The EU in Bilateral Bargaining: The Agreement with Russia on Transit to Kaliningrad

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2003 18 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: European Union



1. Introduction

2. The Framework of Analysis

3. Assessing EU-Russia bargaining on Kaliningrad
3.1. Joint gains, joint losses and the costs of a non-agreement
3.2. Negotiation strategies, agenda-setting, issue linkages and side-payments
3.3. The role of individual member states
3.4. The role of Poland and Lithuania

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

With the accession of Lithuania and Poland to the European Union envisaged for Mai 2004 the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad will be completely surrounded by EU-territory. This is going to have a number of consequences for Russian transit travelers between Kaliningrad and the Russian mainland. With the accession agreement Lithuania and Poland have agreed to the adoption of the Schengen acquis. Therefore, Russians traveling through these countries should be subjected to the Schengen regulations which would require them to obtain an international Russian passport and a transit visa from a Lithuanian or Polish consulate.

These conditions were declared unacceptable by the Putin administration which demanded free and unrestricted travel from and to Kaliningrad which so far is possible with the old Soviet internal passport and without having to obtain a visa. If this was not possible, an international transit corridor should be established declared the Russian government. The EU made clear that the Schengen acquis was non-negotiable and any infringement of the sovereignty of Poland or Lithuania unacceptable but agreed to start bilateral talks about the costs and duration of future visas for Russian travelers.[1]

Mainly between June and November 2002 negotiations between the EU[2] and the Russian government over the issue took place which resulted in the following agreement signed during the EU-Russia summit in Brussels on 11 November 2002: From 1 July 2003 transit to Kaliningrad via Lithuania will require either a) a so-called facilitating transit document (FTD), issued free of charge or at a low price by Lithuanian consulates which allows multi-entry travel in connection with the old internal passport, from 2005 only with an international one, or b) a facilitated return transit document (FRTD) for a single (return) trip by train only. The latter can be requested via the Russian railway authorities when buying a ticket and will be issued at border checkpoints.[3] Moreover, both sides agreed to carry out a feasibility study concerning a high-speed non-stop train link and the abandoning of the visa requirement for this kind of travel if Lithuania agrees, too. Furthermore, traveling via Poland or by private car will require a full Schengen visa. The agreement is connected with technical and financial aid to Russia for economic development and border management. A readmission agreement for illegal immigrants is envisaged for the near future.[4]

This agreement presents a puzzle in so far as the EU was willing to accept far-reaching compromises on the Schengen acquis which seemed to be non-negotiable.[5] Now, the most important transit route to Kaliningrad, i.e. the train link via Lithuania can be used without having to apply for a visa in advance and until 2005 even without an international passport. This regulation meets Russia’s original demand to a great extent. The outcome of the negotiations appears rather counterintuitive as one would assume a higher bargaining power of the EU. The economic strength of the European Union is seen as creating a relationship of asymmetric dependence for Russia and as giving the EU the power to determine outcomes in bilateral bargaining.[6] Also in applications of approaches such as Putnam’s two-level games the EU is often described as a tough negotiator on the international level due to its limited win-sets which are derived from the diverse member states’ interests which have to be balanced in the institutional framework.[7] This is especially relevant when the unanimous approval of the member states is required as in this case.[8] EU negotiators can use the ‘tied-hands’ strategy in order to obtain concessions from the other side.[9] Russia in turn, could be assumed as having bigger win-sets, i.e. more room for manoeuvre on the international level due to the more autonomous position of its presidential government in front of the legislature and societal actors. Moreover, the costs of a non-agreement outcome seem to lie with Russia which would have to cope with a visa regime for its citizens without any concessions in case of failed negotiations. Therefore the Russian side should have been more willing to accept far-reaching compromises on its position. Obviously, these assumptions do not explain what happened.

In this paper I will argue that the EU’s bargaining power was in fact much more limited for a number of reasons while Russia could indeed aim for a more favourable agreement. I will assess crucial developments of the negotiations and in particular look at the development of each side’s win-sets which pre-determined this outcome. I will claim that the outcome can be explained in particular by the following factors: 1.) The cost of non-agreement would have been higher for the EU than for Russia in the long run. 2.) The lack of a coherent strategy of the EU enabled Russia to set the agenda and to create strategically advantageous issue-linkages. 3.) Some EU member states undermined a tough stance of the EU by supporting Russian demands. 4.) The weak position of Lithuania (and Poland) as a part of the EU constituency and their inability to pursue their national interests in order not to endanger their accession to the EU and Schengen pushed them into accepting far-reaching compromises. 5.) This forced also the Commission to compromise on the Schengen acquis in order not to endanger the enlargement process.

2. The Framework of Analysis

The dependent variable, i.e. the agreement on transit to Kaliningrad shall be explained by the configuration of bilateral bargaining, mainly by an analysis of the two sides’ win-sets. I will try to show why the independent variable, i.e. the bargaining power, in particular the win-sets of Russia and the EU took a different value than one would easily assume and therefore lead to this rather unexpected outcome.

My approach is going to concentrate on the main actors’ behaviour in the negotiations, which is assumed to be rational and based on cost-benefit calculations regarding their priorities. These priorities might also entail non-material or value-based interests. To account for each side’s bargaining power and the respective size of win-sets mainly Robert Putnam’s approach of two-level games, and Keohane’s and Nye’s concept of interdependence referring to the impact of one side’s action on the other will be applied.[10] These approaches enable us to place this analysis into mainstream IR applications without necessarily having to refer to more specific EU-related theories. Nevertheless, I will try to examine some of the typical features of EU bargaining in this context.

Some basic assumptions about the contextual framework will be put forward in the following: 1.) Since there is already a partly structured relationship with repeated frequent interaction and negotiation between Russia and the EU an information rich atmosphere is in place and cheating about one’s basic intentions and actions is therefore hardly possible.[11] 2.) Russia’s first and foremost interest in best possible access to Kaliningrad can be assumed as given and unchanged from the beginning. The EU’s interests with regards to the agreement appear to be more complex and partly shaped by the course of negotiation as I will show below. 3.) Although the EU acts as a unitary actor in international negotiations the diversity of its members’ interests also has to be accounted for. In addition to their role as a constituency which has to approve agreements on the international level made by the EU, member states can act as additional individual actors on the international level, too, in pursuing independent policies, which also reverberate on the EU as a whole. 4.) In the case of the negotiations on transit to Kaliningrad a special role is assumed by the future member states Poland and Lithuanina. Although they do not take part in internal EU interest formation they are being consulted and also have to ratify any agreement reached.


[1] European Report No. 2693, 19 June 2002, p. V.6.

[2] Unless stated differently the term ‘EU’ as a negotiating partner of Russia refers to the EU Commission which lead the negotiations.

[3] Neue Zuercher Zeitung, 12 November 2002.

[4] Bulletin Quotidien Europe, No. 8338, 13 November 2002, p. 9.

[5] European Report No. 2693, 19 June 2002, p. V.7.

[6] R Keohane / J Nye (1977), Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition, Boston: Little and Brown, pp. 10-11.

[7] R Putnam (1988), Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two Level Games, International Organization, 42:3, pp. 427-460.

[8] S Meunier (2000), What Single Voice? European Institutions and EU-US Trade Negotiations, International Organization, 54:1, pp. 103-135.

[9] S Meunier (2000), What Single Voice? European Institutions and EU-US Trade Negotiations, International Organization, 54:1, pp. 106; R Putnam (1988), Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two Level Games, International Organization, 42:3, pp. 448-449.

[10] R Putnam (1988), Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two Level Games, International Organization, 42:3, pp. 427-460; R Keohane / J Nye (1977), Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition, Boston: Little and Brown, pp. 3- 37.

[11] The core of the structured relationship between Russia and the EU is the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed in June 1994, which is supplemented by a large number of special treaties. (S Huisman, A New European Union policy for Kaliningrad, Centre for European Security Studies Occasional Paper No.33, Groningen, March 2002, pp. 16-17.)


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Institution / College
Central European University Budapest – Department of Political Science
EU European Union Europäische Union Kaliningrad bargaining two-level games interdependence transit enlargement Osterweiterung Russland Königsberg Ostpreussen East Prussia



Title: The EU in Bilateral Bargaining: The Agreement with Russia on Transit to Kaliningrad