The Baltic States and Their Region: New Europe or Old?

By David J. Smith | Go to book overview

Estonian-Russian cross-border cooperation: the warning
example of Tartu-Pskov

Eero Mikenberg

The search for the optimal way of organising cross-border cooperation between regions of north-west Russia, Estonia and Latvia reached a new level in 2001, when the idea of establishing a euroregion was proposed by the regional administration of the Pskov oblast' of the Russian Federation. For several reasons, this proposal received a mixed response, both domestically and internationally. Inter alia, the proposal brought the oblast' into conflict with several local rural districts (rayons) located within its borders, as well as with corresponding localities in neighbouring Latvia and Estonia. Also involved in the dispute was a local municipal district, the city of Pskov, which, as a new player, was able to choose between the sides. It is this conflict which provides the focus for chapter.


1. Pskov and the eastward enlargement of the European Union

Pskov, the westernmost region of the Russian Federation, did not succeed in building sustainable cross-border networks with Estonia and Latvia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The impending accession of its two neighbours to the European Union (EU), however, spurred the oblast' administration to greater efforts in this sphere. Access to EU structural funds is widely considered to be a major motivating factor behind subnational cross-border activity in Europe.1 Similarly, a desire to gain access to the EU funds that become available on the new external border after enlargement has activated both levels – regional and local – of subnational government within the Pskov oblast'. Several such subnational units were poised to position themselves as the most suitable prospective partner for future EU projects, with a euroregion the “grand prix” in this game.

Recent political developments in Pskov – often conceived in the past as a Russian military outpost against the West – have been influenced by a variety of rapid geopolitical and geoeconomic changes, which are linked to the end of the Cold War. Internally, three major factors determine the political life in the oblast': geographic location on the Russian external border, a high degree of military presence, and the introduction of democracy and market reforms.

The collapse of the Soviet Union heralded a completely new era in the political life of Pskov. The regional elite was “left geopolitically shocked” by this development.2 Suddenly a border region again, Pskov faced the huge task of erecting and maintaining the Russian state frontier. On the other side of this were independent states poised to join the

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