Carmen Gebhard, Mapping Out the White Spots on the Research Agenda in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 19 - 20

Regionalism and European Integration Revisited

1. Edition 2008, ISBN print: 978-3-8329-4084-3, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-1239-5

Series: Nomos Universitätsschriften - Politik, vol. 164

Bibliographic information
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. 20 build-up of some sort of meso-level regional and subregional agenda or even counterpart. The effectiveness and positive performance of the EU, as of any other international organisation, highly depends on the constructive attitude and ideational solidarity of its member states. The question of the disintegrative impact that, for example, regional self-centeredness of single member states could have on the European Union as a political project should be considered more explicitly in academic studies that deal with region-building and regionalist developments. Scholars have found very flowery phrases to describe the regionalist dynamics, the “myriads”21 of cooperative ventures that have “mushroomed”22 “in the name of the Baltic world.”23 Indeed, countless papers and case studies about the BSR have taken the phenomenon of Baltic Sea Regionalism as a starting point for analysis. However, only few of them have suggested some sort of classification that would first help to systemise the high number of different associations and initiatives and thus, to grasp the structural diversity at hand.24 D. Methodological Approach I. Working Material and Information Retrieval Undertaking a study about ‘regionness’ including regional self-definition and identity as an outsider, which means in this case, as a European but non-Scandinavian and non- Baltic as well as an academic that is not based in the region, to some extent always raises the question of credibility and originality. One must always be aware of the risk of producing an external view without sufficiently taking into account certain societal and ideological factors, which might indeed be crucial for an overall understanding of the regional specificities. This is why I consciously tried to especially consider the written sources produced in the region, most importantly in Scandinavia and the Baltic States, including daily press and official documents by governmental and other authorities. Even though most official documents as well as a great part of the academic literature are available in English, it generally proved useful to include Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic sources as well. The collection of Scandinavian material was mainly conducted in the course of two sojourns (in 2005 and 2007) at the Baltic and East European Graduate School (BEEGS) in Huddinge (S) and at the A. Lindh Centrum for Defence, Security and Foreign Policy situated at the Swedish Defence College (Försvarshögskolan) in Stockholm (S). Major sources of information were also found at the European Documentation Centre/European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) in Maastricht (NL). 21 VON SYDOW Emily: Den Baltiska dimensionen. Stockholms geopolitiska roll i EU. In: EHRLING Guy (ed.): Stockholm international. Stockholm 2000, pp. 23-36, here 23. 22 SCOTT James Wesley: Cross-border Governance in the Baltic Sea Region. In: ANDERSON James/O’DOWD Liam/WILSON Thomas M. (eds): New Borders for a Changing Europe. Crossborder Cooperation and Governance. London 2002, pp. 135-153, here p. 135. 23 LEHTI Marko: Competing or Complementary Images. The North and the Baltic World from the Historical Perspective. In: HAUKKALA Hiski (ed.): Dynamic Aspects of the Northern Dimension. Turku 1999, pp. 2-28, here p. 23. 24 One of those rare examples can be found in KERN Kristine: Voller Dynamik: Der Ostseeraum. Governance jenseits des Nationalstaats. In: Mitteilungen des Wissenschaftszentrums Berlin, Nr. 106, p. 45-47.

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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.