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Carmen Gebhard, The Early Phase of Construction in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 48 - 49

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
48 E. Regionalism in Northern Europe After 1989 The political changes of 1989/90 opened a “historical window of opportunity” for the establishment of cooperative cross-border networks in Northern Europe.121 The newly gained independence of the three Baltic States made it possible for regional and subregional actors to try to bridge the gaps and dividing lines caused by the static bipolar structure of the Cold War. For the BSR the collapse of the Iron Curtain stood for the fall of – what Sander called – a ‘Baltic Wall.’122 The specific circumstances that followed the end of the Cold War in the BSR paved the way for regional cooperation across the Baltic Sea Rim – a phenomenon that has put forth a large number of associations, projects and initiatives operating at different levels of action and covering a large range of policy fields. Promoted by the decentralisation of the international system and the removal of the superpower overlay, both the number of regional organisations and interest in what was called the ‘New Regionalism’ grew exponentially.123 I. The Early Phase of Construction Today’s BSR is said to be the most networked, and therefore, among the most complex regions in Europe. Given the huge variety of cooperative structures and initiatives at hand, it would go beyond the scope of this study to explain the history of establishment in detail, or to mention every single initiative in a specific content-related context. At this point, it seems more practicable and helpful to offer a structured overview on the bulk of cooperative formations and to outline the fundamental events in the early phase of Baltic Sea Regionalism, focussing in particular on the major discursive trends at the first stage of region-building and construction.124 Most of the cooperative structures in the BSR were founded (or, as in the case of HELCOM, structurally reconceptualized) in the wake of the 1989/90 events. Stålvant called this early phase of pro-active cohesiveness the ‘construction period’ (Germ. Grundlegungsperiode) of Baltic Sea Regionalism, in which the first generation of regionalist structures emerged. It was the phase of seminars and of debates about ideas and visions. The variety of Baltic Sea identities was made aware, and new organising principles for cross-border action and cooperation were formulated. The first regionalist actors entered the scene: networks and action groups (such as Coalition Green Baltic) as well as official interregional initiatives were launched at the national, regional and local level.125 121 See WILLIAMS Leena-Kaarina: Post-modern and intergovernmental paradigms of Baltic Sea cooperation between 1988 and 1992. The Genesis of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) as a historical case study. In: NORDEUROPA Forum 1/2005, pp. 3-20, here p. 5. 122 See SANDER Gordon: Off Centre. Baltic hands link across a troubled sea. In: Financial Times, 8 April 2000. 123 See FAWCETT Louise: Regionalism from a Historical Perspective. In: FARRELL Mary/HETTNE Björn/VAN LANGENHOVE Luk (eds): Global Politics and Regionalism. London 2005, pp. 21-37, here pp. 29-30. 124 For a detailed description of the major associations and initiatives, see the annex of this study. 125 STÅLVANT Carl-Einar: Zehn Jahre Ostseekooperation. Was wurde erreicht – was bleibt zu tun? In: Schleswig-Holsteinisches Institut für Friedenswissenschaften (ed.): SCHIFF Texte, No. 61. Kiel 2000, p. 12. 49 There is no consensus in academia about who the real founding fathers were, and where exactly to allocate the starting point of Baltic Sea Regionalism. Williams identified ideas about the creation of a New Baltic Sea Region as early as in 1988, when Björn Engholm, then social-democratic Prime Minister of the German Bundesland Schleswig- Holstein, launched the vision of building up a cooperative network across the Baltic by reviving the spirit of the old historic Hanseatic League (“New Hansa”) in the form of a “Baltic Forum”.126 However, the development of Baltic Sea Regionalism in this early period was nothing of a clear process of progressive and controlled regionalisation. There were many parallel and partly diverging region-building projects that characterised the phase between 1989 and 1995. II. The Irony of Competition I The emergence of Baltic Sea Regionalism in the early 1990s has been accompanied by a fervent and enthusiastic rhetoric about the positive dynamics of new Baltic ‘togetherness’ that were to transcend historic dividing lines. The emerging regionalist dynamics that shaped the post Cold War phase in Northern Europe have often been referred to as a “wave of cooperative spirit” or a “rush of togetherness.”127 What has hardly entered the public and academic debate is that this enthusiasm, which in a certain sense unified the wide range of initiatives and region-building projects, actually built on very different grounds. The specific circumstances that can be identified in the BSR case call for a more differentiated perspective. The various newly established associations and projects did not only strive for innovation and proactive originality but also had specific strategic objectives. In some cases, these newly appearing regional entities resulted in the creation of a series of different and potentially competing visions of spatial prototypes, each building on specific normative foundations and different ideological and societal perceptions. The most prominent example in this regard is closely related to the above-mentioned “Baltic Forum” initiative by Björn Engholm, then social-democratic Prime Minister of the German Bundesland Schleswig-Holstein, and the establishment of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). Engholm had envisaged the creation of some sort of coordinating platform to embrace all cooperative activities in the BSR. At first his initiative found fertile soil, most importantly among Swedish and Northern-German scholars. This group of actors was determined to create a post-modern paradigm, in which the nationstate was gradually to lose importance and new forms of interaction, based on networking and people-to-people contact, should take over. It was seen as a region-building experiment, where the actors obviously had their own interests but were joining forces in order to reach a synergetic effect.128 126 See WILLIAMS Leena-Kaarina: Post-modern and intergovernmental paradigms of Baltic Sea cooperation between 1988 and 1992. The Genesis of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) as a historical case study. In: NORDEUROPA Forum 1/2005, pp. 3-20, here p. 4-5. 127 See e.g. ANTOLA Esko/KIVIKARI Urpo: The Baltic Sea Region. A Dynamic Third of Europe. Turku 2004. 128 WILLIAMS Leena-Kaarina: Post-modern and intergovernmental paradigms of Baltic Sea cooperation between 1988 and 1992. The Genesis of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) as a historical case study. In: NORDEUROPA Forum 1/2005, pp. 3-20, 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.