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Carmen Gebhard, Outline and Main Objective in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 15 - 16

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

Bibliographic information
15 Chapter 1: Overview, Purpose and Background A. Outline and Main Objective It is the primary objective of this study to grasp at least part of the pluridimensional intricacy of Baltic Sea Regionalism, and to unravel the conundrum behind the distinct regionalist tendencies that have characterized the BSR since the end of the Cold War.5 The study does not aim at drawing an overall analytical picture of the region but focuses exclusively on the specific empirical phenomenon of regionalism and subregionalism in the BSR, its relationship with the broader framework of European integration, and the role national actors play in this regard. A comparison between Sweden and Finland as between two major regional stakeholders is intended to provide empirical reference for the interrelation between the supranational arena of European integration and the regionalist dimension of Baltic Sea cooperation and networking. The Swedish and the Finnish case appear to be most significant for this purpose, as although they are very similar in many respects, such as concerning their geopolitical position or their joint accession to the EU, their strategic reaction to certain decisive events, such as the 2004 enlargements, has been rather contrarious. The fact that the two countries recently made diverging political choices despite their apparent similarities supports the choice of a comparative approach as well as the selection of these two cases. Taking these analytical aspects together, the focus of this study is trifold: the BSR as a region of its own (the Baltic Sea ‘regionness’), the EU as an overall framework for regionalist activities and initiatives in the BSR, and Finland and Sweden as regional stakeholders and member states of the EU. Figure 1: Analytical Cornerstones of the Study The study seeks to elaborate on each of the above cornerstones as well as on the relationship between them. It mainly aims to clarify the conceptual basics of regionalism and regional integration, single out the virtual linkages between the different analytical factors at stake, develop typologies, and not least, open new ways of looking at regionalism and integration by discussing how the phenomenon could be incorporated theoretically. 5 A previous version of this study was submitted as a doctoral thesis in Comparative Politics at the University of Vienna, Austria. SWEDEN FINLAND REGIONNESS EUROPEAN INTEGRATION 16 B. Relevance of the Topic – Europe in a Nutshell Northern Europe and the BSR are traditionally considered as part of the European periphery, that is, the margins of an alleged European ‘centre’ or ‘core’. Generally, academic conceptions often doubt about the relevance political processes in so-called ‘peripheral’ regions potentially have for EU politics and the further development of the European project as a whole and thus, neglect several related factors in the course of their analysis or theory construction.6 Even studies that claim to offer a global view on Europe’s geo-political landscape often neglect the politico-strategic impact impulses from the ‘margins’ might have on the ‘centre’. Also in the general discourse of International Relations (IR), geographical remoteness is often equated with political marginality. Tómas Ingi Olrich found a clear albeit very sarcastic way to describe this common perspective: The North is marginal and will remain so. Its position is marginal in the geographical and geological sense, since it is perceived by the major players of world politics as a frontier post or back garden, if it isn’t simply regarded as no-man’s land.7 This study, however, builds on the assumption that the political development in the BSR is of decisive importance for the development of the European project and the course of the integration process as a whole. It is contended that (sub)regional dynamics potentially influence or even sideline macro-level integration and thus, are likely to affect and determine the course and finality of the overall process. From my point of view, the geo-strategic importance of the BSR in today’s Europe is virtually indisputable. During the Cold War period, it was an area of relatively low tension and little political action.8 However, with the fall of the unnatural division of the Iron Curtain the region (re)gained its key position in the European geo-strategic landscape. The Baltic Sea has returned to being a uniting rather than a dividing element for its littoral states.9 Throughout the past two decades, the countries in the region have shown enormous potential to overcome the political and economic cleavages of the past. However, numerous challenges have remained, next to new ones that have emerged in the course of political transition in the southeastern BSR. This study builds on the assumption that the way the EU member states in the BSR decide to tackle these challenges does not only determine their own role as politico-strategic actors in the region but is also highly significant if not symptomatic for their conduct as member states of the European Union. 6 Browning provides a positive exception in this regard. See BROWNING Christopher S. (ed.): Remaking Europe in the Margins. Northern Europe after the Enlargements. Aldershot 2005. 7 OLRICH Tómas Ingi: Implementation of a Northern Dimension. In: Northern Research Forum (ed.): North meets North. Proceedings of the First Northern Research Forum, held in Akureyri and Bessastaðir, Iceland. 4-6 November 2002, pp. 119-121, here p. 119. 8 During the Cold War, the Nordic countries consciously tried to keep the political tension in the region as low as possible. “Finland’s cautious policy of coexistence, Sweden’s neutrality, and Norway’s and Denmark’s footnotes to their NATO membership all played a reinforcing role in diminishing pressure in the Nordic-Baltic region.” PERRY Charles M./SWEENEY Michael J./WINNER Andrew C. (eds): Strategic Dynamics in the Nordic-Baltic Region. Implications for US Policy. Dulles 2000, p. 121. 9 See HYDE-PRICE Adrian: NATO and the Baltic Sea Region: Towards Regional Security Governance? NATO Research Fellowship Scheme 1998-2000. Final Report, p. 3.

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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.