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Carmen Gebhard, Preliminary Assumptions, Research Questions and Structure in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 22 - 23

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
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. 23 (3) The EU as an overall framework and macro-level reference: – The European integration process has always influenced the political setting in Northern Europe, and most particularly, in the BSR. – However, the EU’s impact on the development of the BSR was and is limited. – The adoption of the EU Northern Dimension (EU ND) was closely connected to the then upcoming Eastern and Northeastern enlargement. – The completion of the 2004 enlargements has shifted the regional and sub-regional focus of the EU to other regions in Europe. The study consists of three main sections. The first section (chapter 2) introduces the geo-political terminology and some case-specific features of the Baltic Sea Region, and elaborates on the conceptualisation of ‘regionness’ and ‘regionalism’ respectively. To this end, it focuses on the following research questions: – Which labels are commonly used to denominate geo-political entities in Northern Europe and how do they relate to each other? – What accounts for Baltic Sea ‘regionness’? What makes the BSR a ‘region’? – Which political and geographical features determine the character of the BSR? – How do all these BSR specificities influence the way the region is seen from outside? How can the structural specificities of the BSR be conceptualised? – How and on what grounds did Baltic Sea Regionalism emerge after 1989? – How did the newly emerging cooperative structures interact with other (established) formations in the ‘Old North’, such as classic ‘Nordic Cooperation’? – What kinds of cooperative undertakings emerged in the context of the ‘rise of the New North’? How can they be categorised? The second section (chapter 3) deals with the broader EU approach towards Northern Europe, focussing in particular on the EU ND and the regional policy orientation of Sweden and Finland in this respect. This section tries to cover the following questions: – How is the EU approach towards the European North composed? Which policies and instruments does the EU employ to have an impact on the region? – What steps have been taken while developing and implementing the EU ND? – How do the EU’s regional policies relate to the (sub) regional arrangements? – How has the changing EU membership pattern in the region influenced the EU’s actorness towards the North? – How do Sweden and Finland define their geo-political position in the region? – What role did the two regional stakeholders take over in the course of the EU ND establishment and implementation process? – To what extent do they pursue similar or divergent interests in this context? – What effects did the 2004 enlargements have on the regional orientation of the two? – To what extent does the regional policy conduct of Sweden and Finland reflect the specificities of their EU membership, and more generally, of their orientation in European integration affairs (reluctance? activism? passivity?)? The third section (chapter 4) addresses the question how the research matter could be interpreted on a more abstract and theoretical level. The annex of this study contains a detailed catalogue of the most important associations and cooperative structures based in the BSR.

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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.