The European Union is active in various regional cooperation formats involving politicians, officials, civil society and people-to-people contacts.
One of them is the Northern Dimension (ND), a joint policy between EU, Norway, Iceland and Russia. It offers a platform for policy dialogue and practical, result-oriented cooperation through four partnerships in environment, transport, health and culture covering geographical area from the Baltic to Barents Seas. In line with the principle of co-financing, the EU has allocated close to €100m in support of the ND in previous years. For 2014-20 financial support comes from ENI Regional East Programme. The ND considerably contributed to improving the environmental situation of Baltic and Barents Seas. It addressed people’s health, transport and logistics and creative and culture industry policy.
In addition, the academic and the business community networks provide useful input under the ND Institute and the ND Business Council.
The EU supports concrete cooperation projects through ENI Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) programmes and Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme. In July 2014 the European Council decided that the Cross-Border Cooperation programmes with Russia would continue. 7 bilateral programmes worth around € 182 million are planned with Russia – 3 with Finland, 1 with Poland and 1 with each of the Baltic States. In addition, around € 9 million will be contributed to the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme.
Revision and update of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) and its Arctic Policy should be finalised by the end of this year. Working groups on identification of areas of common interest of both the EUSBSR and Russian strategy of social and economic development of the North-West Federal District have been established.
In spite of worsening of relations with Russia, the EU has decided not to reduce its cooperation programmes with Russian people. On the contrary, the EU wishes to further encourage people-to-people contacts. Based on the EU policy on democracy and sustainable development, more strategic engagement with Civil Society Organisations in neighbouring countries is proposed. Two calls for proposals for NGOs in the framework of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) programmes were launched on 27 March 2015 for the total amount of both calls around € 7 million.
No matter how tense the situation can be, the regional cooperation frameworks including cross-border cooperation programmes will remain important vehicles for pursuing dialogue and constructive collaboration.
Deputy Head of EU Delegation to the Russian Federation