Statement of Russian Delegation in Wismar

By Irina Karelina

  Situation and perspectives of participation of North-West regions

of Russian Federation in Baltic Sea Region co-operation

  Participating in this Meeting I present the position of North-West regions of Russian Federation (RF) in relation to their participation in transnational and interregional co-operation in the sphere of spatial planning and regional development in the Baltic Sea Region.

Present situation and perspectives of future participation of North-West regions of RF in BSR co-operation on spatial planning and regional development is closely connected with historical preconditions of such co-operation as well as with the level of Russian spatial planning system development.

Broadly speaking from historical point of view, it seems to be reasonable to note that the strategic mutual interest in such co-operation has always been taking place across the border between BSR countries and Russia, although occasionally hampered in the last century by wars and ideological differences. At present it determines by the following main factors:

  • Historically existing economic and cultural links;

  • Development of main transport communications connecting North-West of Russia and the rest of the world, existing of common infrastructure links;

  • Necessity of development and support of common economic, humanitarian, scientific and cultural fields of co-operation;

  • Necessity of preservation of favourable ecological conditions in BSR, environmental protection etc.

Spatial planning system in Russian Federation passed several stages of evolution, conditioned by historical events, changes in the political, economical and social environment of Russia.

We had quite good developed spatial planning system in Soviet Union. But dissolution of the Soviet Union and transition of Russia to open economy effected in significant changes in geopolitical situation for all the country and North-West regions of Russia in particular. It entailed some important spatial consequences, the new problems, opportunities and tasks for Russian North-West.

Firstly, due to sufficient destruction of former spatial links, the task of creation of new system of co-operation on spatial planning and regional development in the BSR has occurred.

Secondly, new opportunities for development of co-operation with neighbouring EU countries in the Baltic Sea region appeared. It needs elaboration of new knowledge, instruments, mechanisms and schemes of co-operation in the BSR.

Thirdly, lack of understanding of spatial planning importance effects in situation when spatial planning does not get an appropriate attention from RF federal authorities. Not clear internal situation with spatial planning system hamper Russian/BSR co-operation in the field of spatial planning and regional development and require to be advanced in the nearest future.

The tendencies of world economy evolution allow to estimate in a new fashion the role of cross-border regions in the process of transnational co-operation. In particular the world economy liberalisation contributes to rapid growth of cross-border regions economies providing international flow of goods and services, international migration of population, infrastructure development, co-operation in the field of ecology etc. Special role in a such kind of co-operation belongs to North-West region of Russia as to the integral part of Baltic Sea Region, the only Russian region bordering EU and Baltic countries.

It should be mentioned that quite energetic activity in the frame of VASAB initiative has been taking place during several last years in North-West Region at regional level. At first activity of regional authorities was of fragmentary nature. But at present North-West Region regional authorities mainly understand all the benefits which can be derived from such co-operation and which can give new additional impulse for North-West Region development.

Trying to use all these opportunities it seems to consider co-operation in the framework of p. 6 of Wismar Declaration as the most perspective direction of North-West/ BSR co-operation:

Co-operation in the framework of VASAB is supported also as forum for exchange of spatial planning experience needed in the participating countries, especially based on projects concerning:

  • Encouraging pilot examples and methodology on how regional and local authorities can use integrated spatial planning to promote sustainable spatial development;

  • Supporting implementation of the conclusions of the Interreg II C project  Urban Systems and urban networking;

  • Strengthening and diversification of rural areas;

  • Encouraging environmentally friendly transport solutions

New impulse for enhancing of such co-operational activity has been done by the international seminar Baltic Sea Region Interregional Co-operation: New Opportunities for North-West Russian Participation which had taken place in Saint Petersburg on May 2001. The strategic objective of the seminar was to facilitate partnerships with the North-West regions of Russia by generating joint projects within the new phase of the transnational EU Interreg programme in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR Interreg III B). Among other general objectives of the seminar were the following:

  • to enhance the understanding of EU spatial and regional co-operation programmes and of the VASAB 2010 Plus Strategy among Russian partners;

  • to increase the knowledge of potential project partners about the objectives and procedures of the Interreg III B programme for the Baltic Sea Region (practical guidelines);

  • to inform about options and ways for Russian Regions to get involved in the Interreg III B programme

Practical guide on BSR Interreg IIIB Programme for potential Russian partners was published this September in Russian language as one of practical results of the seminar.

The other practical result of the seminar is setting up of the new instrument of advisory status BSR Interreg IIIB Russian national sub-committee (RNSC). This body activity aims for involvement of regional and local authorities responsible for regional and local development and spatial planning, as well as for involvement of the economic and social partners and non governmental organisations in the implementation of the European Initiative BSR Interreg IIIB. It is expected that this body will have an important role in carrying out of the proactive approach i.a. through information and support to project generation and development.

As it was decided, RNSC will deal with VASAB activity too. One of the main goals is elaboration of co-operational strategy. One of the first results of Russian national sub-committee activity is collection of project ideas, which resulted in the project list named Project ideas from Russian North-West for VASAB projects (Please see Annex 1). This list is additional to the list of project ideas for BSR Interreg IIIB Programme prepared by the seminar (Annex 2). These lists include project ideas from such regions of Russian North-West as Saint Petersburg, Leningrad oblast, Republic of Karelia, Kaliningrad oblast. These project ideas are evidences of potential and desire of Russian North-West for active co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region.

But together with potential for co-operation I have to mention some significant problems, which can be considered as barriers for Russian North-West on the way to BSR partnership. The main problems are:

  • partner search;

  • search of sources for co-financing of co-operational projects (especially matching of Tacis CBC funding);

  • lack of knowledge and experience of participation in EU initiatives, lack of experience of participation in transnational projects as full partner.

These problems have to be solved for involving Russia in process of Baltic co-operation. One of the ways of these projects solution is implementation of the idea of East-West Spatial Planning Forum for sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region. It is expected that this Forum will involve all BSR countries and representatives of regional and local authorities from the North-West of Russia. Forum will work as an arena for exchange of knowledge and experiences in the field of spatial planning and sustainable development to stimulate partnerships and increase the possibilities for co-operation and networking between North-West regional authorities and BSR countries. It is our project proposal for VASAB and BSR Interreg IIIB Programmes. At present we are in the process of creation of so called North-West informational network around the Russian National Sub-committee on the basis of Internet technologies (creation and support of the RNSC web-site) and e-mail communications as the first step of this proposal implementation.