A “brave political experiment” calling for “unconventional decisions” promoting sub-regional cooperation that ultimately might develop into “a common European social and economic space” : this is how the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Viktor Khristenko, identified in 2003 the European Union's Northern Dimension . This statement highlights the innovative nature of the EU's Northern Dimension which aims at developing cooperation in various sectors within the Baltic Sea Region. However, the Baltic Sea area counts already several organisations for regional cooperation on issues specific to the neighbouring countries : the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), the Arctic Council and the Nordic Council (NC), for instance. The need for another cooperation programme, framed within the EU policy this time, appears thus questionable. What is more, the Northern Dimension, or ND, and especially its environmental concerns, involves not only some northern member states of the EU but also non-member states such as Norway or Russia, as well as the Baltic States originally. The need for the EU's intervention can thus become clearer if one keeps in mind the notion of a political “experiment” for which it stands in the relations between the European Union and Russia. It seems thus interesting to consider the role played by the European Union in the region through its efforts to establish an environmental cooperation, covering particularly the problems of North –west Russia in this area.
[...] On the matter of climate change, the Russian ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on November 2008 has been the main event during the period, and it is expected to open up new possibilities for a further environmental cooperation with this EU's neighbour. About the marine environment, clear synergies are reported to exist between the strategies of the European Union and the Arctic Council in the region. The European Commission has particularly raised the issue of maritime safety and environmental damage from activities in the Baltic Sea with Russia. [...]
[...] To what extent is the European Union playing a major and innovative role in the European North region through the environmental scope of its “Northern Dimension” policy? In a first part, we will study why the European Union's Northern Dimension Initiative has appeared as an innovative venture in the European North region by promoting partnership between the EU and some northern countries, members or not. We will then see how the EU leads a major role in shaping the environmental cooperation with several programmes framed within the Northern Dimension concerns, and challenges thus the reality of a Northern Dimension Partnership. [...]
[...] It has been initiated by the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) active in the region (the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Nordic Investment Bank and the World Bank), and found support in the EU Presidency and Commission in 2001. It is thus a regional and European financial instrument. It become the main instrument to implement the Northern Dimension initiative and [is expected] to mobilise investments [mainly] to improve the environment in north-west Russia”. It is indeed a cooperative effort responding to calls from the Russian Federation and the international community for a concerted effort to tackle some of the most pressing environmental problems in North-west Russia. [...]
[...] Conclusion In conclusion, the European Union leads a major role in shaping the cooperation in the European North through an innovative Northern Dimension which aims at giving a legal framework to its partnership with the countries and existing organisations in the region. This Northern Dimension has a large and various scopes of interests, however it has been initiated by Sweden and Finland and has thus a particular concern about environmental cooperation. This is why the European Union has focused its action on this area, launching Action Plans giving the priority to environment, and supporting the creation of the NDEP which is seen up to now as the best model for cooperation in other sectors. [...]
[...] On the nuclear issue, the Partnership uses the work done by the Contact Expert Group of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an international specialist forum for consultation for nuclear waste management in Russia. The Northern Dimension is innovative in this sense that the European Union is using partnerships and expertise of other organisations in order to gain more efficiency, and promoting thus some kind of regionalisation. However, more than being seen as an innovative experience, the EU's Northern Dimension needs to prove it has an added value to the other numerous political instruments at use for cooperation in the region through concrete actions and progress. [...]
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