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Carmen Gebhard, BSR Specificities and Sensitivities in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 27 - 30

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
27 denominate the former Russian provinces of Estonia, Livonia and Courland.40 Today, the collective label of ‘Baltic States’ as the ‘Baltic Three’ is not always appreciated by the concerning states themselves as it does not comply with their specific historical consciousness and geopolitical self-identification.41 IV. Overview: The Geo-Political Terminology Used in this Study As so many terminologies are in use to structure the region and denominate certain parts of it, it seems important at this point, to clarify the terminology I am applying in the course of this study. Nordic Countries Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland Northern Europe European Russia, Northern Germany, Northern Poland, Scandinavia, Baltic States Scandinavia Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland Scandinavian Baltic Sweden, Denmark and Finland Baltic Sea States Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland Baltic Sea Region Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, European Russia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the German Länder of Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schleswig-Holstein, Niedersachsen (Regierungsbezirk Lüneburg)42 Table 1: The Geo-Political Terminology Applied in this Study B. Northern Europe – Some General Characteristics and Features I. BSR Specificities and Sensitivities In the last two decades, the geopolitical situation in the Baltic Sea area has changed drastically. The most important break in recent BSR history was certainly the fall of the east-west divide in 1989/90 – or as Sander called it – the “fall of the Baltic Wall”, involving independence for the Baltic States, the reunification of Germany and the conclusion of a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Russia.43 As from a geostrategic point of view, the specific importance of the BSR has been traditionally related to its unclear and therefore problematic Eastern delimitation.44 40 See MEDIJAINEN Eero: The Baltic Question in the Twentieth Century. Historiographic Aspects. In: AMELANG James S./BEER Siegfried (eds): Public Power in Europe. Studies in Historical Transformations. Pisa 2006, pp. 109-124, here p. 112. 41 See CAVE Andrew: Finding a Role in an Enlarged EU. In: Central Europe Review, Nr. 20. 22 May 2000. Online publication www.ce-review.org [26 November 2007]. See chapter “The Baltic States and Baltic Unity – Imposition or Expedient?”, p. 67-. 42 This geographical definition of the BSR is also employed in the framework of EU structural initiatives (e.g. INTERREG). 43 See SANDER Gordon: Off Centre. Baltic hands link across a troubled sea. In: Financial Times, 8 April 2000. 44 See DELLENBRANT Jan Åke: The Baltic Sea Co-operation. Visions and Realities. In: BALDERSHEIM Harald/STÅHLBERG Krister (eds): Nordic Region-Building in a European Perspective. Aldershot 1999, pp. 83-97, here p. 85. 28 For the BSR there is no natural border to the East. While until the end of the Second World War, the Baltic Sea was not prominently perceived as a barrier in geostrategic terms but rather as a body of water that facilitated contacts between the shores, during the Cold War era it assumed this sort of grey or dead zone between opposing ideological systems. The geostrategic importance resulting from this unique position has not changed over recent decades. However, what has changed after the end of the Cold War is the nature of this old dividing line. “Fault lines between civilisations are replacing the political and ideological boundaries of the Cold War as the flash points for crisis and blood-shed.”45 In his renowned model of clashing civilizations, Huntington maintained that the so-called ‘Velvet Curtain’ of cultural diversity, the Eastern border of Western Civilization, runs right through the BSR. The most significant dividing line in Europe [...] may well be the eastern boundary of Western Christianity in the year 1500. This line runs along what are now the boundaries between Finland and Russia and between the Baltic states and Russia, cuts through Belarus and Ukraine separating the more Catholic western Ukraine from Orthodox eastern Ukraine, swings westward separating Transylvania from the rest of Romania, and then goes through Yugoslavia [...].46 Another factor that has decisively altered the geopolitical constellation in Northern Europe has been the progressing and enlarging European project as well as the process of transatlantic security integration. Today, the distribution of memberships in international organisations can be said to constitute a decisive albeit ambivalent structural component in the BSR. While the NATO membership pattern draws an intrinsic dividing line across the Baltic Sea Rim, with the states alongside the lower Baltic region being full NATO-member states, and the Baltic North still pertaining to the block of permanently neutral or non-aligned states,47 EU membership rather constitutes a uniting factor for the BSR. The enlargements in 1995 and 2004 have turned the Baltic Sea almost into an inland sea of the EU.48 One of the most challenging specificities in the BSR is distance, and equally, physical remoteness. The distance between the northern and southern extremes of the Baltic Sea Rim equals the one between London and Istanbul. Distance as such does not necessarily pose economic, social or infrastructural problems. However, what is different about the BSR in comparison to other extended regions is the issue of remoteness and accessibility. In spatial planning, accessibility constitutes one of the decisive factors for the calculation of the socio-economic competitiveness of a region or sub-regional area and the relative disadvantage resulting from its specific geographical position.49 45 HUNTINGTON Samuel P.: The Clash of Civilizations? In: Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, pp. 22- 34, here p. 31. 46 Ibd., here p. 25. 47 See VON SYDOW Emily: Den Baltiska dimensionen. Stockholms geopolitiska roll i EU. In: EHRLING Guy (ed.): Stockholm international. En antologi om Stockholm i en regionaliserad och globaliserad värld. Stockholm 2000, pp. 23-36, here 25. Anyway, Sweden and Finland do take part in the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) Programme, and thus, are fully involved in the practical field activities as well as training and capability development. 48 See Baltic Study Net. Introduction to the Baltic Summer School Mare Europaeum, Berlin 23 July – 6 August 2006. Website of the Centre for Baltic Sea Region Studies (CEBAST) www.balticstudies.org [27 September 2007]. 49 See for example SPIEKERMANN Klaus/AALBU Hallgeir: Nordic Peripherality in Europe. Nordregion Working Paper, Nr. 2/2004. Stockholm 2004. 29 What yet increases the load of distance and remoteness in structural terms is the additional factor of harsh climate in Northern Europe, which does not only affect the extreme North but also the urban areas in the Scandinavian south. The political changes of 1989/90 not only gave rise to a wave of political transformation, they also opened the scene to new forms of security challenges. Soft security threats such as organised crime, illegal migration, drug trafficking and communicable diseases may be regarded as “direct consequences of the fall of the Baltic Wall”50 or of the “accelerated social and political transformation” in the post- Soviet countries.51 A set of other, more persistent and traditional problems is related to environmental hazards. They are partly aggravated by the fact that due to the low and variable salinity of the Baltic Sea, its marine life is exceptionally vulnerable. The lack of circulation creates lethal deposits of nutrients in the depths of the sea. Death and decay are increasingly spreading under the surface. Nuclear safety is a particular cause for concern because of the serious and trans-boundary character of a possible accident. Together with other regional and local hazards, the environmental deterioration in the Murmansk area is a significant problem.52 Significantly, some of these challenges, such as pollution or health risks, have already existed before, but apparently, awareness about them only resurfaced now that the global security political perspective on the BSR was no longer solely determined by the Soviet threat. In fact, emphasis must be placed on the fact that not only the changing political circumstances resulted in a new set of security challenges; it was also the shifting level of ambition in international relations that eventually altered the parameters for risk assessment in the BSR. Through the EU accession of the three Baltic States and of Poland, the security challenge resulting from the extreme economic and social disparities across the Baltic Sea rim has also become more visible. Haukkala emphasises that the Fenno-Russian border represents, next to the US-Mexican border, “one of the greatest drops in living standards in the world.”53 The following table shows the socio-economic gap between the northern and the southern and eastern part of the BSR, giving details about each country’s Human Development Index (HDI) ranking, life expectancy, inflation rates and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. 50 See SANDER Gordon: Off Centre. Baltic hands link across a troubled sea. In: Financial Times, 8 April 2000. 51 See MOROFF Holger: Introduction. In: Id. (ed.): European Soft Security Policies. The Northern Dimension. Kauhava 2002, pp. 12-36, here p. 13. 52 HEROLF Gunilla: The Swedish Approach. Constructive Competition for a Common Goal. In: BONVICINI Gianni/VAAHTORANTA Tapani/WESSELS Wolfgang (eds): The Northern EU. National Views on the Emerging Security Dimension. Helsinki 2000, pp. 141-160, here 146. 53 HAUKKALA Hiski: Whose Governance? Challenging the Dominant Northern Dimension Discourse. In: Northern Research Forum (ed.): Northern Veche. Proceedings of the Second Northern Research Forum, held in Veliky Novgorod, Russia. 19-22 September 2002, pp. 105-107, here p. 105. 30 HDI ranking life expectancy inflation GDP p.c. (US $) Sweden 5. 80.3 0.5 38,525 Finland 11. 78.7 0.9 35,562 Denmark 15. 77.3 1.8 44,673 Estonia 40. 71.6 4.1 8,331 Latvia 45. 71.8 6.7 5,868 Lithuania 41. 72.5 2.7 6,480 Poland 37. 74.3 2.2 6,346 Table 2: Socio-Economic Disparities in the BSR54 The general characteristics of the BSR are largely determined by its unique geo-political position. The specificities resulting from this position pose remarkable challenges to the policy makers in the region. The BSR features a variety of security problems that. through profound “transboundary effects”, have a far-ranging impact on the wider region of Northern Europe.55 In fact, one of the most important BSR specificities is that overcoming the various problems resulting from its unique position needs to be seen as a trans-border challenge, a task that does not allow national or unilateral solutions. Over recent decades, this quest for cooperative cohesion and for harnessing of synergies has been extensively materialised in the form of Nordic Cooperation. Since the end of the Cold War had removed the superpower overlay, prospects for the establishment of cooperative structures across old dividing lines have grown progressively. The challenge of having to find joint solutions for common problems has considerably stimulated region-building actors to start up various different projects and initiatives serving these transregional purposes. II. Remoteness and Marginality – The Periphery’s Romantic Temptation Physical remoteness can, as shown for the geographic context, result in certain structural disadvantages for the region or country concerned. When looking at the factor of remoteness from a political, and more generally, a social perspective the effect appears to be similar. Countries and regions situated at the margins of a continent or of a political community, such as the BSR in regard to the European Union are often associated with the idea of being marginal in the sense of politically unimportant or secondary. In discourses of modernity and in the major theories of international politics, being on the margins is equated with a lack of influence, and even a lack of subjectivity in international affairs. A position in the margins is usually seen as something from which one should try to escape, by trying to instead get closer to the core.56 54 Table generated on the basis of the Human Development Report 2006. Available at http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/ [24 January 2008]. 55 See MOROFF Holger: Introduction. In: Id. (ed.): European Soft Security Policies. The Northern Dimension. Kauhava 2002, pp. 12-36, here p. 12. 56 BROWNING Christopher S.: Introduction. In: Id. (ed.): Remaking Europe in the Margins. Northern Europe after the Enlargements. Aldershot 2005, p. 1-10, here p. 5.

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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.