Cross-border cooperation is the most important sphere of international relations of the Russian Federation, the country that has the largest territory and the longest state border in the world. However, in our legislation there is no special regulatory legal act regulating this sphere of international activity. At the same time, the general legislative norms do not fully take into account the specifics of cross-border relations, do not determine the legal status of border territories and subjects of cross-border cooperation, which significantly reduces the effectiveness of using the potential of cross-border cooperation.
Therefore, in modern conditions, adoption of the Federal Law No. 351626-5 “On the Basics of Cross-Border Cooperation of the Russian Federation” is becoming especially relevant. It was adopted by the State Duma in the first reading on June 30, 2010 and is currently prepared for consideration in the second reading, taking into account the amendments of the Government of the Russian Federation of November 10, 2016.
The State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs jointly with the State Duma Committee for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots held parliamentary hearings on April 10 on the topic “Legislative regulation of cross-border cooperation in the Russian Federation: the state and prospects for development.” The deputies of the State Duma and the members of the Federation Council, the leadership of the federal ministries and departments, the heads and chairmen of the legislative bodies of the subjects of the Russian Federation, leading scientists and experts took part in the hearings.
During the discussion, government amendments to the draft law that included new concepts for the Russian legal system, such as “cross-border cooperation areas”, “cross-border cooperation project”, were supported in the discussion. The participants noted that the amendments more clearly define the powers of the federal executive body authorized to exercise the functions of developing state policy and regulatory legal regulation in the field of cross-border cooperation, the powers of state authorities of the border regions of the Russian Federation and the powers of local self-government bodies of border municipal entities in the sphere cross-border cooperation. In addition, the mechanism for concluding agreements on cross-border cooperation at the regional level has been improved by taking into account the interests of the frontier municipal entities by the state authorities of the constituent entities of the Federation. The most significant from the legal point of view are also the provisions of the draft law, in accordance with which powers of concluding agreements on cross-border cooperation with local self-government bodies of neighboring states are assigned to the competence of local self-government bodies.
The adoption of the bill, taking into account government amendments, will allow Russia to fulfill international legal obligations taken upon accession to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities and Authorities, the Additional Protocol, Protocol No. 2 to it, and Protocol No. 3 concerning ratification regional cooperation associations (EFRO). This is especially true for cross-border cooperation with the countries of the European Union.
So, since 2007, a number of cross-border cooperation programs have been implemented – with Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Poland. The programs are financed from a single fund, where contributions are made by the Russian Federation, the European Union and the participating countries from the European side (in 2007-2013 only projects worth 154 million euros were realized on the territory of Russia, mainly at the expense of Western partners). It is important that the European Commission has brought the programs of cross-border cooperation beyond the framework of sanctions relations. From 2016 to 2020, on the basis of co-financing, five more programs will be implemented.
At the hearings, the peculiarities and significance of cross-border cooperation with member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States were revealed. It is enough to note that the Russian-Kazakh border has a length of more than 7,000 km.
Border relations within the CIS presuppose closer integration at least for two reasons: firstly, the borders between the republics in the USSR were only administrative, and therefore the border areas are interdependent. This is true for transport communications, and for economic ties, and for cultural and humanitarian relations. And the population of the border areas in many respects has the same ethnic character. Secondly, a visa-free regime, a free trade zone, a cultural and linguistic community attach special importance to the cross-border relations between Russia and the CIS countries.
The need for closer interaction between border regions is recognized by all CIS countries, which have consolidated this approach in a number of international agreements. This was adopted in 2008 on the initiative of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly the Convention on Cross-Border Cooperation among the CIS member states, signed in September 2016, the Convention on Interregional Cooperation of the CIS Member States and the Cross-border Cooperation Program between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2012-2017. The development of Eurasian integration in the future will further stimulate the development of legal systems of cross-border cooperation of the states of the Eurasian Economic Union.
The course to achieve the conjugacy of the development of the Eurasian Economic Union and the formation of the Economic belt of the Silk Road creates prerequisites for cross-border integration of the regions of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China and the Mongolian People’s Republic. Thus, the international coordinating council “Our Common Home – Altai”, which unites the Central Asian border regions of the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, the Mongolian Republic and the Republic of Kazakhstan, has established itself as an effective mechanism for expanding integration and cross-border cooperation in the Eurasian space. Interest in this association is shown by a number of countries in the Pacific region, especially South Korea and Japan.
It should be specially emphasized that the experience of cross-border cooperation within the framework of the Euroregions was used in the formation of the international coordination council “Our Common Home – Altai”. Currently, within the framework of this council, a number of joint projects on the development of cross-border cooperation in the sphere of economy, culture, ecology, education and tourism are successfully implemented.
Together with the authorities of the bordering Central Asian territories of Russia and with the participation of the members of the Committee for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian integration and relations with compatriots, a transboundary biosphere reserve “Big Altai” was created under the auspices of UNESCO, which is the first transboundary environmental project for Russia and Kazakhstan . Very positive and worth studying results were achieved by the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in cooperation with China and Japan.
As a result of parliamentary hearings, the State Duma adopted recommendations aimed at accelerating the adoption of the Federal Law “On the Basics of Cross-Border Cooperation of the Russian Federation”, taking into account the comments made. Cross-border cooperation is becoming an increasingly important factor in the growth of Russia’s role in international architecture.