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Carmen Gebhard, Looking Back – ‘Northern’ Issues in European Political Science in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 18 - 19

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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18 [The BSR] connects ‘old’ with ‘new’ Europeans inside the European Union, and with Russia, outside the EU. It links Europe’s wealthiest societies with some of the continent’s poorest regions, and it combines some of the most matured democracies in Europe with some of the youngest. Studying the Baltic Sea Region thus means getting acquainted with Europe in a nutshell.17 Since the end of the Cold War, many cooperative arrangements on the regional and subregional level have emerged. Given this high concentration and structural diversity of regional cohesiveness, the BSR can be considered the most networked, if not the most complex region in the New Europe. C. State of Research I. Looking Back – ‘Northern’ Issues in European Political Science When trying to assess the presence of ‘Northern’ issues on the European Political Science agenda, one must clearly differ between research based in and around the region versus research that was and is being conducted by experts based outside the region. In BSR-based academia, regional affairs naturally retain an entrenched and close to permanent position on the research agenda. Their presence on ‘foreign’ agendas in turn highly depends upon international trends and global developments. After 1989/90, Northern Europe and the BSR gained exceptional attention from ‘outside’, with the uncertain outcome of the post-Soviet transition process being the ‘crowd puller’ in the academic world. Heininen referred to this wave of awareness and academic interest as the “Arctic boom” in IR studies.18 The essential geo-strategic and political changes in Northern Europe, and particularly in the BSR after the end of the Cold War, could not go unnoticed by the international academic community. Both BSR-based analysts and ‘outsiders’ have made extensive research efforts in order to study the potential consequences of the changing political and security environment around the Baltic Sea. Indeed, the main empirical focus of this study, which is the phenomenon of distinct regionalist tendencies in the BSR, made up one of the most prominent research subjects during the 1990s. However, after the first decade, this ‘booming’ academic awareness gradually started to decline. After the 2004 enlargements, and once the field of BSR studies had been substantially ‘balticised’, the academic attention drew again back to the regional research arena. The event of Norway’s second negative referendum in 1994, and the Swedish and Finnish EU accessions in 1995, attracted a lot of public and academic attention both inside and outside the region. In the long run, however, this enlargement round generally had a negative impact on the standing of BSR issues on the European integration research agenda. The Swedish and Finnish EU membership was seen as a major achievement for the stabilisation of the northeastern sphere, with the two new member states attaining the function of regional promoters of ‘Europeanness’. 17 Baltic Study Net, Berlin 23 July – 6 August 2006. Website of the Centre for Baltic Sea Region Studies (CEBAST) www.balticstudies.org [27 September 2007]. 18 HEININEN Lassi: Ideas and Outcomes. Finding a Concrete Form for the Northern Dimension Initiative. In: OJANEN Hanna (ed.): The Northern Dimension. Fuel for the EU? Kauhava 2001, pp. 20-53, here p. 20. 19 Hence, once this enlargement round was concluded, both political awareness and academic interest gradually moved back to other, more vibrant regional issues, e.g. the peace process on the Balkans. The Finnish policy initiative that introduced the so-called ‘Northern Dimension’ in 1997 did cause another wave of scholarly interest from outside, which however, did not last very long. The next, and for the time being, last ‘hype’ about specific BSR matters in IR emerged in the years preceding the Baltic and Polish accessions to the EU, and the North Atlantic Treaties Organisation (NATO) respectively. In the public debate, the 2004 enlargement round was mostly discussed as an issue of its own, and thus, was not directly related to the regional development of the Baltic Sea as a region. Moreover, the EU accession of the three Baltic countries was seen as a major turn in their respective political orientation. As a result, the heated debate about Baltic post-communist transition gradually declined, which then moved the spotlight more to the East and the South, or at least, away from the North. A similar effect can be ascribed to the introduction of a Neighbourhood Policy for the European Union, and the promoted vision of constructing a ‘ring of friends’ around the Western European community. Even though some have claimed that the shift of the EU’s geopolitical focus towards the East could open a window of opportunity for the Nordic states to become ‘project managers’ in this ambitious undertaking, the fact that a specific agenda for the North is recently loosing momentum cannot be denied.19 II. Mapping Out the White Spots on the Research Agenda The body of scholarly knowledge about BSR issues is vast and widely developed in all related academic disciplines, most notably in Political Science, Human Geography and Economics. While the academic interest coming from ‘outsiders’, i.e. non-BSR-based research institutions or individuals, has always been symptomatically low, the BSRbased academic landscape has brought about a large stock of expertise.20 Generally, much has been written about the socio-economic development and the changing political conditions in the area. Also the historical and geographical questions, e.g. the question of Kaliningrad or of border demarcation with Russia, have gained considerable attention. Anyway, a large part of BSR studies deal with the region as a matter of its own, describing and analysing, e.g. the internal dynamics of regionalism, or the inherent patterns of regional and sub-regional co-operation. Only few of them have tried to link the regional specificities at hand to the broader framework of European integration, and, more interestingly, to the question of finality and the potential outcome of the European integration process. While most issues about the region itself are covered by substantial academic contributions, more could have been done on a more abstract level, in the sense of a theoretical incorporation and typology of the empirical characteristics of the region and the systemic frame. One important aspect that has been largely neglected up until now is the potential contrariety between the perpetual existence and functioning of an integrative unit like the EU at the macro-level and the simultaneous and progressive 19 See MOSHES Arkady: The Eastern Neighbours of the European Union as an Opportunity for Nordic Actors, DIIS Working Paper, No. 12/2006. Copenhagen 2006, p. 7. 20 However, this is not to discredit the value of external analyses that have recently been brought into the field, e.g. BROWNING Christopher (ed.): Remaking Europe in the Margins. Aldershot 2005.

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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.