„IT IS ABOVE ALL RUSSIA’S RESPONSIBILITY TO TABLE SUCH PROPOSALS.“
Inteview with Pertti Joenniemi, Senior Research Fellow, Copenhagen Peace Research Institute.
Mr. Joenniemi, on the 18th September 2002 the European Commission adopted a package of proposals which should ease the direct transit of people and goods between Kaliningrad region and the rest of Russia. The European Commision has come with proposal to introduce a Facilitated Transit Document (FTD) and has proposed some plans for future (special trains, discussion about visa policy between RF and EU etc.), but Russia has rejected this proposal yet. Do you think it is possible to find solution satisfying all participants of debate about Kaliningrad? If yes, how could this solution look?
Yes, I think that a solution is possible, although we are still quite far from policies that will really work as they have to be acceptable both from the perspective of Russia and the EU, and these two actors tend to operate along quite different logics (they have done so thus far at least). Russia and the EU may well devise some temporary solution in the short run, but this is hardly durable in the longer perspective.
The EU common line to „Kaliningrad´s puzzle“ is „the final responsibility for Kaliningrad remains with Russia. No other actor can do more to improve the situation of Kaliningrad than Russia itself.“ But Moscow does not dispose of resources enough to develop Kaliningrad´s region and difference among Kaliningrad´s region and adjacent countries will be getting larger and larger. Do you agree with this anxiety or do you see better opportunities for Kaliningrad? You and your colleagues, in study The Kaliningrad Puzzle: A Russian Region within the European Union, highlighted the need of „tailor-made programme“ for Kaliningrad. Does EU have such programme? Would Russia be prepared to take part in such programme? We can sometimes notice speculation that intensive cooperation between EU and Kaliningrad region will be beginning of divorcement this region from Russia…
I think that the prospects of Kaliningrad going its own way are rather marginal, although I hope that Kaliningrad would aspire for a stronger position in the EU/Russia constellation. It seems to me that Russia has recently placed stronger emphasis on being a European power, and it is hence in the interests of Russia to use Kaliningrad in this context as a ‚Eurobridge‘. This implies that it is very much in the interest of Russia in general to see to it that Kaliningrad gets going and is not lagging behind. The EU has a kind of programme for Kaliningrad in the sense of counteracting various social ills and problems that might spread over to the Union but not much beyond that. In the longer run the EU will come out with with ideas of its own also in a more positive and inclusive sense, but we are not there yet.
President Putin considers Kalingrad´s theme as basanite of Russia - EU relationship. Is there, if Russia and EU do not find mutual acceptable solution, danger of setback of relations between Russia and EU or sharp words using by Russian side we can consider as component of Russian negotiation?
The hard talk is not damaging, if the Russian leadership is really out to enforce the Union to develop a more comprehensive Kaliningrad-policy and more generally a more specific Russia-policy, does not harm the relations, particularly as Russia is making use of themes such a freedom of movement and human rights which so far have been themes used by the Union in trying to influence Russia. However, if the tough rhetorics turn out to be just tactical and directed mainly to influence and impress a domestic audience without following the moves made more creatiative solutions – above all by giving substance to the concepts of a ‚pilot region‘ and Eurobridge‘ – then some damage could occur. By its offensive Russia has gained the upper hand in the dialogue but to keep the momentum also ideas that go beyond ant proposals of ‚corridors‘ or are less extensive than ideas pertaining to skipping visas in the relations between Russia and the EU are needed. It is above all Russia’s responsibility to table such proposals.