This paper comprises a research plan presentation, with its subject determined by research objectives and general research design outlined below. The author discusses such aspects of the future research as research questions, hypotheses, methodology, and the MA thesis’s structure, with a preliminary bibliography provided in the end of the paper.
Keywords: research plan, MA thesis, Russia, EU, cross-border cooperation, Euroregions
The Role of Euroregions Karelia and Baltic within the Framework of EU-Russia Cross-Border Cooperation
The fall of the USSR and the widespread push for the European integration resulted in an increased importance of the relations between the EU and post-Soviet nations such as Russian Federation. This MA thesis study will focus on the issues of cross-border cooperation between Russia and the European Union, with a special emphasis on the role of Euroregions, in particular, those of Karelia and Baltic.
Purpose of the Study
The author will attempt to demonstrate the significance of policy tools implemented within these Euroregions’ institutional frameworks for the further advancement of EU-Russia cross-border cooperation. The study will place a special emphasis on the cooperative instruments developed by local and regional authorities on both sides of the EU-Russia border, while situating them within a larger system of bilateral relations between these international actors. Simultaneously, the author will explore theoretical and historical context of Euroregion-based model of cross-border cooperation, with a view to applying the derived conclusions to the situation in Euroregions Baltic and Karelia. Thus, it would be possible to contribute to the construction of a more case study-based model of EU-Russia relations.
For the purposes of this study, the following definitions shall be utilized by the author. Cross-border regionalism refers to “a spatially integrated approach to problem-solving involving actors from local, regional and central levels” (Wesley Scott, 1999, p.606). As cross-border cooperation may be viewed as the instrument of such problem-solving, this study will proceed from the assumption that the latter is structural, rather than functional phenomenon.
In the circumstances of globalization, cross-border regional cooperation may be construed as giving rise to transnational policy networks, characterized by convergence of state and non-state actors’ involvement (Grundy-Warr & Perry, 1998). This institutional design facilitates the inclusion of civil society actors in policy-making process at cross-regional level, contributing to further integration processes (Arnaud, 2001).
Accordingly, a Euroregion is defined as “a trans-national co-operation structure between two (or more) contiguous territories located in different European countries” (Oto%u010Dan, 2010, p.4). As mentioned by the author, Euroregions do not “correspond to any legislative or government institution, do not have direct political power”, while being represented by an “association of local and regional authorities on the both sides of the national border” that is charged with maintaining common private and public law structures (Oto%u010Dan, 2010, pp.4-5). This specificity of Euroregions as spatial and functional international actors will determine the current study’s focus.
The following research questions will be explored by the author:
1. What is the focus of the cooperation frameworks established between Russian and EU border region authorities in respective Euroregions (economic, cultural, socio-political, etc.)?
2. Are the EU-Russia cross-border cooperation in Euroregions Karelia and Baltic influenced by the inter-state relations, and if not, what are the reasons for this phenomenon?
3. How do the mechanisms of coordination between Russian and EU authorities in Euroregions Karelia and Baltic relate to wider inter-state relations’ structures?
4. How does the experience of EU-Russia cross-border cooperation in Euroregions Baltic and Karelia compare with overall account of EU-Russia relations in respective functional spheres (economic and cultural cooperation)?
Proceeding from the aforementioned concept of transnational regionalization, this study assumes that the EU-Russia cooperation within the structures of Euroregions Karelia and Baltic is bound to facilitate the development of intra-regional structures of cooperation, which might later give rise to closer economic and cultural integration within the respective cross-border areas. Subsequently, present forms of such cooperation are construed as the initial stage of the respective transnational networks’ development.
Given the study’s focus, this research will be based on the case study qualitative research design strategy, with due emphasis on the respective phenomena’s embedding within the specific temporal and spatial situation (Creswell, 1994, p.12). The qualitative methods to be used in the course of this study may include both fieldwork and secondary data collection (requiring access to the relevant databases and archives of both EU and Russian local authorities and non-governmental organizations); and interpretational analysis, with a focus on the core patterns present in the data findings (Travers, 2004). Such research design will contribute to holistic understanding of the subject under consideration.
Structure of the Thesis
Considering the needs of the outlined research design, the following structure of the MA thesis will be proposed. The thesis is to consist of 3 chapters, with Introduction and Conclusions parts informing the reader of both research hypotheses and the results of their verification. In Chapter 1, a theoretical framework of the study shall be presented; Chapter 2 will deal with the historical and legal (normative) context of EU-Russian cooperation in Euroregions Karelia and Baltic, while Chapter 3 will provide a comprehensive analysis of inter-relatedness of the Euroregion cooperation and main directions of EU-Russia inter-state relations. It appears to the author that this thesis structure would allow for the fulfillment of the respective research aims.