Carmen Gebhard, Northern Europe, Scandinavia and the North in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 24 - 26

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
24 Chapter 2: Regional and Sub-Regional Co-operation in Northern Europe A. Geo-political Labels in Northern Europe The coastal states of the Baltic Sea can all be attributed to different regional dependencies, as for instance the ‘North’, ‘Scandinavia’, the ‘Baltic’, or more generally, ‘Northern Europe’. Confusingly, there is also a variety of meanings attached to each of these geopolitical labels. In fact, in every day parlance and in most political and cultural contexts, the various terms are usually adopted without questioning their exact meaning. Anyway, their inherent logic of inclusion and exclusion can be a rather sensitive issue. That is particularly true for expressions that denominate groupings of states (e.g. the ‘Baltic countries’)27, and thus, go far beyond mere geographical classifications. Notions of this type do not only suggest some sort of inclusiveness, they eventually imply also a certain degree of cohesiveness that goes beyond the nation state level. If imposed from the outside, they are what Marko Lehti called “a strong tool of othering” whose adoption might, in some cases be perceived as an act of “marginalisation”.28 These labels all have various readings that result from different historical and political contexts. Therefore, the categories used by exponents from the Baltic States (i.e. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) naturally differ from those used by Swedes, Norwegians or Russians. Moreover, there are also divergent understandings to be found within single countries according to the respective ideological perspective or historical consciousness. An exhaustive discussion of the regarding terminological discourses would certainly go beyond the scope of this chapter. The following section rather aims at outlining the problem and eventually defining the geopolitical terminology applied hereinafter. I. Northern Europe, Scandinavia and the North From an outside perspective, ‘Northern Europe’ is generally conceived as consisting of the so-called Scandinavian countries, i.e. Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland (and less often, also Denmark). As a result, the terms ‘Northern Europe’, ‘North’ and ‘Scandinavia’ are often used synonymously, even though Northern Europe covers a much wider area comprising Scandinavia (plus Denmark),29 Northwest Russia, Northern Germany and Poland as well as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. There is also a difference between the term ‘Scandinavia’,30 which generally refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, i.e. mainland Norway and Sweden, and the wider concept of cultural 27 See HOLT Kristoffer: Rapport. Stockholms andra internationella skandinavistsymposium. Hur Nordiskt är Baltikum? 21-22 augusti 2006. Stockholm 2006, p. 17. 28 LEHTI Marko: Eastern or Western, New or False? Classifying the Balts in the Post-Cold War Era. In: TASSINARI Fabrizio/JOENNIEMI Pertti/JAKOBSEN Uffe (eds): Wider Europe. Nordic and Baltic Lessons to Post-Enlargement Europe. Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). Copenhagen 2006, pp. 69-88, here p. 69. 29 In this context, Denmark includes the autonomous territories of Faroe Islands and Greenland, and Finland includes Åland Island. 30 ‘Scandinavia’ is derived from the ancient term “Scandia”, which dates back to the descendants of Ashkenaz (Noah’s grandson, Genesis 10:3). Known as the Askaeni, they were the first people to migrate to Northern Europe introducing the country’s name “Ascania”. Latin and Greek writers called the land “Scandza” or “Scandia”. See GANNHOLM Tore: The origin of Svear and their arrival into Lake Mälar area in the 6th century. Stånga 1996, p. 12. 25 ‘Scandinavia’, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and conditionally, Finland. The closeness of languages is certainly one of the strongest arguments for the demarcation of socio-cultural ‘Scandinavia’: The three main Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian) spin off from the language of Old Norse and build the Germanic Group of the Indo-European family. The same applies to Icelandic and Faroese, while Finnish, just as Estonian, does not belong to this family at all, but to the Finno-Ugrian languages. Latvian and Lithuanian together form the Baltic Indo- European Group.31 While the linguistic argumentation seems to be fairly simple and clear, in political affairs, the occasional inclusion or exclusion of single countries, such as Iceland or Finland, from these geopolitical labels can be a rather sensitive matter.32 In fact, some North Europeans could even take offence for being or not being classified as Scandinavians.33 Sometimes even Estonia is considered a Scandinavian or Nordic country, referring to its cultural heritage and the close linguistic links to Finland.34 There is yet another important expression that should be mentioned in this context. The geographic and geological notion of ‘Fennoscandia’ (also ‘Fenno-Scandinavia’) includes the Scandinavian Peninsula, Karelia, Finland and Denmark. In a cultural sense, Fennoscandia underlines the close historical link between Finnic, Sami and the Scandinavian peoples and cultures. Anyway, unlike the term ‘Nordic’, Fennoscandia does not include Iceland or other geographically disconnected overseas areas (e.g. Greenland). As for the EU perspective, Sweden and Finland, and occasionally, also Denmark are labelled as the ‘Scandinavian’ group of member states or simply as ‘Scandinavia’ – sometimes even misleadingly implying that they form some sort of political block within the Union. This study will eventually contribute to the reflection of whether and to what extent the conditions apply to this sort of global assumption.35 31 See JAANSON Kaido: The Baltic States and Norden. In: The Baltic Review, Vol. 19. Online Edition. Website of the Journal ‘The Baltic Review’ [12 August 2007]. Out of the group of the Nordic Five only Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have a truly common heritage from the early beginnings of recorded history. They have all been inhabited by the same Nordic-Teutonic race of peoples. In the course of the Viking expansions, as early as 900 A.D., Norse settlements were also founded on the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Only more than two centuries later, a different race of peoples with a distinct tribal and linguistic origin started to settle the Gulf of Finland and today’s Balticum, forming the basis for the Finnish and Estonian ethnic background. See BONNÉN Preben/SØSTED Michael: The Origin, Development and Perspectives of Nordic Co-operation in a New and Enlarged European Union. In: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, Nr. 1/2003, pp. 19-32, here p. 30 (note 2). 32 For more details, see JOENNIEMI Pertti/LEHTI Marko: On the encounter between the Nordic and the northern. Torn Apart but Meeting Again? COPRI Working Paper 11/2001. 33 Especially the Finns have a very distinct perception about where to draw this line and how to interpret the background of a common Scandinavian heritage. Finland did not share an important chapter of Scandinavian history, the so-called “Scandinavist movement” in mid-19th century. This political movement aimed at the creation of a Nordic defense alliance and even at the re-unification of the Scandinavian countries as a single state. At that time, Finland already found itself under the yoke of Russian dominance, and was thus reluctant to join the movement. 34 See KANARBIK Madis: Skandinavistikens ställning i Baltikum. In: HOLT Kristoffer: Rapport. Stockholms andra internationella skandinavistsymposium. Hur Nordiskt är Baltikum? 21-22 augusti 2006. Stockholm 2006, p. 14. The most important example in this regard is Meri Lennart, the former Estonian minister of foreign affairs, who repeatedly argued that Estonia had a distinct Scandinavian and Nordic inheritance. See e.g. MERI Lennart: Eurooppa on Viron ohjelma. In: Helsingin Sanomat, 2 December 1990. 35 See chapter “Nordic Togetherness – the Changing Role of Nordic Cooperation”, p. 61-. 26 II. ‘Nordic’ vs. ‘Northern’ The English expression ‘Nordic Countries’ (Swed. nordiska länder) is a neologism that was introduced in the second half of the 20th century. Normally, it is perceived to comprise the Nordic group of five, i.e. Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.36 Most of the time, the English terms ‘Nordic’ and ‘Northern’ are used interchangeably, even though ‘Nordic’ has a clearly political connotation whereas ‘northern’ barely indicates the geographical position, and denominates a much wider area. ‘Nordic’, and ‘Nordicness’ respectively, are closely affiliated with the so-called ‘Nordic Cooperation’, a largely informal system of cooperation established between the above-mentioned ‘Nordic Countries’ after the end of the Second World War. Outside Scandinavia, there is normally also no distinction drawn between ‘Nordic’ and ‘Scandinavian’, although in the narrow sense of the term, ‘Scandinavia’ can only be applied collectively to the respective group of states, whereas the notion of a ‘Nordic’ sphere, again, implies some sort of cultural, ideological and political inclusiveness based in the traditional system of ‘Nordic Cooperation’.37 The ‘North’ as a noun is commonly used for the designation of the ‘Nordic Countries’, stemming from the Scandinavian equivalent ‘Norden’ (Finn. Pohjola).38 For Scandinavians themselves, this notion is rather clear, but especially for non-Europeans it is all the more opaque and therefore also less common. After the end of the Cold War, the political and ideological standing of ‘Nordic Cooperation’ gradually changed in respect to both the outside perspective and the self-perception of the Nordic States. The newly gained independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the newly arising tendencies of progressive regionalism in the BSR seemed to shift the focus of Northern European affairs southwards, challenging the traditional system of Nordic exclusiveness. To some extent the ‘Old Nordic North’ and the newly promoted ‘Northernness’ had become competing geopolitical concepts.39 III. The ‘Baltic States’ From the specific perspective of this study, it is important to differentiate the term ‘Baltic Sea States’, meaning the group of Baltic Sea littoral states, from the notion of ‘Baltic States’ (or also: ‘Balticum’), which is what Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are commonly referred to. The latter is a rather recent terminological invention that only emerged in the wake of the First World War. Before 1918, it was only used to 36 In fact, it is a somewhat problematic translation of the Swedish term nordisk, which is often used in other (e.g. cultural) contexts. See HOLT Kristoffer: Rapport. Stockholms andra internationella skandinavistsymposium. Hur Nordiskt är Baltikum? 21-22 augusti 2006. Stockholm 2006, p. 17. The Nordic group includes three autonomous territories: the Faroe Islands, Greenland (both DK) and Åland (FI). 37 The system of Nordic Cooperation will be further elaborated in chapter “Nordic Togetherness – the Changing Role of Nordic Cooperation”, p. 61-. 38 See The Nordic Council: The Swan Symbol and the Logotype Norden. Background information. Official Website of the Nordic Region [5 March 2008]. 39 See JOENNIEMI Pertti/LEHTI Marko: On the encounter between the Nordic and the northern. Torn Apart but Meeting Again? Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI): Working Paper, 11/2001, p. 5-6. This very central issue of Nordic self-definition in the light of New Baltic Sea Regionalism will be taken up at another point in this study. See chapter “Old North vs. New Regionalism. Visions Competing for the Same Space?”, p. 76-.

Chapter Preview



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.