Editors’ introduction to Part IV
The contributions provide an insight into some of the socio-political and cultural realities and complexities of the post-Soviet world and indicate the potential opportunity for mutual learning and increased understanding. In this context, it is important to underline how the history of Russia in the last 70 years has been closely entwined with that of other CEE countries within the context of the socialist block and, after 1989, of its enduring Soviet legacy. As a result, many of the challenges being faced in the Russian Federation are reminiscent of realities that remain strongly connected culturally with the post-socialist countries that have since joined the EU, as well as with new EU neighbours such as Belarus and Ukraine. The process of transition since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been rapid and dramatic. Whilst a healthy body of literature has emerged in planning-related academic publications in Western Europe focusing on the transition process in CEE (cf. Thomas 1998; Ovin 2001; Gorzelak et al. 2001; Petrakos 2001; Krakte 2002; Paalzow 2006), relatively little of this material has related specifically to post-Soviet Russia. The complexities of planning in postSoviet Russia are immense. Planning is situated between competing tensions of an expert-centred Soviet style approach and an incremental development driven market-based approach and includes a complex mixture of eastern and western planning ideals (Tynkkynen 2009). Tynkkynen argues that power is central in Russian planning and that knowledge and expertise has a clear role in serving the needs of certain elite groups. Here the challenges and responses to the transition process merit discussion, both because of the number of similarities as well as of the significant differences, and for this reason the inclusion of this section of the book appears to be particularly relevant also in relation to CEE countries. However, in an age when it could be argued that borders are in many ways becoming an increasingly abstract concept (Williams 2003; Blatter 2004), the engagement of Russia into emergent expert and professional communities presents both challenges and great potential. The characteristics of the Soviet regime where planning was highly centralized meant that the Soviet planning system was in many ways incompatible with the demands of a post-Soviet market-based society (Iyer 2003). In addition market-based systems require a mature and coherent institutional infrastructure that was lacking initially in the Russian Federation and in the other former soviet and socialist countries, therefore leading to a wide diversity of approaches being adopted (Golubchikov 2004). In this context Adams (2008) argued that it may be somewhat naive to expect complex concepts and practices such as strategic planning, transparency, inclusion and stakeholder engagement to be embraced in post-Soviet states when they are problematic enough in mature democracies. In addition it is far from certain the extent to which such practices are appropriate in such dramatically different contexts. Whilst the relationship between the EU and Russia is highly complex, a variety of formal and informal networks and arenas have emerged that offer opportunities for cooperation and mutual learning. The degree to which policy is evidence-based or indeed evidence is policy-based is debatable, especially within the contentious context of world politics. Nevertheless, on the basis of the contributions in this book, the editors would argue that the further
evolution of the expert and professional communities and arenas throughout the European continent is an ongoing and worthwhile process that can foster mutual learning and potentially be highly beneficial in many fields including spatial planning and territorial governance. As mentioned in Chapter 1, it is possible to detect an increasing awareness at the European Commission of the importance of clarifying the place of the EU in the global environment and this clearly requires an exploration of the realities beyond its external borders. This increasing awareness is illustrated by the two recent calls for proposals for ESPON projects and the anticipated projects under the 7th Framework Programme focusing on the external and global dimension of the EU. This section seeks to offer some preliminary insights into the complex relationship between the EU and the Russian Federation from both perspectives and to elaborate on some of the main themes analyzed during the first three parts of this book in this context. The difficulties and complexities of establishing effective epistemic communities and communities of practice and the enduring effects of borders within the EU have been discussed at length and in varying contexts in the different contributions to this book. A number of authors have also explored and discussed the retention and merger scenarios in the context of enlargement and their relevance to those communities in the new Member States (cf. the contributions of Pallagst, Finka and Maier in this volume). The exploration in this final section takes this discussion to a new level, as in principle it may still be possible to adopt the two scenarios to conceptualize the potential interaction of expert and professional communities in an EU-Russian context. Although the authors in this section do not focus on this aspect specifically, it would be reasonable to assume that the merger scenario would be undermined by the existing physical and political borders but also due to significant psychological, institutional and cultural borders that exist between the EU and the Russian Federation. The divisions between actors and the limited permeability of the Austrian-Slovakian border discussed by Haselsberger and Benneworth in Chapter 10 would seem to suggest that effective integration and cooperation between Russian and EU expert communities and networks would be more difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, as evidence presented in the chapters of the present section shows, a set of established cooperation initiatives, mainly promoted under the flag of the EU and of the Council of Europe, seems to provide some room for a lukewarm optimism in relation to mutual learning and the generation of mutually beneficial knowledge arenas and resources in the future. Offering themselves an opportunity for mutual learning, the discussions in these chapters suggest a degree of permeability of the new EU Eastern border, building on the diffusion and reciprocation of formal and informal policies and practices as well as on the global character of many territorial trends affecting European regions. Together the contributions shed some light on the complex cross-scalar and multi-jurisdictional tensions and difficulties that characterize the relationship between the EU and the Russian Federation. An understanding of some of these issues may be beneficial and indeed necessary if effective
cooperation at lower spatial scales is to be immune from sporadic high-level geopolitical tensions. Relations between the EU and the Russian Federation are all too often characterized by such geopolitical tensions in relation to issues such as foreign policy and energy, as well as a mutual misunderstanding and mistrust. The complexity of the relationship has been increased with the re-emergence of Russia as a major power on the global stage and the subsequent re-centralization of power in the Russian Federation discussed by Fritsch (2009). Regular fluctuations in relations between the EU and the Russian Federation provide a challenging context for ongoing cooperation at lower institutional levels and in diverse arenas and jurisdictions. Numerous and diverse knowledge arenas have emerged within which the various multiple bodies and organizations engaged with aspects relevant to spatial development cooperate. The influence of these diverse knowledge arenas depends to a degree on the status, influence and power of the various actors within their own institutional structure. In this context, the influence and role of CEMAT, where the Federal Ministry of Regional Development is active, appears to have more status in Russia than the VASAB initiative where Russia is represented by regional and local actors rather than actors from the Federal level. The complexities and fluctuations in these high-level relationships can be interpreted as a threat but also as an opportunity for the evolution of networks and communities operating in knowledge arenas dealing with issues more relevant to lower territorial scales. It is within this complex cross-scalar and multi-jurisdictional environment that the contributions in this section of the book are set. The contribution by Matti Fritsch focuses on the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) and the role that the Russian Federation has played within this well established arena of cooperation. The geographical proximity of Finland to the Russian Federation and the well established bilateral links and cooperation between the countries means that the Finnish experience can provide valuable insights into the potentials and complexities of relations with the Russian Federation. In many ways Finland has a different relationship with the Russian Federation than other Member States, even those who, like Finland share a land border with their large eastern neighbour. The transition from a status as Soviet Socialist Republics to members of the EU and NATO, coupled with tensions in relation to significant Russian minorities and transit issues, mean that relations between the Baltic States and Russia are complex and often tense. Although historical relations between Russia and Finland have also seen conflicts, in more recent times a more pragmatic and cooperative relationship has emerged. This special relationship between the two countries means that Fritsch is well placed to provide valuable insights into the potentials, opportunities and complexities of cooperation with Russian actors. The author emphasizes the usefulness of the BSR as a lens through which these issues can be explored due to the fact that both the internal and external dimensions of EU territorial governance are present. In addition, the BSR also illustrates the complexity and cross-scalar nature of the interactions between actors trying to operate within the all too rigid confines of cross-border institutional realities.