateral arrangements with their neighbours not conforming to EU acquis and in that process implement the Union’s Schengen borders as well, in order to protect the thus created similarity from becoming ‘contamined’ by outside influences. From the Russian point of view, the thus constructed universalising ‘EU order’ (Aalto 2002; 2003b) appears somewhat intrusive and EU-centred, failing to take into account Russia’s interests:
[There is]…’subjectivism’ in EU behavior. Some cases in point are the policization of economic disputes, long-lasting reluctance to recognize, despite realities, Russia’s market status, imposition of criteria that go beyond the generally recognized world standards on Russia’s accession to the WTO, failure to honor in due measure the Russian concerns in connection with the EU expansion, including regard of the Kaliningrad problem, restrictions on trade in nuclear materials, etc. (Vassily Likhachev, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the European Communities, 2003: 59)
[There are in the EU]…mechanisms of governance that presuppose centralisation… And that may mean that the uniqueness of some types of individual regions suffers. As for example the Kaliningrad oblast’ suffers today (Russian federal level policy maker, November 2002)
It seems fairly clear that the TACIS technical assistance funding that the EU has offered for Russia since the early 1990s, has not been enough to persuade Russian foreign policy makers to embrace the Union’s universalising policies in the same manner as has happened in the accession states. In terms of funds allocated per capita, TACIS has offered a fraction of what the accession states have received through the PHARE and pre-accession structural funds programmes. In addition, most of these funds have gone for environmental and nuclear safety, not for structural reforms, as in the case of the accession states. Even though the Russian views of TACIS have varied from highly positive to almost complete rejection, it is clear that on the whole, the programme has failed to provide Russia the incentives for implementing the reforms expected by the EU for the deepening of relations (Khudoley 2003: 21-22). During 1991-1999, the TACIS programme distributed just below 1.3bln euro in total, and for 2004-2006, the allocated amount is 392m euros (‘National Indicative…’; Tables summarising…’). Even from these figures that are unlikely to have major impact in a vast country like Russia, about 80% goes for hiring European consultants to prepare various technical recommendations for Russia, and only 20% for investments. However, in this context it is also noteworthy that in the new millennium, an increasing share of the funds has gone to reforms carried out by the Russian government, rather than to promotion of civil society, education and training (Bordachev 2003: 48).
The Union’s Common Strategy on Russia (2000-2003) represents similar universalising tendencies as for example the Schengen standards do. Not surprisingly, the CSR failed to receive a reply from Russia that would conform to its intended message. Just as Vassily Likhachev (2003: 59) himself states, the EU’s strategy is geared at making Russia a stable, open and pluralist democracy, based on the rule of law principles, and at promotion of market economy, principles that Likhachev himself warmly commends, and which actually replicate the Copenhagen criteria (!). But as noted in the discussion along the space aspect, Russia’s reply in its Medium-Term Strategy towards the EU does not speak too much about issues such as promotion of democracy in Russia. It rather takes the EU as a ‘strategic partner’ in the building of a multipolar world order, and Russian hegemony over the CIS, a direction where the EU is not assigned a right for pursuing any policies perceived to be in contradiction with Russian interests. For the moment it remains to be seen whether the planned abolishing of the CSR instruments by the Union and their likely replacement by action plans can help to draw the Union’s and Russia’s interests closer together than we have seen so far.
However, in this context, Russia’s considerably different view of the EU’s Northern Dimension (ND) initiative should be noted. Compared to the Union’s universalising policies, regardless of its often-discussed shortcomings, the ND is much more regionalising, dialogic and open in terms of its agenda (Aalto 2002: 153). After early hesitation, this more open side of the EU’s double-edged policy towards northern Europe has almost continuously received a basically positive reaction from Russia (Joenniemi and Sergounin 2003: 37-8). Under the heading of ‘transboundary co-operation’, the initiative received a positive mention in Russia’s EU strategy. ‘Joint efforts’ are mentioned as a way to substantialise the initiative (‘Russia’s…’). Foreign minister Ivanov commented in the first ministerial conference on the ND that
These comments suggest that regardless of the basically positive Russian response to the ND, which seem to invite the Union and also other northern European actors into a genuine joint effort of building a wider northern Europe, a few words of caution are due. First, the heading of ‘transboundary co-operation’ under which the ND appears in Russia’s EU strategy, tells us that the initiative is conceived of in the context of regional co-operation, not in the context of the EU-Russian strategic partnership. Such a comparatively low status assigned to the ND is also evident in the persisting difficulties of obtaining financial contributions from Russia to the projects under the ND umbrella, and in Russia’s contribution to the drafting of the second Action Plan, speaking of the ND as an ‘additional tool of comprehensive development of Russia’s North-west’. In fact, the ND is not even viewed weighty enough to cover entirely its intended scope of EU-Russian interaction in northern Europe. This can be well seen in how Russia’s contribution now drops Kaliningrad from the ND agenda and requests that it is dealt with separately in the context of the strategic partnership (‘Non-Paper: EU…’; emphasis added). The absence of any mentions of the ND in the president’s and foreign minister’s most important line speeches on EU-Russian relations and on Russian foreign policy at large, also speaks for the same tendency. Russia has strived at developing the ND into an important regional forum, and hopes of a grand new opening in EU-Russian relations on the whole have been sidelined. High ranking observers such as Iuri Deriabin (2000: 49), who is a former ambassador to Finland, have probably been at least to some degree let down in their expectations for the initiative’s capacity to contribute to the EU-Russian strategic partnership.
Second, especially in the early stages of the ND’s development, the Russians expressed criticism of what they perceived to be a sinister aim to merely gain access to and make use of the vast natural resources (e.g., oil and gas) in northwest Russia. The fear was that the EU side was only interested in developing infrastructure for resource extraction in these mostly remote and in some places permafrost locations, but without any real willingness to develop the overall industrial potential of the Russian North or genuinely deepen EU-Russian relations (e.g. Haukkala 2001). Therefore, in the early stages of the initiative’s development, Russia recommended making environmental issues a central part of the ND (Baranovsky 2002: 82-3). The development of the EU-Russian energy dialogue that was launched in October 2000 meant, however, Russia’s acceptance of its role as the Union’s single most important external energy supplier. The effect has been the energy issues becoming too ‘big’ to be dealt with in the ND context alone, although also there, they have become perhaps the dominant issue (Lausala 2002: 194; Moisio 2003: 95). Environmental issues within the ND context, which are significantly related to energy extraction, have correspondingly become the target of Russian criticism. In the midst of Russia’s transition problems, addressing environmental problems has not been perceived as so pressing an issue as the Nordic countries and the Commission have insisted.
Third, Russian criticism has also targeted the relatively modest amount of ‘earmarked’ ND funds, most of which have been assigned to the ND environmental partnership. The continuing difficulties in using the TACIS funds in combination with the PHARE and Interreg programmes that are intended to the (enlarged) EU side, have also been frequently cited as frustrating (‘Non-Paper: EU…’). In a word, frustration with the implementation of the ND has led Russian policy-makers to complain of their lack of voice and subjectivity in developing the ND programme (e.g. Haukkala 2001; Leshukov 2000: 45).
In summary, the Union’s double-edged policies towards northern Europe – connoting both universalising and regionalising approaches – are matched by Russia’s equally dual views of them that in their ambivalence and policy-specific and region-specific variation lend credence to many competing interpretations. In these conditions, the relative promise of the ND seems to materialise mostly at the regional level. This will become evident below after the discussion of Russian regional level views of the Union’s geo-strategy.
In order to contextualise this sort of a view, it can be noted how the new semi-insiders, the Baltic states basically embrace the Union’s increasing significance. But at the more detailed plane, they entertain serious doubts as to how far and by what means they wish to be included into the efforts of strengthening the Union both internationally and in the north European context. The Russians, by contrast, as close outsiders directly and readily acknowledge the existence of the Union’s international dimensions and its ‘wider Europe’ and north European projects as facts of life. Their dominant tendency is to seek for an equal and pragmatic partnership with the Union (see Putin 2003: 14). Yet, it has to be granted that they simultaneously have some fears of unintended ‘association’ or ‘inclusion’ especially of some of Russia’s northwestern regions into the Union’s project. Thus, compared to the Balts, the perspective of a close outsider again comes into play in the Russians’ disinclination, as a non-participant, to deliberate very explicitly over the Union’s geo-strategy on the whole, except in regions and issue areas where it meets Russian interests.
Another difference vis-à-vis the Balts is that whereas they, at least for the time being, wish to reserve the US a place in European and also in north European politics alongside the Union, for Russia, such a weighing of options comes in the shape of more encompassing multipolarity thinking and the related idea of the beneficial effects of multipolarity for the promotion of Russia’s interests. This means that regardless of the increasing frequency of references to the EU, the Union is unlikely to become the sole focus of Russian foreign policy, at the face of problems and opportunities perceived in other directions, such as US, NATO, and China, with which Russia has a long and leaking border (cf. Baranovsky 2002: 44; Khudoley 2003: 27). However, it is noteworthy how both the Balts and Russia wish to leave other options open, especially with an eye on hard-core military security issues. And, they do so for the same reason: perception of the Union as still being largely a civilian power, despite the occasional acknowledgements of its developing foreign political, and security and defence dimension.
Table 2: Russia’s Federal Level Recognition of the EU’s Geopolitical Subjectivity in Northern Europe
The discontinuities between Russian federal and regional level views of the EU’s geopolitical subjectivity in general and in northern Europe in particular become clearly visible by taking a look at the case of Kaliningrad. These discontinuities also give grounds for discriminating between close outsiders and semi-outsiders within the Union’s ‘wider Europe’ as suggested above.
Regional Level Views in Kaliningrad
In the late 1990s, there was a vivid debate as to what extent Russia was dis-integrating as a result of president Yeltsin’s famous call to the regions to take as much power as they can. However, Kaliningrad never entered the race of signing bilateral treaties with Moscow that were often contradicting the federal law and its constitutional principles. Instead, the federal centre preferred to regulate Kaliningrad’s status directly under presidential and governmental control due to the region’s strategic importance. The centre first granted Kaliningrad the status of a tax-free Free Economic Zone (FEZ) in 1991, which was transformed into a less ‘Hong Kongish’ Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in 1996. The SEZ arrangement maintained some of the tax and customs privileges, but took away a lot of the powers of the Kaliningrad regional administration to conduct foreign relations on its own (Sergounin 2001: 162-7). Both the FEZ or SEZ policies have at various stages been subject to a considerable wrangle between the federal centre and the oblast’, but neither one of them has been able to attract any significant amounts of international and European investments to the region. Instead, by 2000, foreign investments totalled about one fifth of the Russian average. Income levels of the population have also been lower than elsewhere in northwest Russia, whilst living costs have not been any lower regardless of the special measures (Khlopetskii and Fedorov 2000: 687-8).
As we know, president Putin’s inauguration effectively stopped the power struggles between the centre and regions in Russia. His ‘vertical reforms’ and division of Russia into seven Federal Districts led by the president’s representative had the effect of including Kaliningrad into the northwestern Federal District administered from St. Petersburg. In 2001, a new Federal Programme until 2010 was also devised for Kaliningrad, envisaging funding worth of $3.1 billion, of which 8% from the federal budget directly and the rest from the regional budget, Kaliningradian enterprises, loans and other sources such as state-owned companies (Joenniemi and Sergounin 2003: 101-102). After initial difficulties in obtaining the planned state contributions in full amounts, the situation seems to have improved. According to Russia’s minister for economic development, German Gref, the 2004 total budget for the region was USD 1.2 billion, over twice the figure in the previous year (‘German Gref…’).
To make sense of the extent to which views in Russian regions like Kaliningrad influence Russian foreign policy, which, for its part, so crucially underlies Russia’s views of the EU as shown above, Pursiainen (2001) has suggested a ‘regionology’ approach. He notes that in the general study of Russian foreign policy, we might in fact do quite well without paying any attention to the regional level. However, in this paper it is argues that when the focus is on Russia’s views of the EU’s subjectivity, and in particular, on Russia’s positioning itself vis-à-vis the various circles of European integration, the regional level becomes a useful opening. It enables us to differentiate between various positions along the third circle, e.g. between close outsiders and semi-outsiders. Hence, to return to ‘regionology’, Pursiainen observes two commonplace approaches that are of import for the purpose of determining Kaliningrad’s position vis-à-vis the EU-Russian recognition game. First, regions can be taken as interest groups attempting to get their interests represented in Russian foreign and EU policy without necessarily participating in decision-making. Second, regions can be conceived of as foreign policy players on their own right.1376
In Kaliningrad’s case, the independent player prospect was at issue in the 1990s power struggle between the Russian federal centre and the Kaliningrad oblast’ over the conduct of foreign economic relations under the FEZ/SEZ regimes, and in the then establishment of a Kaliningradian representation in Brussels. But, it is probably fair to say that the prospect of an independent player has in the new millennium turned into the less well-empowered interest group role. This can be seen for example in the way in which the president’s representative in the northwest Federal District, Viktor Cherkesov, successfully supported Kaliningrad’s interests in connection to the debates on the possible abolishment of the SEZ in January 2001 (Sergounin 2001: 174). Kaliningrad’s interests have also been represented directly in the EU-Russian meetings over the transit problems, by means of the participation of the regional administration in these talks. On the whole, several observations can be made regarding the views of the EU within the oblast’ that compete with the officially sanctioned Russian views described above. These Kaliningradian views can be assumed to have case-specific relevance regarding the formation of Russia’s recognition of the Union’s subjectivity in northern Europe. But more importantly for the purposes here, they reflect on the characteristics of the construction and structure of the Union’s third circle.
First, in terms of identity projects, a general observation has been made that a regional identity fuelled by socio-economic and exclave status factors has been developing in the region during the post-Soviet era (Klemeshev and Fedorov 2002: 18; Oldberg 2000). Along the time aspect, for Russia proper, Kaliningrad remains a war conquest and reminder of Russia’s heroic performance in World War II (Aalto 2002). By contrast, for the Kaliningraders themselves, the more distant history of the region and its connections to ‘Europe’ has become a topic of interest. Especially its history as German Königsberg has been re-invoked. Old German era buildings have been restored, excavations revealing German and Lithuanian graves have been made, and memorial sites constructed (Oldberg 2000: 275-8). More restorations and memorial sites have been planned for the year 2005, when the city of Kaliningrad celebrates its 750th anniversary. However, it is notable that no similar investment has been promised from the federal centre as St. Petersburg received in connection to its grandeous 300th anniversary celebrations in 2003. Neither was the name Königsberg allowed to appear in a prominent place in this connection (‘A Different…’).
Along the space aspect, it is fair to say that the majority, especially among the adult and older generations of the Kaliningraders seem to echo the official views in viewing the region in political terms as being part of Russia. Consequently, they also view the EU as lying ‘outside’ the oblast’. This is perfectly in line with the fact that almost all except the youngest ones of the Kaliningraders represent ‘Soviet people’ – i.e. voluntary or involuntary Soviet immigrants, or their children, who arrived to the oblast’ to replace the expelled Germans at the aftermath of WWII. At the same time, on account of an opinion poll conducted in May 2001, a sizable group of people, constituting from one third to around half of the region’s residents, would like to see the status of the oblast’ to be changed within the Russian federation, so as to reflect its special location ‘outside’ the Union, but not in similar manner ‘outside’ as Russia on the whole (see Holtom 2002: 54). Although they see the present status of the region as elementarily linked to Russia, EU enlargement into the neighbouring regions gives rise for considerable confusion as well as expectations:
Today, naturally, the priority towards the Russian side is unambiguous… all agricultural mechanisms, political mechanisms, judicial – everything is harmonised with Russia apart from those spheres which provide some sort of exceptions. And in addition, there are also the socio-cultural ties. What comes to future, it is very difficult to say. I certainly would not set these two priorities against each other. This is because in my view, in the future, integration between EU and Russia will take place – again the question is only about its extent (Kaliningradian euro-expert, November 2002)
This statement by a Kaliningradian euro-expert as such does not yet imply a clear departure from Russia’s official policy, nor from president Putin’s above-quoted references to upcoming ‘unification’ with Europe whilst speaking with Kaliningrad State University students in 2003. However, when asked whether Kaliningrad has any better prospects for European integration than other Russian regions within the northwest Federal District, the same expert continues:
Kaliningrad has more opportunities for integrating with the EU because it is actually separated from the borders of the rest of Russia. By ‘integration’, we first and foremost speak of economic space. Everything else is, so to say, for entertainment only. The basis is, I think, the economy. And therefore I think there is no problem. And the plus here is that, taking the share of Kaliningraders who have been abroad, I think, who have business or other ties, personal ties, contacts and so on, is far greater than even among St. Peterburgers or those in the Karelian Republic. In that sense I see us as more integrated already now. That is a fact. We have a lot more opportunities for integration than the other Russian regions. And this is strengthened by the fact that we are forced to intersect with foreign governments. In fact this was the case also earlier. In other words, we feel the influence of the EU much more than the others… (Kaliningradian euro-expert, November 2002)
Such references to Kaliningrad’s better prospects for economy-based integration with the EU and to other long-standing perceptions of the Kaliningraders as more integrated make a good case for the close outsider/semi-outsider distinction. The import of this distinction becomes also evident in the comments by Alexander Songal, head of the external relations unit of the Kaliningrad oblast’ Duma, who, however, places Kaliningrad on an equal footing with other northwestern regions: ‘the westernmost part of Russia has lived the last decade under conditions different from those of the remaining, “continental part” of the country… elements of experience have accumulated which have no relevance to that of the people on the “continent”’ (Songal 2001: 109). However, both observers would probably agree with the statement of the governor of Kaliningrad, Vladimir Egorov, when asked of how he views Kaliningrad’s development prospects in the context of EU enlargement: ‘the fate of history has placed Kaliningrad in the very centre of integrating Europe’ (‘Interview…’).
Of course, at best, these views imply a perception of a semi-outsider status, which is certainly not quite ‘in’, but on the other hand not entirely ‘out’ either. Such a perception falls clearly short of the more minority views such as the proposals of Sergei Pasko, of the small Baltic Republican Party, who suggests setting up a Baltic Republic in the region. It would be part of Russia, or an associate member of the federation, but also concomitantly integrated into the EU as a subject of international law. Moreover, one part of the young people seem to support an even more pro-European view. Sergei Kortunov reports that in an anonymous opinion poll presumably conducted in early 2002, 60% of those under 28 years of age wanted separation from Russia. This opinion can have something to do with the fact that 90% of the ‘young’ Kaliningraders have visited Poland, Lithuania and Germany several times, without having ever been to Russia proper (Kortunov 2003: 122). In another poll conducted by researchers from the Kaliningrad State University in June 2001, a higher share of the younger generations of up to 40 years are anxious about the exclave status of the region (17%-20%) compared to the older generations (5-10%). Yet, only around one-tenth of the respondents in all age groups wanted to see Kaliningrad as an ‘independent state’ (Klemeshev and Fedorov 2002: 27). Hence, there are important generation-based differences in spatial orientation among the Kaliningraders. But, it is important to point out that the eurasianist traits in the official spatial conceptions, with their accent on a multivector orientation also assigning a prominent place for directions such as the CIS and China, is most likely not very widely shared as a priority from the Kaliningradian point of view. For the majority of the Kaliningraders, the Russian and EU space combined are close to exhausting the spatial dimensions relevant to them. When ties with Russia and its various regions are, as a rule, seen as clearly insufficient on their own to help to alleviate the Kaliningraders’ problems (Khlopetskii and Fedorov 2000: 219), it is questionable whether adding any eurasianist priorities would help to improve the situation.
Second, in terms of interest projects, the Kaliningraders share the ambivalence of the federal centre vis-à-vis the consequences of the most important EU geo-policy, the enlargement project. Most of the interviewed euro-experts expect some negative consequences for Kaliningrad, but they disagree among themselves as to how grave and long lasting these are going to be. Contradicting some Russian estimates heard from Moscow (Smorodinskaia 2001: 64), all but one them expect only a short initial period of shock and then foresee predominantly positive opportunities. However, they all have a clear regionalist bias in their views of EU enlargement. This is well summarised by the head of the international relations unit of the Kaliningrad regional administration, Viktor Romanovsky: ‘The present day situation in Europe resulting from the process of EU enlargement considerably affects the viability of the region. For us, the people living there, all these issues are not “high politics”. It is our daily life’ (Romanovsky 2000: 21). This statement is made in an international conference with Russian federal level participation, and represents direct criticism of the federal centre, towards which Kaliningradian regional elites commonly felt severe disappointment at the turn of the millennium. The federal policy was perceived as unstable, with its continuous wavering on the FEZ/SEZ question, and failures to meet the financial contributions targets in the first and second federal programmes for the region (1998-2000; 2002-2010). The federal programmes themselves were often seen as inadequate, even if fully realised, and both implicit and explicit references were made to the inadequate amount of regional autonomy granted to the region and to its unstable and ill-defined character (e.g. Khlopetskii and Fedorov 2000: 688-9, 699, 706; Romanovsky 2001: 89; Songal 2001: 109-112; interviews).
The regionalist bias is also evident in the manner in which the Kaliningraders resist reducing the question of the oblast’ vis-à-vis the EU to the visas issue like Russia did in 2002. The prospects of a blocked entry not only to Russia, but also to the enlarging EU of which the Kaliningraders are badly dependent as well, was seen as problematic in the beginning of the new millennium. However, it was not made a ‘high politics’ issue, rather a practical question which needed to be solved aside more serious problems such as the growing socio-economic gap between Kaliningrad and its EU neighbours. In September 2002, Kaliningrad’s representative in Russia’s Federation Council commented shortly after his resignation, which was motivated by his open disagreement with his government’s policy, that
Moscow continues to try and resolve Kaliningrad’s problems with one stroke (although this is a long process with many stages), and has reduced them to one narrow issue – visa-free transit… The most important thing is to reach an agreement with Europe and not threaten her with a worsening of relations, like Dmitry Rogozin [the president’s Kaliningrad envoy] is doing. And we shouldn’t try to frighten our neighbours, Poland and Lithuania, because they can’t resolve the visa issue, only Brussels can… Let’s finally come to terms with the fact that we are not trying to resolve the issue of people from Vladivostok or any other Russian town travelling to Kaliningrad. We are trying to ensure the survival of the Kaliningrad region’s one million or so people (‘We Are Entering…’, 28 September 2002)
With regard to the Union’s geo-strategy, Ustyugov goes on to comment that ‘today, the EU is a superpower. It is developing dynamically, and is economically and politically more powerful than Russia’ (‘We Are Entering…’). Although the notion of a superpower might not be what is widely shared among the Kaliningraders, it is relatively clear that they think the Union is having a major, and increasing impact upon their lives. This impact is a very directly felt one and differs from the centre-to-centre dialogue between the EU and the Russian federation on the ordering of northern Europe.
7. Concluding Remarks
The analysis in this paper can be preliminarily summarised into a few brief remarks.
First, Russia has clearly learned a lot about the EU’s subjectivity in the EU-Russian-Kaliningradian drama. With the EU passing Russia’s ‘test’, Russia has got confirmation for the tendency it started in the late 1990s of treating the EU as a significant international and regional subject. In the new millennium, Russia has also started to treat the EU as a ‘civilisational choice’ regardless of the eurasianist inclinations that are still kept onboard, at least for rhetorical and bargaining purposes. This has meant that Russia has engaged with the prospect of seriously emulating the EU subject at the economic plane, including the closely related visa free zone issue. Yet, it has to be said that overall, the political Copenhagen criteria still remain a somewhat unturned stone for Russia. Second, the EU-Russian relations that have culminated in the Kaliningrad issue have also been an important learning exercise for the EU. By managing at least somewhat satisfactorily to engage Russia in this question, although perhaps having been partly forced to do so, the Union has obtained a license to spread its order deeper from the BSR into the wider northern Europe through the prospect of progress in the CEES and visa questions, plus other issues that these policy sectors may further open up, possibly with regard to some CIS states such as Moldova and Ukraine. Kaliningrad has played an important interest group role in the process. Third, the recognitions in Russia and its regions analysed here imply that the third circle of European integration, or ‘wider Europe’, is not an entirely clear-cut and well-demarcated political space, but rather includes competing positions vis-à-vis the EU centre, and thus, competing modes of subject construction. The discontinuities between the federal and regional level recognitions analysed here lend added credence to the relatively open-ended borders of the concentric EU order, but also concomitantly help it to extend further into European north and post-Soviet space.
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