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Carmen Gebhard, What Makes a Region a ‘Region’? Reflections on Baltic Sea ‘Regionness’ in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 33 - 36

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
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]. 34 The range of so-called regions in Europe actually encompasses a variety of remarkably different phenomena. We call the BSR just as we do Bremen, Brussels and the Baranya.72 There is no transdisciplinary or global definition but generally a region can be conceived as a category that regroups disparate aggregates. However, as such it may still denominate very different concepts, e.g. intermediary formations between the local and the national level, sub-state entities within a country or nation, a cooperation zone that includes the respective state, a trans-border area, or indeed, an entire subcontinent.73 What makes a region a region? This plain question leads us first to the aspect of territoriality and thus, to geography. When trying to define what it is exactly that makes us classify something as a region, the first and foremost condition seems to be locality. As Schmitt-Egner put it: “Location matters.”74 However, Nekrasas pointed out that political geography should not try to lock regions up in a “steel cage” since geographical affiliations are subject to constant re-interpretation.75 In fact, defining the BSR along sharp geographical borders by including all states and sub-state entities that directly border on the Baltic Sea seems problematic. Estonia Germany Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Latvia Lithuania Poland West Pomerania Pomerania Warmia-Masuria Sweden Skåne Blekinge Östergötland Södermanland Gotland Stockholm Uppsala Gävleborg Västernorrland Västerbotten Norrbotten Finland Lapland Northern- Ostrobothnia Central Ostrobothnia Ostrobothnia Satakunta Finland Proper Uusimaa Eastern Uusimaa Kymenlaakso Russia North-Western Federal District Kaliningrad Table 3: BSR States and Respective Sub-States However, Schäfer is right in saying that these ambits only serve the purpose of delineating administrative entities whose coverage does not necessarily correspond with the catchment area of the cooperative networks that Baltic Sea Regionalism has put forth.76 Therefore, any sort of geographical definition has to remain vague in the sense that the BSR as a spatial concept does not have clear-cut borders. 72 SCHMITT-EGNER: The Concept of ‘Region’. Theoretical and methodological Notes on its Reconstruction. In: Journal of European Integration, No. 3/2002, pp. 179-200, here p. 179. 73 See SMOUTS Marie-Claude: The region as a new imagined community. In: LEQUESNE Christian/LE GALÈS Patrick: Regions in Europe. London/New York 1998, pp. 30-38, here p. 31. 74 SCHMITT-EGNER: The Concept of ‘Region’. Theoretical and methodological Notes on its Reconstruction. In: Journal of European Integration, No. 3/2002, pp. 179-200, here p. 180. 75 See NEKRASAS Evaldas: Is Lithuania a Northern or Central European Country? In: Lithuanian Foreign Policy Review, 1/1998, pp. 19-45, here p. 22. 76 See SCHÄFER Imke: Region-Building and Identity Formation in the Baltic Sea Region. In: The Interdisciplinary Journal of International Studies, No. 1/2005, pp. 45-69, here p. 46. 35 The notion of ‘Baltic Sea Region’ cannot be simply equated with the geographic ‘region’ concept. In this study, the ‘region’ is perceived not to be solely determined by its factual characteristic features such as natural or geomorphic similarities. Geographic factors such as a common littoral form a region just as much as bare physical closeness does. The concept of a ‘region’ underlying this study is based on the assumption, that regions emerging from regionalist tendencies or proactive region-building efforts are based on additional ideational factors, with geographic circumstances forming some sort of conceptual auxiliary. To put it differently, geographical proximity is a fact, whereas ‘regionness’ is the outcome of a political process, the process of regionalism. Defining ‘regions’ in the sense of spatial units is linked with the question of perceiving and conceptualizing borders. From a modernist point of view, a ‘region’ in the sense of a territorial entity is a clearly and neatly defined space with clear-cut borders and a designated centre that projects its power evenly across the whole terrain. From this point of view, borders do have the plain function of demarcating the inside from the outside without having any sort of constitutive subjectivity on their own. In contrast thereto, the concept of “fuzzy borders”77 defines the margins as some sort of intermediary spaces of interaction and exchange whose cross-links reach right beyond the borders. According to this perspective, the mere fact that they do not only form the border but rather transcend and overlap borders and dividing lines already provides them with a substantive power of their own.78 Instead of defining concepts of regions and borders, Hettne introduced a set of criteria that determine a region’s ‘regionness’ assuming that the fact of a region being a region is not exclusive or absolute but that there are various degrees of ‘regionness’ that “make a region more or less of a region”: – geographical unit: a ‘region’ should form some sort of geographical unit, i.e. it should have more or less discernible boundaries defined by natural physical borders. A good example for this type of ‘proto-region’ is Sub-Saharan Africa; – social system: the region is inhabited by human beings that at least maintain some kind of trans-local relationship (also hostile or negative); combined with a low level of organisation this level constitutes so-called “primitive regions”; – organised cooperation: the region implies organisational membership and respective structures (“formal region”); – civil society: organizational framework promotes social communication and convergence of values across the region; shared cultural tradition is a basic precondition for this sort of “regional anarchic society”; – acting subject: this stage is achieved with the coalescence of a distinct identity, actor capability, legitimacy and structure of decision-making; this regionalism is very similar to the process of state formation and nation-building. The ultimate outcome could be a “region state”, which Hettne defines as a “supranational security community, where sovereignty is pooled for the best of all.”79 77 See CHRISTIANSEN Thomas/PETITO Fabio/TONRA Ben (eds): Fuzzy Politics around Fuzzy Borders. The European Union’s ‘Near Abroad’. In: Cooperation and Conflict, No. 4/December 2000, pp. 389-415. 78 See BROWNING Christopher S.: Introduction. In: Id. (ed.): Remaking Europe in the Margins. Northern Europe after the Enlargements. Aldershot 2005, pp. 1-10, here p. 5-6. 79 See HETTNE Björn: Globalization, the New Regionalism and East Asia. Paper presented at the Global Seminar ‘96 Shonan Session’, 2-6 September 2006, Hayama/Japan, pp. 3-4. 36 Even though Hettne claims that this scale of regionness is not intended as a stage theory, it nevertheless suggests some sort of evolutionary logic, according to which state-like regionness seems to constitute the most advanced stage a ‘region’ can reach. According to this line of argument, ‘regionness’ is closely linked with ‘actorness’. In other words, the region is perceived as an independent variable, and the whole process of increasing regionness is a question of developing actor-like qualities such as decision-making and state-like self-identification. The BSR would probably range somewhere between Hettne’s concept of a ‘formal region’ and a ‘regional anarchic society’ and thus, be fairly close to the ultimate stage of state-like regionness. However, the idea of a linearly progressing regionness seems neither applicable nor desirable for the Baltic Sea case at its current stage. This study’s dealing with the BSR is based on the concept that equates ‘region’ to some kind of virtual ‘action space’ rather than conceiving it, in line with Hettne’s ‘region-state’ image, as an aspiring ‘action unit’.80 D. Regionalism – Definitions, Delimitations and Typologies After the end of the Cold War, the study of regionalism has received new interest in both Political Science and Economics. Analysts have tried to identify different types of regionalism and to discover the inherent dynamics of regionalist developments, and have thus accumulated a rich store of expertise. The following subchapters are intended to give a brief overview of the terminological and conceptual basics, and eventually, to outline various approaches developed in order to describe and analyse this global phenomenon. I. The Regionalism Complex and the Importance of Conceptual Clarity Regionalism is a multidimensional and pluralistic phenomenon in international politics, and it is a complex and (maybe even more) contested subject area in IR studies. This is partly due to its multidisciplinary provenance: the academic concern with regional spatiality and regionness has not emerged from within conventional Political Science. Indeed, the respective research agenda has been shaped by various different disciplines, such as Geography, Sociology, Urban Studies, Anthropology, and Spatial Planning.81 Consequently, theorists have developed many different ways of defining ‘regionalism’, each in view of their specific study and research purpose. As Herrschel and Gore put it, there is no global definition of ‘region’ or ‘regionalism’ as “regionalism means a lot of things to many people.”82 The popularity that regionalism gained in recent years has not only enhanced academic productivity; the variety of approaches has also produced a certain lack of conceptual clarity. An enormous variety of phenomena and developments is placed under the heading of ‘regionalism’: processes of social or economic regionalisation, growth of regional awareness or identity, formation of interstate regional institutions, state-promoted economic integration, or emergence of 80 See SCHMITT-EGNER: The Concept of ‘Region’. Theoretical and Methodological Notes on its Reconstruction. In: Journal of European Integration, No. 3/2002, pp. 179-200, here p. 181. 81 RUMFORD Chris: Rethinking European Spaces. Territory, Borders, Governance. In: Comparative European Politics, Issue 2/3 (July/September 2006), pp. 127–140, here p. 129. 82 HERRSCHEL Tassilo/GORE Benjamin: Creating the Multi-Purpose and Multi-Scalar ‘Virtual Region’. New Regionalisation in the Baltic Sea Area. Paper presented at the 6th EURS Conference, Roskilde 21-23 September 2006, p. 1.

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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.