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Tatiana Romanova

Institutional Levels of Analysis and the Evolution of Russia-EU Relations: Some Theoretical and Practical Aspects

2016. Vol. 11. No. 4. P. 224–248 [issue contents]

The level of analysis concept is an excellent tool for studying the evolution of international relations. This article focuses on the institutional approach of three levels of interaction: the intergovernmental level (IGL) describes traditional contacts among heads of states or governments as well as among ministers; the transgovernmental level (TGL) consists of relations among civil servants of middle and low rank; and the transnational level (TNL) includes the dialogue of non-governmental participants such as business, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and epistemic communities. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye identified TGL and TNL, but the studies of these levels has intensified as a result of burgeoning links among civil servants, business, NGOs and experts from different countries. Transgovernmental and transnational interactions stabilize relations among various actors.

This article clarifies the stabilizing potential of TGL and TNL interactions. First, the degree of autonomy of civil servants from the political level of government has to be taken into account. Second, the state regulates the level of independence of both business and NGOs. TGL and TNL interactions can stabilize relations only if civil servants are independent from the political level in what concerns technical issues and where both business and civil society are strong. Third, real economic interdependence matters because it forms an agenda of cooperation in a particular field. The intensification of trade and investment flows does not automatically lead to real interdependence. In this case, contacts at the transgovernmental and transnational levels acquire a formal character and no cooperation emerges, which does not allow for stabilized relations in crisis situations at the IGL.

The empirical section of the article demonstrates how widening and deepening relations between the European Union and Russia, especially since 2000, led to thickening transgovernmental and transnational interactions but these levels failed to stabilize relations between Moscow and Brussels following the 2014 Ukrainian crisis. On the contrary, the EU’s reaction (sanctions) led to the destruction of economic links at both levels, whereas Russia deconstructed transnational non-profit relations. Tensions at the IGL also negatively affected the epistemic community (a part of the TNL), leading to its politicization. Changes and fine-tunings in the concept of institutional levels of analysis, suggested in the article, help to explain recent developments in EU-Russian relations. The article also recommends purposefully restoring relations at the transgovernmental and transnational levels to facilitate overcoming of the crisis in EU-Russian relations.

Citation: Romanova T. (2016) Institutional Levels of Analysis and the Evolution of Russia-EU Relations: Some Theoretical and Practical Aspects. International Organisations Research Journal, vol. 11, no 4, pp. 224-248 (in Russian). DOI: 10.17323/1996-7845-2016-04-224.
Article type: Article.
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