• About site  • Contacts  • Useful Links  • Search  
Number 4(8), autumn, 2003
Number 8 of the journal «Kazan Federalist» (in english)
/ Kazan Center of Federalism and Public Policy / Publications / Journal «Kazan Federalist» / 2003 / Number 4(8), autumn, 2003 / The international activity of federal subjects: reasons, objectives and form return to homepage
The international activity of federal subjects: reasons, objectives and form

  • Il’dar Nasyrov
This article will use the concept of a subject of an ethnic state, which will be close to the definition of a region quoted by the Declaration of Regionalism of the European Regions Assembly. The term “subject” is preferable in the context of our research, since the term “region” has a very wide range of definitions which often causes ambiguity.

Il’dar Nasyrov*

The international activity of federal subjects: reasons, objectives and form



This article will use the concept of a subject of an ethnic state, which will be close to the definition of a region quoted by the Declaration of Regionalism of the European Regions Assembly.[1] The term “subject” is preferable in the context of our research, since the term “region” has a very wide range of definitions which often causes ambiguity.

Thus, a subject is a territorial unit of a state which is located at the level underneath the ethnic state level and is politically self-governed. A subject is recognized by the constitution or legislation of a state, which guarantees its autonomy, ethnic identity, powers and organization. A subject has its own constitution, a statute of autonomy or some other legislative act which will define it as a part of the legal system of an ethnic state and outline its organization and authorities. For the purpose of preserving their historical, political, social and cultural peculiarities, different subjects in the same state can have different kinds of status.

The international activity of the subjects is a system of multi-level interconnected processes whose participants are state and political institutions, commercial enterprises and non-profit organizations, public and political figures, social groups pursuing their own goals and using different methods to achieve them. In addition to that, the international activity of the subjects can be influenced by many different factors, ranging from the consequences of globalization to the subjective characteristics of the regional leaders which explain their motivation or political authority. If we view the international activity of the subjects according to a pluralist “open” definition, an important role belongs to the commercial and industrial associations, companies and non-profit organizations which expect that their participation in the international activity will bring concrete results.

The political, economic or social groups which comprise the subject may have different priorities and goals in executing international activity; also, their interests may vary depending on the area.

The metaphor of “a marble layer” used by B. Opeskin to describe intergovernmental interactions in federal states[2] is the best description of a variety of interconnected processes in the international activity of the subjects.

The three most frequently outlined areas of the subjects’ international activity include the political, economic and cultural areas. These three directions of international collaboration are evidently the most developed ones, but they do not exhaust all possible forms of international activity. For instance, the preface to the Declaration of European Regionalism mentions that the sphere of the subjects’ international responsibility (within the limits of their competency) is broader than the three main areas (political, economic and cultural) and also includes ecology, regional and national planning, scientific collaboration.[3] We will further mention other important areas of the subjects’ international activity which do not “fit” the main classification.

International activity of the subjects is now developing in almost all democratic federal states. One can even observe it happen in a growing number of quasi-federal states (such as Spain) and even in unitary states (Japan). Political scientists agree[4] that the diplomacy of subjects will receive further development and will be characteristic of most states in the 21st century.

International activity develops most intensively in stable democratic states. The prime example is the European Union, which does not have a single border that does not have interregional trans-border collaboration on it. New potential members of the EU also develop that kind of international collaboration on their borders.

For a better understanding of the variety of forms of subjects’ international activity, we should analyze its grounds and goals set by its participants.


Reasons for the development of the subjects’ international activity


When defining the key reasons for the development of the recently increasing international activity of the federal subjects, it will be appropriate to quote John Kincaid’s statement from the Federation Forum on the subjects’ external relations issues which took place in Quebec in May 2001. He said that the most typical reasons explaining why international activity of subjects has grown so much in the last decades are globalization and regional integration, such as the EU and NAFTA. This explanation is correct but it is only partial or, more exactly, secondary. The main reason of the phenomenon is the development of democracy.[5] The subjects’ participation in international activity is tightly connected with the democratization process and the spreading of subsidiarity principle in the relations between different levels of power.

The development of the international activity of subjects can also be promoted by the international political situation, which often is such that separate subjects of ethnic states are often less limited by ideological or political antagonism in their international activity than the governments of ethnic states are. For instance, after the Tiananmen crisis, the Chinese government adopted a new strategy – zhoubian diplomacy – in order to break through international isolation by means of defining new external political goals and using new political mechanisms. Within the limits of this strategy, Beijing welcomed the participation of Chinese provinces in international affairs on a subnational level.[6] 




Globalization caused the subjects to shift their development strategy toward decreasing domestic centralization. Under the current conditions of global economic interdependence and open borders, the subjects become a key link of innovations and economic changes. Trade, investments and tourism are the world’s spheres of high competition, but they are also regionally-oriented. Therefore, the governments of the subjects have to act under the conditions of the global market, supporting the manufacturers of goods and providers of services in their regions. In addition to that, the subjects have to interact with the national government, subjects of other states, international organizations and companies, preserve social and political peace, improve the people’s quality of life and protect the environment. Globalization also explains why the state’s subjects which previously had authority only in the area of domestic issues are now involved in international interactions.

In spite of the fears of the expansion of American culture and the ubiquitous suppressing influence of the English language, such globalization instruments like television and the Internet advance the renaissance of national-cultural identity and promote integration into the modern world. Earl Fry[7] notes that cyberspace does not recognize national borders, and events taking place abroad can produce an immediate influence on local communities or even separate families. As a result, local and regional authorities will be more responsible for protecting and increasing the welfare of the population in this era of regional and global integration and fast technological progress. This is especially true for the 350 governments of the main subjects of a couple dozen federations from all over the world (German lands, Canadian provinces, Swiss cantons, American, Australian and Mexican states, and so on).

The problem of globalization’s influence into federal states is a separate research topic. In the context of the change of the role of the subjects in the process of globalization, we can quote Richard Simeon: “On the one hand, globalization can be seen as a power pushing toward decentralization, as the national bodies of power lose control over the instruments of power which have traditionally been concentrated in their hands, while the national economy becomes less integrated internally and more integrated externally. On the other hand, globalization produces an opposite effect, as it gives a greater weight to the states’ role in the international arena, while the effectiveness of this role’s performance implies that every state has its own vote.”[8]


Regional integration


A powerful stimulus toward the development of the international relations of the subjects is the development of regional transnational agreements in the area of free trade (North American Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA or its analog in South America – Mercosur), as well as agreements aimed at the greater integration of the participating countries (such as the European Union or the Commonwealth of Independent States).

International obligations within international agreements signed by national governments may include areas of the subjects’ powers. They violate the current distribution of powers between the country’s government and the subjects in the areas of external and internal politics, since it gives the government which already has exclusive powers in the area of external relations an ability to intrude into the competencies and powers of the subjects.

In addition, national governments transfer their powers to transnational institutions, and the subjects, driven by the necessity of development under conditions of tough competition in global markets, extend the area of their powers in international relations, both de jure and de facto.

The introduction of international standards in the areas of goods quality, emission control, recognition of educational qualifications and international standardization in other areas stimulates the development of international contacts, including those with the subjects of federal states. Participation in the process of forming and adopting international standards gives the subjects an opportunity to take into account their own interests, as well as later bring their internal standards in accordance with accepted international norms. Such participation also promotes international cooperation and raises competition of goods and services on external markets.




The diplomacy of subjects develops in the subjects along with the process of democratization. John Kincaid [9] remarks that in many cases, the diplomacy of subjects begins its legitimate development after the collapse of ruling dictatorships.

Human rights movements also stimulate the protection of rights of national and ethnic groups, especially of those ethnicities without states. This activity is directed toward the recognition of their rights to self-government and participation in state and international affairs.

On the other hand, we should notice one of the negative characteristics of globalization which contradicts democratization in the narrow sense that the accountability of an elected government before its people decreases. Under conditions of global interdependence, it is impossible to make the state’s government responsible for the ongoing processes which have a transnational character and embrace several countries at once. Quoting Robert Kaiser, “the intertwining of modern societies caused by globalization disrupts the mechanisms of democratic control in national states.”[10]

The governments do not have a choice except to support the process of international integration and thus limit the regulatory capability in their own countries. The governments are compelled to develop transnational cooperation in order to realize their own state priorities and affect the international situation.

A government of a state expresses and realizes national interests, but it is not able to take into consideration the variety of specific regional interests which require going beyond state boundaries. M. Farukshin emphasizes that the latter is very true of vast countries with regional economic specialization where regions have considerable territorial and social-ethnic particularities. It is virtually impossible for one federal center to resolve all regions’ problems connected with export-import activity, attracting foreign investments, creating free economic zones, etc.[11] In Soldatos’ opinion, the international activity of federal subjects has a pragmatic explanation: “Disappointment in regard to the federal government’s foreign policy procedures or contents and/or awareness of the central government’s inability to support subnational interests by its own means only causes a situation where subnational levels are also involved in international relations.”[12] In a developed democratic state, the national government is aware of regional specifics, and compromise is reached through mutual concessions of the two levels of power.


Objective international integration


Objective international integration may also be viewed as one of the reasons promoting the development of subjects’ international activity. International integration may be caused by geopolitical factors, for instance; by developed border collaboration of different states’ subjects united by geographic proximity; by a single transport system and by other socioeconomic ties.

Common ecologic and economic interests are usually shared by subjects located in the basin of one river or in some other common ecosystem. An example of an international project of such kind is the economic development of the Tumangan river basin (or Tumannaya, Tumen River) executed under the aegis of the UN. Its goal is to turn the area of the Tumangan River, which crosses the borders of the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and Russia into a financial and transport-economic center. Mongolia and Japan are also interested in this development, since the former will thus get access to the Sea of Japan through China, while the latter will be closer to the sources of comparatively cheap primary goods from China, Mongolia and the Far Eastern region of Russia. The project’s participants include the bordering regions of China, Russia, Mongolia, North Korea and Japan.[13]

The division of labor and business relations (either historically formed or still forming as a result of developing international integration) also often unites the subjects of various states. The crucial reasons for international activity are often tied with the economy; the economy also demonstrates if the international activity brought a result or paid off. International relations often unite economically varying subjects of different states. An example of such a union in Southeast Asia is the oldest and most discussed triangle of growth, uniting Singapore, the Malaysian province of Johore and the Indonesian island of Riau. Singapore, the most dynamic participant in this process, has a great need of a work force and production facilities. The existing differences between the participating regions has caused a new division of labor and promoted noticeable economic progress.

We can bring two more examples from modern Russian history. The Far Eastern subjects of the Russian Federation started actively developing economic ties with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region in the 1990s. Such cooperation was brought about by economic reasons, as the development of trade with certain countries would open access to cheaper and better quality goods. Geographic remoteness from the economically developed central and western regions of Russia and high transportation costs caused the Far Eastern subjects of Russia to revise their geopolitical priorities. In the west of Russia, the unique geographic location of Kaliningrad Oblast makes it vitally important to develop international collaboration with the border regions of foreign states.

John Kincaid noticed a systemic similarity between modern federalism and the market economy, since the essence of the latter is a non-centralized, self-organizing system ordered by multiple interactions between people within an area of the law. A federal organization is also essentially a decentralized self-organizing system ordered by multiple interactions between different levels of power and jurisdiction. We can notice in this connection that a well-functioning federal organization and a well-functioning market economy are perfectly compatible.[14]

In human and social areas, the integration of subjects can be caused by common interests in cultural, language and religious spheres. The issues of international cultural ties have a great significance for the regions with their own language environment. For instance, it is important for the Canadian province of Quebec to create a tighter connection with the francophone community, while German-speaking regions have common trans-border interests in Europe. Areas where linguistic or cultural communities do not coincide with the state borders (Basque Country, Catalonia or Tirol) have an impetus to look for new forms of similarity. Establishing cultural ties with ethnic diasporas from different continents also plays a certain role in establishing and developing the external relations of the subjects. A prime example is Spanish Galicia: as a result of massive migration of Galicians to Latin America, the USA and European countries, it became a center of ethnic identity and culture for hundreds of thousands of compatriots living abroad.[15]

In the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tatarstan is actively involved in uniting the Tatar diaspora and preserving cultural traditions in the CIS countries, as well as in the USA, Finland, and Australia.[16]


Subjects’ goals of the international activity


We will classify the goals of conducting international activity set by the authorities of the subjects:

-         Protect the subject’s economic, political, cultural, etc. interests and the realization of priority development tasks through participation in international activity.

-         Political goals include the following: striving toward constitutional recognition of national identity, attracting international support in the subject’s opposition to the federal center (for example, regarding the issue of distribution of powers between the federal government and the subject), and finally, conducting activity aimed at receiving the status of a sovereign state.

-         Support economic development targeted toward attracting international financial resources, developing markets, creating joint ventures, implementing advanced technologies for competitive recovery of production, searching for materials, reducing burden of working on foreign markets (e.g., opening foreign production branches).

-         Increase the volume of internal travel in the federal subject. This goal is connected with attracting foreign investment, as, first of all, it is necessary to create a competitive tourist base in the region and then put forth a serious effort in marketing and advertising services on the international market.

-         Support the resolution of national foreign policy tasks, including in situations in which there exist factors preventing the development of international contacts on the national government level or in cases in which the subjects’ vigorous activity may cause an expected negative reaction of a foreign state, while the federal government stays “excluded” from the situation.

-         Support the democratization process in the world, as it is democratization that the international activity of subjects is based on.

-         Unite the effort of subjects of different states in realizing joint projects in economic, humanitarian and social spheres, protecting the environment, preserving cultural heritage, securing international solidarity. Coordinate regional development planning, especially in realizing big projects in transport and communications, as well as construction of industrial objects.

-         Develop international relations with the purpose of experience and information exchange in the areas of politics and state building, planning, research, technologies and others. It is common problems that are important, not the geographic proximity.

A political motivation for international activity is most characteristic of subjects which are striving for independence or which are headed by political forces which strive for sovereignty. The main goal in such situations is to provide international support and recognition of sovereignty in the transition period and on early stages. An example of the latter is the decision of Serbia and Montenegro, supported by the EU, to reorganize the Yugoslav Federation in 2002, which practically meant creating two independent states.

However, most frequently, the international activity of the subjects is directed toward realizing their national self-identification without raising the question of secession.


Forms of international activity of subjects

Interaction with national governments


The level of the subjects’ partnership with the federal government is defined by their constitutional organization, which also defines the bases of their interactions in external relations. Historical traditions of partnership and subjects’ counseling with the federal center also have a great importance for the successful internal politics of a national state.

When developing their relations with the federal government in the area of international relations, federal subjects set a goal for their interests to be taken into consideration in the country’s external politics and for the subject to receive support in the international arena.

The first stage of the activation of subjects’ international activity, that is, the stage of accumulating experience and forming institutes of international collaboration, was covered at the end of the 20th century. Modern tendencies of the development of state organization are directed toward improving partner relations between the federal government and federal subjects.

Michael Keating notes: “Since the regions understood that international activity does not permit them to avoid their own national governments or act as independent states on the world arena, national governments also understood that international activity of their federal subjects would not necessarily pose a threat to them.”[17]

One of the most widespread forms of interaction between two levels of power in the sphere of external relations is including subjects’ representatives in the composition of national delegations in case of events such as official visits of foreign delegations, meetings and negotiations with foreign leaders, preparation of international agreements, activities of international organizations and state-level conferences. At the same time, a subject is not given the right to function on behalf of the whole state or to share its foreign policy powers. The main task is to provide mutual consultations and information exchange between the federal government and its subjects, so that regional interests would be accounted for more adequately in the international activity of the state.

In federal states where subjects are represented in supreme organs of legislative power (for instance, in the upper chamber of the parliament), they have a real mechanism for influencing state policy, including that in the sphere of external relations.

The practice of lobbying one’s own external relations interests on the national government level is also quite wide-spread.[18]

Let us follow the development of organizational interaction forms between the subjects and the national government upon the example of the Russian Federation.

The international links of Russian regions became an important component of Russia’s international activity. During his speech at the meeting of ambassadors of the RF in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 12, 2002, President Putin emphasized that: “foreign policy assets are formed not only by federal institutions. They are also formed by the effort of domestic companies and business communities and by the activity of the regions developing their border and interregional collaboration.”[19]

The Russian Federation had adopted a Concept of Foreign Policy which states that the federal subjects develop their international links in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Federal Law “On the Coordination of International and External Economic Links of the Subjects of the Russian Federation” and other legislative acts. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other federal executive organs assist the federal subjects of the Russian Federation in executing their international collaboration, given that the sovereignty and territorial unity of the Russian Federation are strictly observed.[20]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia is responsible for coordinating the external relations of federal subjects and ensuring the division of rights between the subjects and the federal government. For better coordination of actions of the federal and regional authorities on the worlds stage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs created the Department of Connection with Federal Subjects, Parliament and Public Organizations (DSPO), developed a number of typical agreements of the federal subjects with their foreign partners as well as recommendations on reception of higher level foreign delegations in the federal subjects and the drafting of international agreements and a variety of other materials on issues of international links and external economic relations of the federal subjects.

The DSPO of the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) of Russia conducts activity in two directions. On the one hand, the subjects are given information on a foreign state and its interest in contacts with Russian regions regarding certain questions. On the other hand, the MFA receives the information from the federal subjects and forwards it abroad. All possible means, including modern information technologies, are used to accomplish the process of information transfer. The information is transferred on paper and via electronic media as well as through human communication. The DSPO of the MFA pays a great deal of attention to preparing international relations specialists for the federal subjects. Regional representatives study in different programs in the Diplomacy Academy of the MFA. Funds from the Council of Europe help conduct seminars for the training of human resources for the federal subjects.[21]

In 1994 the Federal Subjects’ Consultation Council on International and External Economic Relations was created by the MFA. The Consultation Council discusses questions regarding the international, external economic and border connections of the subjects of the RF. The Consultation Council publishes a report that includes legislative acts, reviews, hearing materials of the Council, and information on the international activity of the subjects.

In 1999, with the active participation of the MFA, the federal law “On the Coordination of the International and External Economic Relations of the Federal Subjects of the RF” was adopted. It formed a legal base for the subjects’ international activity, both on the federal and regional levels.

One of the elements of the MFA’s interaction with the authorities of the federal subjects is the fact that the MFA has branches in the federal subjects. In June 2003, there were 36 branches of this sort, located in the subjects’ capitals: Samara, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Voronezh, Kaliningrad, Pskov, Tyumen, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and others. The branches’ activity in issuing foreign passports and opening visas significantly simplifies these formalities for the population of the Russian regions.

Foreign branches of the MFA which assist the foreign participants of Russia’s external relations also play an essential role in coordinating the international and external economic relations of the regions.

The MFA of the RF is also responsible for providing legal expertise on documents which federal subjects are planning to sign with their foreign partners. The MFA’s database includes more than 1200 active agreements between the federal subjects and foreign partners from 70 countries. In order to ensure that the execution of the subjects’ international agreements is supported by the federal government, there so-called “umbrella” inter-governmental agreements on principles of organization of interregional and border collaboration have been signed with China, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.[22]

Besides, the MFA also organizes presentations of the Russian regions both in its press center and at international activities. Recently, a new form of activity has been developed: the organization of visits of leaders of diplomatic offices to the federal subjects. For instance, ambassadors of the EU countries visited Nizhny Novgorod in 2001, while the MFA of the RF assisted in organizing a visit of foreign ambassadors to Karelia. An analogous visit to Tatarstan is planned for August 2003.

A new form of interaction between the MFA of the RF and the subjects was the signing of the Protocol of Collaboration in International and External Economic Relations for 2003-2005 between the MFA and the Republic of Tatarstan. This document, signed by the President of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiyev, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Igor Ivanov, was articulated due to the necessity of the collaboration of both parties in the preparation of international activities during celebration of Kazan’s 1000th anniversary in 2005 and to inform the world of the coming anniversary and its historical and cultural meaning. The planned activities include an assembly of the MFA’s Council of Leaders of the federal subjects, international conferences, exhibitions and presentations, as well as organization of foreign delegations visits to Tatarstan.

Traditionally, border collaboration causes the least amount of internal tension between a subject and the federal center. As emphasized by the Minister of Foreign Affairs I.S. Ivanov, “extending border collaboration is in full accordance with the national interests of Russia. Politically, it promotes forming a ‘good-neighbor belt’ along the perimeter of the Russian borders, and economically, it provides for the growth of subjects’ economic potential.”[23]

Representatives of the federal subjects along the borders were drawn to participate in negotiations on regulating matters of arguments with foreign states in the Far East and preparing international agreements with European countries.

In 2001, the Government of Russia adopted the Concept of Border Collaboration in the Russian Federation, which defined goals, principles, and priorities in the activity of federal and regional executive organs, local self-government organs, organizations and citizens in the sphere of border collaboration.

The participants of the Forum of Border Areas of Russia and Kazakhstan, which took place in Omsk in April 2003, included both states’ presidents, V.V. Putin and N.A. Nazarbaev. In his speech at the opening of the Forum, Putin said: “I would like to emphasize: our border relations have now truly become locomotives of integration processes. The interests of both regions actively push the national governments of the CIS states toward accelerating and deepening integration within the Eurasian Economic Union and other regional organizations. We have just now paid sufficient attention to this question.”[24]

According to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, federal laws on the ratification and repudiation of international agreements, national border status and protection, and customs regulations adopted by the State Duma must be examined by the Federation Council. The appointment and dismissal of Russian diplomatic representatives in foreign states and international organizations can only be executed after consulting corresponding committees and commissions of the chambers of the Federation Council of the RF. Thus, the supreme representative and legislative organ of the Russian Federation also has an opportunity to take into account the interests of the subjects in the question of building international relations.


Autonomous political and economical activity


The autonomy of subjects lets its governments enter the international arena. This tendency began in a very effective way, as had been the case with the US’s well-funded activity against apartheid in South Africa or the Swiss banks’ retention of deposits of Holocaust victims. The introduction of economic sanctions was used by the American states in order to protect democratic freedoms and human rights.

International cultural collaboration gives the subjects an opportunity for independent activity, especially since most issues in this sphere are usually assigned to the competency of the federal subjects. For instance, thanks to one of the international forums – the International Organization of Francophones – the government of Quebec functions as a full-fledged member in the world arena on the governmental level. After the change of governments in Ottawa in 1984, the national government softened toward the international activity of Quebec, and as a result, the latter could sign an agreement on Quebec’s participation in the francophone summit on the level of state and governmental leaders.[25]

Development of the subjects’ relations with the world’s regions of residence of title nation diasporas can promote international collaboration on an inter-state level. Spanish Galicia, due to its connections and interests in Latin America, has objective grounds to be a link between the European Union and Mercosur, which is supported by the agreements between the only Mercosur forum on trans-border and trans-regional collaboration between the subjects of national states, and the Council of Development of the Far South of Brazil (Codesul) and the North-Argentine Commission on External Trade (Crecenea Litoral). Galicia’s agreement with the Association of Latin American Integration (Aladi), which includes 12 countries, improves collaboration with the other countries of Latin America.[26]

Another example of the subjects’ mediator activity is the international forum on regulating regional conflicts conducted after the initiative of Tatarstan President M. Shaimiyev and named “The Hague Initiative.” Roundtable meetings of “The Hague Initiative” of 1995-1997 included representatives of Russia, Tatarstan, Chechnya, Moldova, Transdniestr, Ukraine, Crimea, Gagauzia, and Abkhazia, as well as a number of leading political science experts, OSCE observers and other international organizations. One of the lessons taught by the meetings of “The Hague Initiative” is the understanding of the importance of a stage-by-stage approach to regulating complex conflicts. An example of averting an open inter-state conflict was the experience of building Tatarstan’s relations with the federal center. The Saar Agreement between France and Germany (1920) about postponing the resolution of the status of the disputed border territory was studied as another historical precedent. The key element of “The Hague Initiative” project’s meeting of March 1996 was the decision to postpone the issue of the political status of Chechnya in order to revisit it in the future. The principle of postponing the decision was officially approved by both Russian and Chechen leaders four months later in the Khasaviurt Agreements, in which both parties agreed to postpone the resolution of the issue of Chechnya’s political status for five years.

The meetings of “The Hague Initiative” brought positive results, even though many issues remained unresolved. The participants in the negotiations examined the issues of regulating complicated conflicts and later used the accumulated experience in their internal politics.[27]

The development of international collaboration on the subnational level can promote a coming together of states with unresolved issues. Preparation of the 2000 Agreement on Economic Collaboration between the Pskov region of the RF and the Latvian harbor town Ventspils, as well as the establishment of a Latvian community center in Pskov, were received as useful steps toward warming up higher level Russian-Latvian relations, which worsened after a series of unfriendly actions by the Latvian side in 1999-2000.[28]

The efforts of the regions can supplement some external political steps of the federal government: that was the case in July 2000, when Putin’s initiative on political cooperation between the RF and North Korea was supported by the development of external economic connections in that direction by Primorski Krai. Such large-scale transportation projects as transportation of Caspian oil, especially supported by Astrakhan’s potential, would be impossible without the active participation of the regions.[29]

As a whole, the development of external economic relations, mostly based upon trade and attracting foreign investments, is often the most important and actively developing component of the international activity of federal subjects. In many countries, there has appeared a tendency to gradually re-orient the economic relations of the subjects toward foreign countries, thus damaging internal trade. This is especially characteristic of border areas, as well as for the subjects which produce highly competitive industrial or agricultural products or possess natural resources demanded on world markets.

The authorities of the federal subjects, as far as their own competencies go, try to create more attractive conditions for foreign investors and encourage promotion of domestic products onto the world market by using financial and organizational means. State coordination of the subjects’ external economic relations may be directed toward forming structure of imports and exports which would reflect the strategic priorities of their economic development.

Small and medium-sized businesses especially need the state’s support, since they do not have their own resources for effectively functioning on world markets. The authorities of the federal subjects conduct large-scale international economic actions targeted toward bringing domestic producers to foreign markets or introducing foreign partners to the economic export potential of a subject.

Depending on concrete agreements with the national government, federal subjects may create zones with simplified or reduced taxation in order to stimulate international business cooperation.

Along with attracting investments, some regions try to develop export of investments in order to increase the internationalization of the domestic economy and develop local companies.

Programs of support of separate regions in developing European countries (e.g., the Basque country and Flanders) represent a more altruistic direction of external relations.[30]


Signing and realization of international agreements


International agreements between federal subjects aim at solving different tasks. Agreements can record common goals, define key directions for collaboration, be a base for opening subjects’ foreign offices, regulate concrete issues of economic collaboration, and define the mechanisms of developing international exchange and collaboration in spheres of education and culture.

Quebec is an unconditional leader in this area. Its government drew more than 400 agreements with foreign states, their subjects and international organizations in such areas as the power sector, agriculture, transport, telecommunications, education and environmental protection.[31]

It should also be noted that international agreements are drawn not only by federal subjects. The development of external relations of the Chinese provinces brought about the signing of a great number of international agreements on the subnational level. This would have been impossible without their close connections with Australian states, Canadian provinces, the states of the United States of America and, recently, with European regions. The geographic location of the interacting subjects of China, Australia and Canada resulted in the formation of a paradiplomacy triangle.[32]

On the other hand, there exists the problem of insufficient implementation of completed international agreements. This is especially characteristic of agreements signed at the primary stages of the development of subjects’ international activity, since those are largely caused by the desire to establish one’s position on the world arena rather than by rigid political and economic reasons dictated by many years of external relations.


Participation in the activities of international unions


One of the most widespread forms of international activity by subjects is their membership in international organizations. The leading multi-purpose European associations include the Congress of Local and Regional European Authorities, the Assembly of European Regions and the Committee of the EU Regions.

Established in 1994 to replace the former Permanent Conference of Local and Regional European Authorities, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) is a consultative organ of the Council of Europe – the oldest (since 1949) European political international organization – uniting more than 40 countries. Working in close contact with national and international organizations representing municipal and regional governments, CLRAE is a forum for meetings and discussions by representatives of local and regional authorities. CLRAE elaborates recommendations for the Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe concerning all aspects of local and regional politics. The CLRAE is in close contact with the national and international organizations representing the interests of local and regional authorities and organizes and conducts hearings and conferences in order to involve the general public in the process of extending democratization. The Congress also prepares country-specific reports on the condition of local and regional democracy in all member states of the Council.

The Assembly of European Regions (AER), established in 1985, unites 250 regional members from 25 European countries and 12 international organizations. Mainly targeted at the EU, AER functions in all of Europe. AER played an important role in formulating principles and demands to regional representations during the negotiations that led to the Maastricht (1992) and Amsterdam (1997) agreements.

Established in 1994, the Committee of the Regions is a consultative organ of the EU which includes 222 representatives of local and regional administrative units. Being the chamber of regional representatives, it guarantees that the subsidiarity principle is observed. The Committee of the Regions unites six commissions working on territorial connections, economic and social politics, development support, education and culture, constitutional affairs and European government, and external relations.

Universal associations (like the above-mentioned ones) provide organizational and institutional support to the international activity of the subjects and present conditions for the exchange of experiences. The obvious disadvantage of such large international unions of subjects is the great variety of their members, which is also caused by different understandings of the concept of “region” in different European countries.

Associations uniting subjects upon the principle of geographic proximity or common economic interests provide a more goal-oriented approach. The first such association was the Association of European Border Regions (1971).

The Conference of the Peripheral Maritime Regions (1973) created the Commission of the Atlantic Arc (1989) which united 30 subjects of Spain, Portugal, France, the UK and Ireland located along the Atlantic shore. The Commission’s activity is directed toward neutralizing negative consequences of its members’ peripheral location and cooperating in achieving common goals. Later on, during the period of the Conference’s activity, there were formed six more commissions which united geographically close subjects.

One of the most wide-spread forms of organizing trans-border relations is the practice of creating “Euroregions” popular across all Europe. One of the key tasks of developing Euroregions (the project was initiated in the 60s) was to make internal borders “transparent” at the expense of solving common local or regional problems mutually by border regions. Organizationally, Euroregions include joint authorities of several levels including working groups of different kinds. Their activity is not usually regulated by rigid statute limits or agreements; rather, they work based on consensus decisions, arrangements, or jointly developed programs of collaboration.

On the one hand, a Euroregion may be defined as part of a border territory which is formed by local and regional subjects of different countries and united by common interests in the development of the economy, transportation infrastructure, border agriculture, environmental protection, culture, the formation of European consciousness and the solidarity of the European nations. On the other hand, a Euroregion is a peculiar “umbrella project” which encourages the development of concrete bilateral and multilateral projects.

An example of successful interregional development which produced certain economic results and raised the political authority of the participants is Crecenea-Codesul in Latin America. The North-Eastern Argentine Regional Commission on External Trade Crecenea Litoral, which included 6 provinces, was created in 1984 to promote economic development and foreign trade. The Federal Pact, signed between the Argentine government and corresponding provinces in 1990, recognized the legitimacy of Crecenea Litoral in promoting foreign trade and achieving the goals of Mercosur. Another example would be the Council of Economic Development of Southern Brazil, founded by 4 Brazilian states.[33]

The cooperation of subjects without common borders, based on the principles of functional collaboration, is the key ground of the Four Engines of Europe (1988) – a union of the most developed regions of four European countries. Initially, the organization included Lombardy (Italy), the Rhone Alps (France), Baden-Wuertemberg (Germany) and Catalonia (Spain) and later accepted associated members Wales and Ontario. Regions without common borders base their collaboration on common economic interests and the advantage of joining resources.

Subjects can participate in international activity not only individually but also through interregional associations. For instance, participants in the Interregional Association “Siberian Agreement” (IASA), which includes 19 federal subjects, discussed international issues like securing the Russian-Mongolian border and building a highway to China, along with issues of domestic politics. IASA participants also supported the plans of further integration with Belarus.[34]

Representatives of Russian federal subjects participate in the activity of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) as part of one Russian delegation. Russian regions also take part in programs and international activities conducted with support from CLRAE.

One of the examples of this is the international project “Great Volga Way” which aims at improving the dialog of civilizations of historical cities stretching from Scandinavian countries through Russia to Transcaucasian countries and the Middle East. For the third year now, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the Government of Russia assisted in conducting international research and practice conferences for this project. These largest research forums, started in Kazan (2001) and St. Petersburg (2002), gave an opportunity to the politicians and researchers, statesmen and representatives of business circles from many countries of the West and East to take a new look on the historical past and perspectives for collaboration in the Eurasian area of the Great Volga Way. The next stage of the project, dedicated to the countries of the Caspian basin, will take place in summer 2003.

A substantial contribution to the development of Russian federalism has been made by the international conference The Constitutional Status of Regions in the Russian Federation and Other European Countries. The role of regional legislative organs in securing “unity in variety” took place in 2003 in Kazan after the initiative of the CLRAE.

We also know of examples of successful collaboration between the subjects and UNESCO in the sphere of culture and conservation of national monuments.


Activity of foreign legations


Opening foreign legations is a wide-spread practice targeted at representing the subject’s interests in foreign states and international organizations.

Legations are usually created based on international agreements between states or subjects and can therefore have different statuses or powers, which helps to promote flexible solutions for their funding. Thus, trade legations can be transferred to partial self-support.

The peak of formation of subjects’ foreign legations happened in the 1980s and early 1990s, when most foreign legations of American states, Canadian provinces, Australian states and some Russian federal subjects were opened abroad.

Recently, international activity of the subjects has become more focused and economically-based. For instance, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, guided by budget concerns, closed down some of their legations which were opened in the 1980s.[35] Generally, the purpose of such action is not to close several hundred foreign legations of the subjects, but rather to make them more efficient.


Delegation exchange, participation in international activities


Foreign visits of subjects’ official delegations, business trips, participation in conferences, exhibitions and other international activities are all essential parts of the subjects’ international activity. On the other hand, making personal contacts, reaching agreements and exchange of experience greatly affect the development of the whole complex of international relations in political, economic, cultural, scientific and other spheres.

Governmental representatives of the Canadian province of Quebec take more than 120 foreign commercial, political and cultural trips and missions a year. This number exceeds that of any American state and, possibly, any other subject of a national state in the world.[36]

Regular meetings of subjects’ leaders have also become a frequent practice. For instance, eleven governors of American states and premiers of Canadian provinces have met yearly since 1973. They discuss issues of transborder power delivery, trade, ecology, tourism development, freight motor transport, as well as regional problems resulting from NAFTA.[37]

If a subject is visited by foreign state leaders during official state visits to the country, it usually shows a high interest in the subject and recognition of its international authority.


Presentational activity


One of the goals of international activity is forming the subject’s image in the eye of the world public and recognition of its status as a participant in the international community. The subject must identify itself with a certain level of political, economic and cultural development. It is especially important for attracting international financial resources and executing long-term economic projects with foreign partners. A wide range of factors characterizing the region is taken into consideration in the process: natural resources, level of development, the presence of an industrial infrastructure, a working legislative base, measures of state support of foreign investors and businessmen, and sociopolitical stability.

Some subjects try to present themselves as economically developed technopolises. Others accentuate their nature and environment, linking it with tourism and the promotion of their traditional foods.

Some subjects are ready to admit in an open or cautious manner that they have low salaries, or they do not have labor unions, or they do not have rigid requirements in regard to environmental protection. It creates a contradictory image of a region; however, some southern states of the US are ready to undertake such an attempt. Europe has a most typical dilemma when a region tries to convince potential investors that it is dynamic, successful and technologically advanced, while at the same time it refers to itself as being poor to preserve national or European financing.[38]

The organization of exhibitions and presentations, international conferences, fairs, festivals, contests and competitions, as well as participation in analogous activities abroad and interaction with foreign mass-media – all these means are directed toward forming an international image of a federal subject.

The celebration of St. Petersburg’s 300th anniversary was effectively used for a large-scale city presentation and for establishing business contacts with the world community. St. Petersburg is becoming an important international center. The city hosts numerous international conferences and summits. During the celebration of its jubilee, St. Petersburg hosted the G-8 Summit. To provide technical project coordination of EU programs, St. Petersburg opened a Russian office at the European Commission. Successful organization of the anniversary celebration was a powerful stimulus for the socioeconomic development of the city. It is demonstrative that the volume of industrial production in St. Petersburg grew 131.4% in 2002.[39]

Good performance of sports teams or individual athletes at big international competitions stimulates a well-grounded interest to the region which delegated them to the competition.

Personal authority of leaders of subjects is also very significant, since it often guarantees the execution of big international projects.

In recent years, more attention has been paid to using modern telecommunication technologies and the Internet for better integration of subjects in the united world information space and organization of the exchange of information. The Internet presents fundamentally new opportunities for developing issues of economic cooperation, academic collaboration and for propagandizing cultural achievements. Due to its open and user-friendly character, the Internet has encouraged formation of a gigantic database of information resources which represents the multifaceted interests of the states, their subjects, public communities and citizens and promotes the spreading of the culture of small nations and uniting people of one ethnicity or common interests from all over the world.


Bringing own legislative base in accordance with international standards


Subjects do not have international sovereignty and, therefore, cannot be members of the leading international organizations. At the same time, the international obligations and agreements of national states may concern the powers of their subjects. In such cases, the subject’s government must participate in preparing inter-state agreements. After international obligations of a national state concerning its subjects’ powers have been enacted, the subject might have to bring its legislation in accordance with the international obligations of the state.

This is the way how the Canadian province of Quebec works, which usually joins international obligations or agreements when they concern its powers or jurisdiction according to the Constitution. The former representative of Quebec in Germany, Jean Marc Blondeau, notes that Quebec is aware of its responsibility and therefore informs corresponding world institutions about the measures it takes to bring its own legislation in accordance with international obligations. The government of Quebec also expresses its point of view regarding adopted official statements or action plans, especially those initiated at key international conferences.[40]

The experience of Scotland’s interaction with the European Parliament also witnesses a great volume of work done to bring its legislation into accordance with international legislation. The European Parliament passes two kinds of laws: the first are orders that are compulsory and do not have to be enacted at the national level; and the second kind are directives which define the key goals of the EU and require the states and their subjects to bring their legislation in accordance with them. The Scottish Parliament finds itself responding to directives more often than orders. As a whole, the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament yearly receives about 1200 documents from the EU.[41]


Other forms of international cooperation


There are many other forms of activity which are partly or wholly oriented toward international relations. Some of them lie within the competency of the authorities of national states or their subjects, while other forms and kinds of international activity are carried out by non-governmental commercial, research, educational, public, etc. organizations or unions. Since it is impossible to ignore them when imagining the full picture of the subjects’ international activity, we will try to briefly describe them here. They include international inter-parliamentary connections, cooperation in the spheres of education and staff training, research, culture, and environmental protection. The tourism sphere is a substantial source of budgetary recharge and creation of jobs for many states and subjects. Socially-oriented programs are also created in the process of international integration.

Religious organizations pay more frequent attention to establishing and securing international relations. They not only send delegations, participate in conferences and exchange experience with local populations but also sponsor religious education, visiting holy places, building and equipping religious buildings.

The cooperation of youth public organizations and different forms of popular diplomacy also play an important role in the international activity of the subjects.




By developing external relations and thus elaborating mechanisms of influencing world interaction processes in this era of technological progress, subjects promote regional development, improvement of their citizens’ standards of living and social justice. At the same time, since they execute political self-government, the authorities of federal subjects are aware of the high degree of responsibility in front of their population and, therefore, try to adequately represent the cultural, linguistic, religious, etc, interests of the region’s social groups.

A federal state model is most fit for constructive interaction and reflection of a variety of public interests. At the same time, there is no universal or ideal form of a federal state. In every single case, the form reflects historical traditions and the practice of domestic relations as well as general and peculiar features of state formation. Federalism represents a scheme of multi-level constitutional organization in which each level of power expresses the interests of its own electorate.

Unlike the foreign policy of national states, the international activity of subjects is not targeted at realizing the whole range of international state interests. Being part of a national state, subjects cannot form and realize their own external political concept. Subjects execute their foreign activity dominated by national states and international organizations, since they have to defer to them rather than try to rival with them. Moreover, the development of subjects’ international activity does not significantly change the nature of relations between the center and the subject; rather, it expands the range of their relations and presents new opportunities for collaboration. On the other hand, we should also consider the fact that uncoordinated international activity of subjects raises the risk of conflict within the national state.

When executing international activity of all forms and directions, a state’s subjects must still admit that, being parts of the same state, they have common goals which should correlate in key issues of foreign policy, even if some of their interests differ or compete with each other in certain areas. The national state is a base for legitimate international relations in modern international politics; therefore, recognizing the protectionist role of a national state is preferable for a federal subject, since it generally promotes the success of subject’s efforts to conduct international activity.

* Il’dar Rustambekovich Nasyrov, Candidate of Science (physics and mathematics), director of the informational-analytical sector in the Department of foreign affairs of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan.

[1] Declaration of European regionalism. Adopted by European Regions Assembly in Basel, on December 4, 1996.

[2] Opeskin B.R. Mechanisms for intergovernmental relations // International Conference on Federalism in an Era of Globalisation. Mont-Treblant, Canada, 5-8 October 1999.

[3] Declaration of European regionalism. Adopted by the European Regions Assembly. Basel, December 4, 1996.

[4] Workshop on The Foreign Relations of Constituent Units, Winnipeg, Manitoba, May 11-12, 2001.

[5] Kincaid J. Roles of Constituent Governments // Workshop on The Foreign Relations of Constituent Units, Winnipeg, Manitoba, May 11-12, 2001.

[6] Quansheng Z. Domestic Factors of Chinese Foreign Policy: From Vertical to Horizontal Authoritarianism // Annals AAPSS, 1992, Vol. 519, # 3, p. 270-284. Hsiung J.C. China´s Omni-Directional Diplomacy // Asian Survey, 1995 vol. 35, # 6, p. 573-586.

[7] Fry E. H. The information technology revolution and the expanding role of non-central governments in international relations // Workshop on The Foreign Relations of Constituent Units. Winnipeg, Manitoba, 10-13 May 2001.

[8] Simeon R. Adaptability and change in federations // International Conference on Federalism in an Era of Globalisation. Canada, Mont-Treblant, 5-8 October 1999.

[9] Kincaid J. Roles of Constituent Governments // Workshop on The Foreign Relations of Constituent Units, Winnipeg, Manitoba, May 11-12, 2001.

[10] Kaiser R. The Internationalization of Subnational Politics: How Regional Integration Affects Federal Systems – the Case of Germany and U.S. // Conference: International Institutions. Global Processes – Domestic Consequences. Duke University, Durham, NC, 9-11 April 1999.

[11]Farukshin M.Kh. Sub’ekty federatsii v mezhdunarodnykh otnosheniiakh // POLIS, 1995, #6, pp. 109-118.

[12] Soldatos P. An Explanatory Framework for Study of Federated States as Foreign-Policy Actors // Federalism and International Relations: The Role of Subnational Units / Michelmann H. J., Soldatos P. (eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 34-53.

[13] Cornago N. Exploring the global dimensions of paradiplomacy. Functional and normative dynamics in the global spreading of subnational involvement in international affairs // Workshop on Constituent Units in International Affairs Hanover, Germany, October, 2000.

Tumen Area Development Program [http://www.tumenprogramme.org/].

[14] Kincaid J. Federalism and economic policy-making: advantages and disadvantages of the federal model // International Conference on Federalism in an Era of Globalisation, Canada, Mont-Treblant, 5-8 October 1999.

[15] Galicia in the world [http://www.xunta.es/].

[16] Nasyrov I.R. Vneshnie sviazi Respubliki Tatarstan: itogi desiati let razvitiia // Kazanskii federalist. 2002. #2.

[17] Keating M. Paradiplomacy and Regional Networking // Forum of Federations: an International Federalism, Hanover, October 2000.

[18] Kincaid J. Roles of Constituent Governments // Workshop on The Foreign Relations of Constituent Units, Winnipeg, Manitoba, May 11-12, 2001.

[19] “Iskat’ partnerov vezde” // Diplomat, #9 (101), 2002.

[20] Kontseptsiia vneshnei politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii // published in “Rossiiskaia gazeta, July 11, 2000, # 133.

[21] “Samyi neobychnyi departament MID” // “Diplomat”, #8, August 2000.

[22] Belov E. Rossiiskie regiony na mirovoi arene // Ekonomika Rossii: XXI vek. 2002. #6 (1), p. 82.

[23] Ruzhkin E. Razvitie mezhdunarodnogo sotrudnichestva regionov // Vestnik RAMI #1, 2001.

[24] Speech of President of Russia V.V. Putin at the opening of the Forum of border areas of Russia and Kazakhstan, Omsk, April 15, 2003 // Informatsionnyi biulleten’ Departamenta informatsii i pechati MID RF from April 16, 2003.

[25] Blondeau J. M. Québec's experiences in global relations // Conference: Foreign Relations of Constituent Units. Winnipeg, Manitoba, 11-12 May 2001.

[26] Galicia in the world [http://www.xunta.es/].

[27] The Hague initiative // Official server of the Republic of Tatarstan. [http://www.tatar.ru/00001219_d.html].

[28] Makarychev A.S. Federalizm epokhi globalizma: vyzovy dlia regionalnoi Rossii // POLIS. 2000. #5, pp. 81-97.

Sergunin A.A. Regionalnyi faktor v rossiiskoi vneshnei politike: problemy i perspektivy // Konferentsiia “Budushchee rossiiskogo federalizma: politicheskii i etnicheskii factory.” Kazan, February 25-26, 2000.

[29] Magomedov A. Geoterapiia dlia Rossii: razvitie Astrahanskogo transportnogo uzla // Rossiiskii regional’nyi biulleten’. 2000. # 14-15.

[30] Keating M. Paradiplomacy and Regional Networking // Forum of Federations: an International Federalism, Hanover, October 2000.

[31] Fry E. H. The information technology revolution and the expanding role of non-central governments in international relations // Workshop on The Foreign Relations of Constituent Units. Winnipeg, Manitoba, 10-13 May 2001.

[32] Lean M., Nossal K.R. Triangular dynamics: Australian states, Canadian provinces and relations with China // Foreign Relations and Federal States, Hocking,B.(Ed.) London, Leicester University Press, 1994. p. 170-189.

[33] Cornago N. Exploring the global dimensions of paradiplomacy. Functional and normative dynamics in the global spreading of subnational involvement in international affairs // Workshop on Constituent Units in International Affairs Hanover, Germany, October, 2000.

[34] Sergunin A.A. Regionalnyi faktor v rossiiskoi vneshnei politike: problemy i perspektivy // Konferentsia “Budushchee rossiiskogo federalizma: politicheskii i etnicheskii faktory.” Kazan, February 25-26, 2000.

[35] Keating M. Paradiplomacy and Regional Networking // Forum of Federations: an International Federalism, Hanover, October 2000.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Farukshin M.Kh. Sub’ekty federatsii v mezhdunarodnykh otnosheniiakh // POLIS, 1995, #6, pp. 109-118.

[38] Keating M. Paradiplomacy and Regional Networking // Forum of Federations: an International Federalism, Hanover, October 2000.

[39] Dinamika urovnia ekonomicheskogo i sotsialnogo razvitiia Sankt-Peterburga v 2002 godu // Express-analiz. Sankt-Peterburgskii informatsionno-analiticheskii tsentr, St. Petersburg, 2002.

[40] Blondeau J. M. Québec's experiences in global relations // Conference: Foreign Relations of Constituent Units. Winnipeg, Manitoba, 11-12 May 2001.

[41] Henderson A. Scottish International Initiatives: Internationalism, the Scottish Parliament and the SNP // Workshop on The Foreign Relations of Constituent Units, Winnipeg, Manitoba, May 11-12, 2001.

Ðóññêàÿ âåðñèÿ
In this section
Site sections
ðàñøèðåííûé ïîèñê

  • [ Ðåãèñòðàöèÿ ]
  • News | Projects | Publications | Employees | Forum | Actions | Help to researcher | Articles about modern federalism
    © 2001, 2002, 2009 Kazan Center of Federalism and Public Policy. All rights reserved, more ... Kazan, Kremlin, entrance 5. Tel/fax +7 (843) 2925043, federalism@kazanfed.ru