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Carmen Gebhard, The Regionalism Complex and the Importance of Conceptual Clarity in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 36 - 37

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

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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. 37 politically cohesive regional blocks, to name just a few examples. Given the extreme complexity and variety of the concept, Hurrell even suggests regarding “regionalism as an unstable and indeterminate process of multiple and competing logics with no overriding teleology or single end point. [...] It is very unlikely that any single theory will be able to explain the regionalism complex.”83 Even though this statement might appear fairly scepticist, it could be considered helpful to the extent it emphasises the importance of terminological clarity. Distinguishing between Regionalism’s multiple forms is a task too often ignored by observers, but it stands as a necessary precondition for all future empirical study. [...] Regionalism in its many guises is a moving target, especially when examined crossnationally. [...] The dangers of conceptual imprecision include limits on comparability across countries, limits on the ability of regional specialists in multiple disciplines to communicate effectively, and limits on the ability to link theoretical work with necessary practical applications.84 The distinctions between the different forms of regionalism matter greatly, as many studies on regionalism seem indeed to be muddled because the respective analyst is insufficiently clear about the conceptual relationship between the various processes described under the banner of ‘regionalism’.85 II. Baltic Sea Region: What Sort of ‘Regionalism’? Regionalism as it is dealt with in this study needs to be clearly distinguished from the notion of ‘regionalism’ as an approach to state administration. In the context of national or low politics, ‘regionalism’ denominates the logic of dividing a political entity (usually a nation state) into a certain number of smaller political districts, and thereby of transferring power from the central government to these ‘regions’. The regarding political process is called ‘regionalisation’.86 Another viable interpretation in this regard is ‘regionalism’ as a form of sub-national region-based tendency of disintegration, i.e. a domestic process – be it on peaceful terms or not – where a certain administrative subentity seeks greater voice or autonomy, if not outright independence or statehood. The basis of this sort of regionalism is usually a strong regional and ethno-territorial identity, e.g. Scotland, Catalonia, Corsica.87 83 See HURRELL Andrew: The Regional Dimension in International Relations Theory. In: FARRELL Mary/HETTNE Björn/VAN LANGENHOVE Luk (eds): Global Politics and Regionalism. London 2005, pp. 38-53, here p. 41. 84 DOWNS William M.: Regionalism in the European Union. Key Concepts and Project Overview. In: Journal of European Integration, No. 3/2002, pp. 171-177, here p. 172. 85 See HURRELL Andrew: The Regional Dimension in International Relations Theory. In: FARRELL Mary/HETTNE Björn/VAN LANGENHOVE Luk (eds): Global Politics and Regionalism. London 2005, pp. 38-53, here p. 42. 86 See JOENNIEMI Pertti/WÆVER Ole (eds): Co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region. Washington 1993, p. 4. A similar form of regionalism albeit under more constructive circumstances is the one underlying the concept of a ‘Europe of Regions’. For a critical discussion, see chapter “What kind of ‘Europe of the Regions’?”, p. 206-. 87 See SCHRIJVER Frans: Regionalism after regionalisation: Regional identities, political space and political mobilisation in Galicia, Brittany and Wales. Amsterdam 2004, p. 4.

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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.