Carmen Gebhard, Baltic Sea Region: What Sort of ‘Regionalism’? in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 37 - 39

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
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. 38 In contrast to this concept, the notion of ‘Baltic Sea Regionalism’ refers to regionalist action in terms of ‘region-building’ across national borders as a phenomenon in international politics, i.e. a process of cohesion and networking that takes place in a certain region. Hence, ‘Baltic Sea Regionalism’ denominates all sorts of cooperative action set in the respective catchment area.88 In the widest sense of the term, this type of regionalism could be defined as increasing cooperative activity gathering around a certain region or territorial entity. It is the process of a region ‘growing together’ on the ground of coordination, cooperation and mutual support in political, economical and ideological terms. Apart form the Baltic Sea Region there are three other frontier regions in Europe that function as bridgeheads between East and West. In the North, there is the Barents Euro- Arctic Region, which promotes cooperation between the Northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland and the North Western part of Russia. In the centre of Europe there is the socalled new Euro-region that unites Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. And on the Northern shores of the Adriatic Sea a co-operative arrangement has been formed called the Alp-Adria Region.89 A certain degree of cohesiveness as well as a basic preference for region-based incorporation probably forms the most essential precondition for the emergence and consolidation of this sort of regionalist tendencies. Gunnarsson suggests another practicable and fairly comprehensive definition of ‘regionalism’: Regionalism is the political idea of desirability in regionalisation of politics. Regionalisation refers to the empirical process that leads to the establishment of regions. This process can be generated from either within a region or through forces from outside of a geographical area, trying to establish a region.90 In this study, regionalism is conceived as a dynamic process that leads to the emergence of regional entities or ‘regions’, which eventually assume the shape of political, cultural or economic spaces founded on specific cohesive patterns. This process is determined by intersecting and competing interests and objectives effectuated by different types of players, e.g. governmental/official, non-governmental/non-official, corporate or particulate players. Hence, they are not to be found exclusively on the nation state level but below or rather beyond the scope of state-to-state action. Before starting to elaborate on these different levels of regionalism, it is important to point at yet another usage of the term ‘regionalism’. Confusingly, it also popped up in the political debate about the post Cold War developments in the BSR. The regional policy of single BSR states in view of the newly emerging post Cold War opportunities was sometimes also labelled as ‘regionalism’. However, it was rather meant in the polemic sense of a negative or judgmental ‘-ism’, a regionalist ‘activism’ or ‘proactive regionalism’ that was said to be driven largely by national interests and expedience. Bergman elaborated on this phenomenon of “adjacent internationalism”. 88 See FAWCETT Louise/HURRELL Andrew (eds): Regionalism in World Politics. Regional organization and international order. New York 1998, p. 11. 89 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. 90 GUNNARSSON Malin: Regionalism and Security. Two Concepts in the Wind of Change. Umeå 2000. 39 As a result of the break-up of the USSR in 1991, the Nordic states were given a unique opportunity to engage more actively in their adjacent region. [...] The Nordics demonstrated extensive willingness to support the democratic, economic and social development of the three Baltics.91 In the case of nation-state regional policy, this phenomenon is also called “defensive” or “proactive regionalism”, a state behaviour that can be interpreted as either being a sign of genuinely constructive efforts or as a geo-strategic approach aiming at mere (soft) power accumulation.92 In this very context, Sweden’s post Cold War regionalism directed towards the BSR was often said to have mainly served the purpose of enhancing its own geopolitical standing and of demonstrating its normative power by virtually transcending old dividing lines between East and West.93 This type of judgmental ‘regional-ism’ has also been applied to describe the activist attitude of the various region-building players that used to avail themselves of overblown and grandiose rhetoric and value-laden symbolisms in order to mobilise partners for their own objectives and purposes. III. Levels of Regionalism: Macro-, Meso- and Micro-Regionalism Regionalism as a phenomenon in international politics does not only involve different types of actors at different levels of political competence; regionalist dynamics also differ in terms of geographical reach and coverage. The process of regionalism occurs at different levels, i.e. covering a macro-, meso- or micro-sized area. Hence, an important distinction needs to be made between so-called Macro-, Meso- and Micro- Regionalism.94 examples Macro-Regionalism Large geographical units (‘world regions’ or ‘international regions’), ranging between the ‘state’ and the ‘global’ level; EU Meso-Regionalism or Sub-Regionalism medium size entities, also occurring between the ‘state’ and the ‘global’ level, but one level below Macro-Regionalism BSR Micro-Regionalism small geographical units, ranging between the ‘national’ and the ‘local’ or ‘municipal’ level Vlaanders region Table 4: Levels of Regionalism: Macro-, Meso- and Micro-Regionalism 91 See BERGMAN Annika: Adjacent Internationalism. The Concept of Solidarity and Post-Cold War Nordic-Baltic Relations. In: Cooperation and Conflict, No. 1/2006, pp. 73-97, here p. 74. See also chapter “The BSR as an Auto-Dynamic Unit Within the Wider Unit Europe”, p. 203-. 92 For more comments on “defensive Regionalism”, see chapter “Old North vs. New Regionalism – Visions Competing for the Same Space?”, p. 76-. 93 Sweden’s regional policy in the early post Cold War phase will be addressed in chapter “What accounts for Swedish and Finnish Self-Perception?”, p. 113-. 94 See SÖDERBAUM Fredrik: Exploring the Links between Micro-Regionalism and Macro- Regionalism. In: FARRELL Mary/HETTNE Björn/VAN LANGENHOVE Luk (eds): Global Politics and Regionalism. London 2005, pp. 87-103, here p. 91.

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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.