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Carmen Gebhard, Remoteness and Marginality – The Periphery’s Romantic Temptation in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 30 - 33

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
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. 31 Parker claims that marginality has to be dissociated from the notion of inferiority to, or dependence upon, a corresponding core. According to his vision, marginal players can have remarkable power in their own right and have considerable impact on the international scene. The basis for this ability is their very position at the margins that puts them into a state of permanent uncertainty. As their belonging to a certain entity always remains in doubt, they are pushed to assume a proactive attitude. However, also the ‘centre’ needs more commitment in order to keep the margins “on track”. This is mostly because they have, in contrast to those who are part of the declared core, a large set of options at hand that could serve them as profitable alternatives to the ‘core option’.57 Even though Parker in his argumentation is not strictly talking about margins in the sense of territoriality, these reflections may well be applied to the question of the role a ‘marginal’ region such as the BSR can have in relation to its respective centre, i.e. the EU or ‘Brussels’.58 This study is based on the assumption that geographical remoteness furthers the establishment of distinct identities, based on a strong awareness about the fact of being ‘peripheral’. The psychological effects of potentially ‘not being part of it’ might, in the long run, also affect or determine the foreign policy conduct of states situated in peripheral regions. The unity of the system of Nordic Cooperation, for example, has always been promoted by the relative isolation and the insularity of the Northern European area, composed of peninsulas, islands and archipelagos. In fact, the Nordic sphere features only two mainland borders: a very short one between Germany and Denmark, and one in a rather desolate and uninhabited area between Finland and Russia.59 However, the way Northern Europe and the ‘far up North’ are perceived is subject to changes. A look back into history shows that Northernness has not always been associated with mere remoteness and peripherality. The various notions attached to being positioned in the northern hemisphere of Europe were most commonly employed on the basis of a North-South division. The North-South division of the world dominated European spatial imagination [...] from Antiquity up until the gradual emergence of a new East-West division during the early modern period. In ancient Greece and Rome, and for centuries thereafter, the North denoted a veritable cultural and economic backwater, a sphere inhabited by uncivilized barbarians. This image of extreme peripherality was challenged during the 16th and the 17th centuries, when the North acquired a more positive aspect and became the resource in the identitybuilding processes of realms and nations. In the 19th century, however, it ceased to function as a master-signifier of Europeanness and again assumed a connotation of remoteness and peripherality.60 57 See PARKER Noel: Integrated Europe and its ‘Margins’. Action and Reaction. In: Id./ARMSTRONG Bill (eds): Margins in European Integration. Houndmills 2000, pp. 3-27, here p. 8-13. 58 For a more abstract analysis on these centre-periphery aspects, see chapter “Application PatternII: Sketching a Model of Explanation”, p. 198-. 59 See JAANSON Kaido: The Baltic States and Norden. In: The Baltic Review, Vol. 19. Online Edition. Website of the Journal ‘The Baltic Review’ www.tbr.ee [12 August 2007]. 60 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. 32 Generally, there is a certain tendency to disregard the political developments at the ‘margins’, i.e. the peripheral parts of Europe. This applies to both political practice and academic research. Most notably in the context of integration and the respective political discourse, Northern Europe often appears as a ‘blank spot’ on the virtual map of the European project. Joenniemi points at the additional problem that in most contexts Northern Europe, or the ‘North’, is treated as a “marker with a given content and unproblematic status.”61 The marker remains embedded in perceptions of immobility and permanency. It is depicted, similarly to the other main markers on the compass, as being frozen, fixed and pre-set [...]. It is so firmly naturalised and sedimented that it is difficult to comprehend that in the end, the North too forms a discursive construct with changing borders.62 Apart from these various forms of academic disinterest and symptomatic political negligence coming from the ‘southern’ parts of Europe, peripheral regions such as the BSR are often subject to, as Olrich put it, “extreme views by those who are central.” These “extreme views” again range between total disregard and political underestimation and the hyperbolic romanticisation of alleged attributes and value-laden categories such as the “Nordic spirit” or the “Arctic Mystery”.63 Northern Europe has been something of a post-modern playground, where scholars well versed in critical understandings of international politics have played a hands-on role in how the region has developed.64 In fact, Northern Europe as other peripheral regions has been and still is often subject to the external (and often, arbitrary) application of either – enthusiastic concepts that personate the North as something extraordinarily different in the sense of extreme or even preternatural, – or charming and neat concepts, that classify the actors based in this part of Europe as largely inoffensive, tolerant and libertarian, and thus, most significantly, as harmless on the scene of global or European power politics. Even though these concepts do not always comply with the genuine specificities and ‘real’ interests of Northern European actors, it is also very common to take these international clichés as reference models for official policy orientation. One important example in this context is the often close to romantic idealisation of the so-called ‘Nordic Model’ and the normative implications that it is said and thought to entail.65 Nordic self-esteem is boosted by the claims that ‘Norden’ is ‘the teacher of the rest of Europe’, a ‘future orientation of the European Union’ or the ‘EU’s rich periphery’. It is claimed that ‘Norden’ has something to teach Europe in the fields of minority rights, gender 61 JOENNIEMI Pertti: North Goes Europe. Restoring Meaning or Playing with Emptiness? Copenhagen 2001, p. 1. 62 Ibd., p. 3. 63 See OLRICH Tómas Ingi: Implementation of a Northern Dimension. In: Northern Research Forum (ed.): North meets North. Proceedings of the First Northern Research Forum, held in Akureyri and Bessastaðir, Iceland. 4-6 November 2002, pp. 119-121, here p. 119. 64 BROWNING Christopher S.: Introduction. In: Id. (ed.): Remaking Europe in the Margins. Northern Europe after the Enlargements. Aldershot 2005, pp. 1-10, here p. 3. 65 For a discussion about the international perception of the Nordic Model, see ØSTERGÅRD Uffe: The Geopolitics of Nordic Identity from Composite States to Nation-States. Copenhagen 1997, p. 4. 33 equality, environmental policies, consumer policy, local administration and policy in dealing with the autonomic regions. The list of ‘Nordic’ merits is long, but the extent to which these are merely taken for granted conceptions, traditional myths and political slogans is hardly ever problematized.66 Also political actors within Northern Europe often ply with similar arguments, trying to profit from the sometimes gainful effect of either being reckoned as an ideal model of reference, or in other cases, as the “boring backwater” of Europe that takes pride in its “lethargic and uncontroversial political system” without ever lapsing into the infamous maelstrom of power politics.”67 Notions of “tiny and tidy Scandinavia”68 or of the five Nordic states being “small, peace-loving, democratic countries” 69 allude to this specific Nordic attitude.70 Some actors involved in the Baltic Sea region-building process also tried to avail themselves of colourful and idealised notion of what this region is basically about. The following example that claims to describe a “northern perspective on European history and culture” illustrates the lofty character of notions and images used in the context of these argumentative strategies. Anthropologists and cultural historians consider all that Human do as culture. According to a brief definition, culture reflects the creativity of the human mind. [...] This limited every day concept of culture can support our common observations. In the Lappish heart, Rovaniemi does not compete with Florence or Rome. We would not catch up Central Europe’s lead, even if we brought Luciano Pavarotti and la Scala’s opera house to the Lappish mountains. Laplanders set a framework for high culture in the wonderful mountains, but it is representative of cultural understanding from the southern perspective. According to the wider concept, Lapland’s nature floods into the culture, but one should learn to understand it as a rapids shooter reads the rapids. The Northern dimension opens unmeasurable wealth to the European audience and a complete new way to realize cultural capital status. [...] Snow and ice are used as elements of fine arts. Northern culture is a part of nature, in which the seasons are stages of fantasy and drama.71 C. What Makes a Region a ‘Region’? Reflections on Baltic Sea ‘Regionness’ Generally, many analysts have tried to define the concept of ‘region’ in various contexts. In fact, there are many different territorial entities commonly – and sometimes mistakenly – classified under the same label – ‘region’. 66 JUKARAINEN Pirjo: Norden is Dead. Long Live the Eastwards Faced Euro-North. Geopolitical Remaking of Norden in a Nordic Journal. In: Cooperation and Conflict, No. 12/1999, pp. 355-382, here p. 367. 67 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]. 68 See KATZENSTEIN Peter J.: Regionalism in Comparative Perspective. ARENA Working Papers, No. 1/1996. Oslo 1996, p. 10. 69 ØSTERGÅRD Uffe: The Nordic Countries in the Baltic Region. In: JOENNIEMI Pertti (ed.): Neo- Nationalism or Regionality: The Restructuring of Political Space around the Baltic Rim. Stockholm 1997, pp. 26-53, here p. 28. 70 For more details about Nordicness and the politico-strategic instrumentalisation of Nordic uniqueness, see also chapter “Old North vs. New Regionalism – Visions Competing for the Same Space?”, p. 76-. 71 Rovaniemi 2011. The Eight Seasons. Gávcci jagiáiggi. Promotional folder available online, official website of the city of Rovaniemi http://www.rovaniemi2011.fi [23 October 2007].

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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.