Carmen Gebhard, Research Strategy in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 21 - 22

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
21 Details about the single cooperative formations in the region as laid out in the annex of this study were partly collected on the basis of direct requests to the respective secretariat or administrative board. The collection of relevant information also comprised a series of informal explorative interviews with selected EU officials as well as with experts from relevant international think tanks such as, for example, Hiski Haukkala, Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs/Ulkopoliittisen instituutin in Helsinki (FI), and Ar?nas Molis, Head of the Eastern Countries Monitoring Division at the Centre for Strategic Studies/Strategini? studij? centras in Vilnius (LT).25 The working material mainly comprised secondary literature (textbooks, relevant periodicals and scholarly journals), journalistic (daily and weekly press) as well as primary sources, such as official EU-documents, constitutive declarations and statutes of regional and sub-regional associations. II. Research Strategy This study follows an issue and problem-oriented research strategy. The empirical phenomenon of regionalism in the BSR builds the point of departure, and remains the centre of reference throughout the whole analytical process. Instead of presenting a compound theoretical framework at the beginning to frame the focus of analytical perception, the study follows an inverted structure, in which the theoretical incorporation and abstraction of Baltic Sea Regionalism, of the Baltic Sea Conundrum, constitutes the ultimate step in the research process. The consideration behind this strategic choice is that the present stock of theories does not offer any approach that would perfectly suit and accommodate the specificities of the very research questions investigated in this study. As the most appropriate theoretical model is expected to involve a combination of existing theoretical models, the study seeks to reconciliate various traditions of thought alongside the demands posed by the empirical subject matter. The underlying motivation is mainly to provide a theoretical basis for future empirical contributions to the field without necessarily opting for any single approach to explain a limited range of questions. The study also refrains from testing certain pregiven hypotheses, which is supported by the fact that many aspects of the empirical phenomenon concerned are not immediately manifest and testable in the narrow sense. The study first locates the BSR case conceptually within the broad range of ‘regionalisms’, which include various different forms of collective organisation or networking focusing on a specific region or spatial entity. Descriptive elaborations on the emergence and development of Baltic Sea Regionalism prepare for the issue-driven discussion of various strands of theory, namely European Integration Theory (EIT), International Relations Theory (IRT) as well as Comparative Theory (CT). The overview gained from this assessment builds the basis for the concluding remarks on the ‘abstractability’ of the subject matter. The practical aim of the theoretical section (chapter 4) is to track the explanatory value and potential shortcomings of selected approaches in the face of the analytical perspective of this study, and thereby, to provide useful reference for further discussions about the theoretical incorporation of Baltic Sea Regionalism, and for future empirical studies dealing with the phenomenon. 25 Most interview partners declined to be cited directly. Their contributions mainly influenced the overall arrangement of the study but did not add any content that would have to be quoted in detail. 22 E. Preliminary Assumptions, Research Questions and Structure As laid out above, this study focuses on three analytical cornerstones: (1) the Baltic Sea Region and Baltic Sea Regionalism, (2) Sweden and Finland as two major regional stakeholders and EU member states, and accordingly, (3) the EU as an overall framework and macro-level reference. The analytical aim is to elaborate on each of these points, and to analyse the interrelations between them on the basis of the following assumptions:26 (1) The Baltic Sea Region and Baltic Sea Regionalism: The empirical point of reference for this study is the specific structural nature of the Baltic Sea region. This thematic focus is based on the following presumptions: – Since 1989, a variety of regionalist formations have emerged in Northern Europe. – These regionalist dynamics particularly concentrated in the BSR, and eventually, turned this region into the centre of gravity of Northern Europe. – Today’s BSR features a remarkably high density and variety of cooperative arrangements, such as regional councils, associations and initiatives. Therefore, it can be regarded as one of Europe’s most ‘networked’ regions. – It is assumed that this particular characteristic has an impact on the foreign policy orientation of nation states situated in the region. Hence, it is regarded as a highly significant factor influencing their conduct as EU member states. – The analysis of regionalism offers good opportunities for the evaluation of the integrative attitude of single EU member states. There is a certain tendency in IR to regard transnational regionalism as some sort of natural process that results from the fact of mere geographical closeness. Most often, according to this perception, regions have the connotation as something self-evident, secondary and marginal. In contrast thereto, this study is based on the assumption that – Regionalism, and most importantly, the degree of regional cohesion, has to be considered as rather being an option than a matter of course. (2) Sweden and Finland as major regional stakeholders and EU member states: – The foreign policy orientation of Sweden and Finland shows a particularly strong adherence to the immediate neighbourhood, and most importantly, the BSR. – This alleged regional affixedness is a typical peculiarity of small states in general, and most particularly, of small states situated in a peripheral position. – The impact of regionalist structures on their external and European policy conduct is likely to be stronger than in bigger continental BSR countries (e.g. Germany). – Despite many similarities, their EU membership profiles are basically different. – While Sweden has been traditionally reluctant to integrate fully into the EU, Finland has been rather pragmatic in its performance and conduct as a member. – This difference is likely to be reflected on the regional scene and the strategic conduct of these two states in various different regionalist matters and contexts. 26 The preliminary assumptions that guide the analysis partly reflect the findings of previous research conducted in the context of previous research on European Integration and Neutrality. See GEBHARD Carmen: Europäische Integration und Neutralität. Österreich und Schweden im Vergleich. Diplomarbeit Vienna 2004.

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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.