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Carmen Gebhard, Introduction in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 13 - 14

Regionalism and European Integration Revisited

1. Edition 2008, ISBN print: 978-3-8329-4084-3, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-1239-5 https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845212395

Series: Nomos Universitätsschriften - Politik, vol. 164

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13 Swede Generally, Sweden is a safe country, but for one thing. Beware of the Finns. Me Seriously? (perplexed) Why? Swede ...because they all carry jack-knives, and when they are drunk... (exit) Me (first Finn I met) Do you have a jack-knife? Finn Ha! Of course not. But go ahead, ask a Swede! I’m sure he’ll have one... and when he’s drunk... (Episode based on a true event) Introduction1 The historical events between 1989 and 1991 made way to a lively process of regionbuilding across the previous East-West divide, whose dynamics have often been referred to as the ‘Nordic Boom’, the rise of the ‘New North’ or ‘New Regionalism’. In the early 1990s, a sheer countless variety of regional initiatives, associations, and councils emerged, such as the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) and the Baltic Development Forum (BDF), to name just a few examples. Over the last one or two decades, Northern Europe has turned into, as Bailes put it, “a veritable laboratory of innovative ways of dealing with the divisive nature of borders.”2 In fact, progressive regionalist cohesion has considerably blurred the old dividing lines of the Cold War and rendered the region a less rigid political landscape. These regional dynamics have also changed the outside view on what is perceived to be ‘Northern’. Today, as a result, ‘Northernness’ is no longer exclusively allocated to the ‘far up North’. Throughout the last one or two decades, the Northern European centre of gravity has remarkably shifted southwards, with the Baltic Sea becoming its very heart and main point of reference. Before 1989, regional cooperation in Northern Europe was quite exclusive since it was mainly restricted to the Nordic sphere and the so-called ‘Old North’ comprising the five Nordic States Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. The regionalist dynamics newly arising in the early 1990s included instead also the southern part of the Baltic Sea meaning the three Baltic States, and to some extent Poland and Northern Germany. The changing regional power balances in Northern Europe materialised in the form of new institutional constructs and policy practices.3 1 The author would like to thank Gernot Stimmer and Dieter Segert (University of Vienna) as well as two anonymous reviewers for their comments and recommendations on the draft manuscript. 2 See BAILES Alyson: The Role of Subregional Co-operation in the Post Cold War Europe. Integration, Security, Democracy. In: COTTEY Andrew (ed.): Subregional Co-operation in Post Cold War Europe. London 1998, pp. 153-185, here p. 183. 3 See FAWCETT Louise: Regionalism from a Historical Perspective. In: FARRELL Mary/HETTNE Björn/VAN LANGENHOVE Luk (eds): Global Politics and Regionalism. London 2005, pp. 21-37, here p. 30. 14 Today, the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) features an extremely high concentration of cooperative structures. They add up to a tight network of cooperative arrangements that all label themselves as ‘Baltic’ or at least, define themselves as closely affiliated to the BSR. They do not only differ in terms of membership pattern and institutional setup, they also cover a wide array of functional areas, each of them pursuing diverse albeit often related objectives and strategic visions. Baltic Sea Regionalism occurs at different levels of action, and therefore involves various types of actors. State-level cooperation certainly plays a central role in regard to the overall development of regionalism in the BSR, as governmental action often provides for the basic conditions of proactive regional, sub-regional and also non-official cooperation. The political changes of 1989/90 have not least opened new opportunities for the nation states in the region to realign their geopolitical position and to strike new paths in their regional orientation. To some extent, regional cooperation made it possible for the BSR state actors to anticipate the integrative political ramifications of the European project. This applied most particularly to the Nordic States bordering the Baltic Sea, namely Sweden and Finland, and to the Baltic States, i.e. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The independence of the Baltic States from the Soviet Union, the political changes in Poland as well as the enlargements of the European Union (EU) in 1995 and 2004, have decisively changed the geo-political landscape in the northern part of the European continent. In 1995, Sweden and Finland were the first states in the region to become full EU member states, the three Baltic States and Poland followed in 2004. These events turned the Baltic Sea almost into an inland sea of the EU. In various different ways, the development of the BSR and Baltic Sea Regionalism has always been related to the European integration process. Generally, the EU had more of an indirect impact on the region, most of all through the enlargement process and the changing membership pattern in the area. However, at a certain point, the EU also became more directly involved in terms of specific policy provisions for this aspiring region. Since late 1997, when these ideas first appeared on the official EU working agenda, it was tried to evolve a comprehensive political framework for the EU external and cross-border activities in the BSR, which later turned out to become the so-called ‘Northern Dimension of the EU’ (EU ND).4 Some years have passed since the ‘rise’ of Baltic Sea Regionalism commenced in the early 1990s, and since the BSR was swept by a wave of enthusiasm and ‘regionalist’ hilarity. Not least, the 2004 EU enlargement round has certainly changed the circumstances for both trans-national networking in the BSR and the EU’s regarding policies. These considerations build the point of departure for this study. 4 Hereinafter, this specific EU policy is referred to as “Northern Dimension” written in capital letters (or as EU ND in short form). If written otherwise, the term is used in a wider context.

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Zusammenfassung

Seit 1989 ist es im Ostseeraum zu einer explosionsartigen Entstehung einer Vielzahl von regionalen Initiativen und Zusammenschlüssen gekommen. Der Ostseeraum weist bis heute eine europaweit einzigartig hohe Konzentration an kooperativen regionalen Strukturen auf. Diese bilden gemeinsam ein enges Netzwerk von Vereinigungen, die unter dem Überbegriff der "Ostseezusammenarbeit’ interagieren.

Diese Studie analysiert die Hintergründe dieses regionalen Phänomens oder so genannten „Ostsee-Rätsels“ auf Basis eines Vergleichs zwischen den Regionalpolitiken zweier staatlicher Schlüsselakteure, Schweden und Finnland, wobei der europäische Integrationsprozess als übergeordneter Bezugsrahmen für die Untersuchung dient.