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Carmen Gebhard, Visions and Constructed Realities – The History Tool in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 53 - 58

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
53 coordination meetings with the heads of a group of subregional organisations. Six such meetings have been held to date: 2001 in Riga/Latvia, 2002 in Lillehammer/Norway, 2003 in Klaipeda/Lithuania, 2004 and 2005 in Malmö/Sweden, and 2007 in Bornholm/Denmark. In addition to providing a more structured channel for CBSS Special Participants, these meetings were also thought to allow the partner organisations to voice their concerns and coordinate their efforts with the CBSS and other regional actors. Two specific agenda issues have dominated the meetings so far: coordination of input to the elaboration and implementation of the EU Northern Dimension Action Plan (ND AP), and improved coordination of activities and information flows among the participating organisations. The CBSS tries to fulfil the function of communicating the collected positions to the European Commission. The CBSS has also launched an internet portal for the BSR in order to provide a single entry point and information source on the wide range of Baltic Sea regional cooperation activities.140 IV. Visions and Constructed Realities – The History Tool The post Cold War discourse on the emergence of a ‘new’, ‘comprehensive’ and ‘inclusive’ BSR was dominated by visionary and elocutionary images. Generally, many of the regional and sub-regional initiatives that emerged in the BSR after the end of the Cold War were based upon rather enthusiastic ambitions, stressing the normative power of the cooperative spirit of the past. Many promoted Baltic Sea Regionalism by preaching the existence of some sort of natural habit or inclination to cohesion and togetherness present in the area, and occasionally helped themselves with the history tool: Various initiators of regional and sub-regional cooperation referred to history, presenting a carefully selected set of historical events of regional cooperation in order to support their regionalist visions. Trade relation or political domination in the pre-nation state era was employed to present region-building as a natural process. A specific version of history suggested a certain naturally founded, generic community of destiny in the BSR. Hanseatic trade or the geopolitical figure of Dominium Maris Baltici or Mare Nostrum were among the most spectacular constructs.141 In 1990, for example, a number of leading politicians, journalists, authors, academics and intellectuals met in the Finnish town of Kotka in order to discuss the perspectives of a ‘New Hansa’, and thereby created another label for the vision of a peaceful and prosperous BSR that would tie in with its historical antecedents: the “Spirit of Kotka”.142 The discursive creation of a certain cohesive spirit is an important factor in most region-building projects. Region-building begins in the field of ideas and public debates, and is supposed to convince participants of a common background by making common values come into force.143 140 See Official Website of the Baltic Sea Portal www.balticsea.net [28 December 2007]. 141 MUSIAL Kazimierz: Education, Research and the Baltic Sea Region-building. In: Id. (ed.): Approaching Knowledge Society in the Baltic Sea Region. Gda?sk/Berlin 2002, pp. 42-60, here p. 47. 142 See SUNDQVIST Ulf: The Spirit of Kotka. In: Framtider international, 1/1991, p. 4. 143 MAKARYCHEV Andrey S.: Where the North Meets the East. Europe’s ‘Dimensionalism’ and Poland’s ‘Marginality Strategy’. In: Cooperation and Conflict, No. 3/2004, pp. 299-315, here p. 301. 54 Regionalism requires social stimulation and validation, and as such it is likely to be prominent in those regions that effectively mobilise a unifying historic identity and distinctive consciousness.144 The promoters and initiators of regionalism, i.e. the ‘region-builders’, frequently avail themselves of identity-related arguments in order to support the idea of togetherness in some way, and thus, to legitimise the objectives of respective region-building efforts. References to alleged historic predecessors are very common argumentative tools in this respect. The ambition hereinafter is certainly not to give an exhaustive presentation of the images introduced in the course of the region-building process. The following section elaborates on three of the most prominent examples in this regard: The idea of a ‘New Hansa’, mostly promoted by actors with a German background, the notion of a New Mare Balticum, and the vision of a Homo Balticus, a specific breed of man inhabiting the Baltic Sea rim that was said to have outstanding moral qualities. 1. The Vision of a ‘New Hansa’ and the ‘Spirit of Kotka’ The idea of a ‘New Hansa’ based on the historical example of the medieval Hanseatic League (Germ. Hanse) dates back to one of the early visionaries of Baltic Sea Cooperation, Björn Engholm, then Prime Minister of the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.145 In his view, it was not only one of the first manifestations of cooperative cohesion in this region, it rather held the allure of a cross-border bottom-up vision fostering enhanced and peaceful relations between East and West.146 In fact, the historic Hanseatic League was a union of trading guilds, whose establishment in the middle of the 14th century tackled a revolution of commerce in medieval Europe and gradually turned the region into the mainspring of continental trade: for three centuries, it linked more than one hundred cities and enhanced the convergence of their peoples, cultures and economies, with a catchment area stretching from Novgorod in the east of the BSR to London and Bruges in the west of the North Sea.147 After being rediscovered by a group of politicians and intellectuals, the notion of a Hanseatic spirit or legacy eventually became one of the most popular images promoted in the context of the new regionalist wave.148 In 1980, a network of towns and cities called ‘Hansa’ was founded upon a German initiative. It committed itself to the purpose 144 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. 145 Another historical entity that could have equally been referred to is the Kalmar Union, a political association that once brought the kingdoms of Sweden (including Finland), Norway (including Iceland and the Faroe Islands) and Denmark (1397-1521) together, uniting the entire Nordic area for the first time in history. For more details, see WEIBULL Jörgen: Swedish History in Outline. Stockholm 1993. 146 Engholm even established I think tank within his state chancellery, the so-called “Denkfabrik”, which he mandated to evolve these ideas on academic grounds. See WILLIAMS Leena-Kaarina: Post-modern and intergovernmental paradigms of Baltic Sea co-operation 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 pp. 9-10. 147 For more details, see KIRBY David: Northern Europe in the Early Modern Period. The Baltic World 1492-1772, London 1990. 148 See DELLENBRANT Jan ?ke: The Baltic Sea Co-operation – Visions and realities. In: BALDERSHEIM Harald/ST?HLBERG Krister (eds): Nordic Region-Building in a European Perspective. Aldershot 1999, pp. 83-97, here p. 83. 55 of “acting in the spirit of the border-transcending idea of the Hanseatic League” and the associated historical experience, in order to “revive the spirit and the ideas of the European city/municipality.”149 Some of the BSR ‘leagues’ established after 1989 even labelled themselves literally ‘Hansa’ or ‘Hanseatic’, e.g. the Social Hansa (founded in 1993) and the Hanseatic Parliament (2004). Along the German Baltic and North Sea coast, Hansa has still a close-to “religious” meaning, and the myth of the Hanseatic age is still present in every day life. However – be this enthusiasm based on historical experiences or not – there are strong tendencies of idealising the original nature of the league. As Yrjo Kaukiainen pointed out – there is a doubtful ambivalence about the so-called ‘Hanseatic spirit’: When you take away the trimmings – the Hanseatic houses, the diets – what Hanse was really about, was making money, which is fine, but to speak of a higher Hanseatic ethos is going a bit too far. [...] The Hanse could be quite an aggressive organisation and was perfectly willing to engage in boycotts, embargoes, even outright war to accomplish its ends.150 Despite the league’s dramatic collapse,151 many cities in the BSR have maintained the ties to their glorious past as Hanse cities. This mainly applies to German and Dutch cities, whereas Sweden and Poland always seemed to be more reserved in respect to this sort of anachronistic identification with local history.152 The New Hansa was not equally attractive to all regional actors. Instead of references to remote history, Scandinavian scholars preferred imagining the future co-operation across the Baltic Sea within the framework tried out among the Nordic countries.153 Most significantly, Swedish Chambers of Commerce and of Skilled Crafts are not active members of the Hanseatic Parliament, and Swedish cities show comparably low interest in the context of the New Hansa City Network. 149 Hansa Statutes, art. 2. Official website of the Hansa network www.hanse.org [20 October 2007]. 150 KAUKIAINEN Yrjo, cited by SANDER Gordon: Off Centre. Baltic hands link across a troubled sea. In: Financial Times, 8 April 2000. 151 After Dutch merchants had aggressively tried to challenge the league and to break the Hansa monopoly and the Hansa capital had shifted from the German City of Lübeck to Gda?sk in Poland, the league was gradually weakened by a set of unfavourable developments in the area, such as repeated clashes with Denmark and later on, the Dutch-Hanseatic War (1438-1444), where it was finally defeated. Moreover, the rise of national and territorial economies left no more room for the sort of cross-border trading the Hanseatic merchants, towns and cities conducted by way of the league structures. Ultimately, the association failed to withstand the multiple challenges and imploded in the late 16th century. See POSTEL Rainer: The Hanseatic League and its Decline. Paper presented at the Central Connecticut State University, New Britain. 20 November 1996. 152 VON SYDOW Emily: Den Baltiska dimensionen. Stockholms geopolitiska roll i EU. In: EHRLING Guy (ed.): Stockholm international. En antologi om Stockholm i en regionaliserad och globaliserad värld. Stockholm 2000, pp. 23-36, here 24. The German and the Dutch enthusiasm are based on the fact that, within the Hanseatic League, at first, there was a strong German dominance, which was over the years transposed to the western part of the North Sea, i.e. the Netherlands. See POSTEL Rainer: The Hanseatic League and its Decline. Paper presented at the Central Connecticut State University, New Britain. 20 November 1996. 153 MUSIAL Kazimierz: Education, Research and the Baltic Sea Region-building. In: Id. (ed.): Approaching Knowledge Society in the Baltic Sea Region. Gda?sk/Berlin 2002, pp. 42-60, here p. 48. 56 When the Premier of German Land Schleswig-Holstein Björn Engholm popularized the concept ‘New Hansa’, many actors were reluctant to engage in his project, as it reminded them more of German hegemony than of a time of peaceful and prosperous cooperation.154 In contrast to Germany, for Sweden and Finland the notion of ‘Hansa’ has always had negative connotations as their Hanseatic experience was not a success story. Therefore, for them the idea raised after 1989 of reconstructing a ‘New Hansa’ was not the most attractive one. The vision of this ‘New Hansa’ was also the guiding slogan of a conference held in the Finnish town of Kotka in June/July 1990, which was organised by the Swedish Institute of Future Studies (Institutet för framtidsstudier) upon a German initiative.155 The Swedish public debate in the aftermath of this international conference was dominated by the general and serious concern about a newly arising “Teutonic” dominance after the German reunification.156 Another divisive aspect about these Teutonic ideas of revitalising Baltic Sea cooperation was the fact that the ancient Hansa model had a clear economic focus, whereas the Nordic model of regionalism, as best materialised in the Nordic Cooperation has always strictly stuck to soft policy areas and was traditionally based on the broad substance of cultural and ideological commonality.157 Sweden and Finland certainly bore a similar feeling when the issue reappeared in the context of their EU accession, and again, much was said about the “Baltic dimension” of their membership and their potential of leading the renaissance of the “old Hanseatic spirit”.158 2. The Tale of Homo Balticus In the context of this chapter, yet another ‘historiophile’ vision about the Baltic Sea has to be considered: the idea of a Baltic Man or Homo Balticus, i.e. a specific human breed that is said to inhabit the Baltic Sea coastal area. Even though this image got comparably low advertency around the Baltic Sea, it can still serve as a good example of how colourful the Baltic Sea region-building discourses were in the early construction period. It was particularly promoted by one of the newly emerged Baltic Sea regional associations, the Union of Baltic Cities (UBC). The UBC is what Sander called the “most visionary (or the most deluded) of the new Baltic leagues.”159 The UBC introduced Homo Balticus in the context of its foundation in 1991 as some sort of 154 See ENGELEN Hilde Dominique: The Construction of a Region in the Baltic Sea Area. Geneva 2004, p. 14. 155 See VON SYDOW Emily: Den Baltiska dimensionen. Stockholms geopolitiska roll i EU. In: EHRLING Guy (ed.): Stockholm international. En antologi om Stockholm i en regionaliserad och globaliserad värld. Stockholm 2000, pp. 23-36, here 24. And Seminarium i Kotka/Finland, den 28 juni – 1 juli 1990. “Den nya Hansan. Revitaliseringen av Nordeuropa.” Conference material provided by the Swedish Institute of Future Studies, Stockholm. 156 See HÖGSELIUS Per: Tyskt inflytande runt Östersjön kom av sig. In: Svenska Dagbladet, 7 maj 2004. 157 See SIMOULIN Vincent: The State of Nordic Cooperation in a Changing Europe. Toulouse 2000, p. 1. 158 See VON SYDOW Emily: Den Baltiska dimensionen. Stockholms geopolitiska roll i EU. In: EHRLING Guy (ed.): Stockholm international. En antologi om Stockholm i en regionaliserad och globaliserad värld. Stockholm 2000, pp. 23-36, here 24. 159 See SANDER Gordon: Off Centre. Baltic hands link across a troubled sea. In: Financial Times, 8 April 2000. 57 enlightened and morally superior breed, a type of man that holds a unique set of characteristics – all of them distinctly coined by the Baltic surrounding. There is no doubt that Baltic cities are linked by Homo Balticus. Why the people from mainland say: ‘you are different’? First of all, Homo Balticus has always been in contact with the Sea. He struggled with it during his work – fishing, sailing and sporting. Living by the Sea, he received the beneficial effect of rich aerosols, which made him calm and eager to work. Without doubt, Homo Balticus is calm and hard working. Homo Balticus is interested in the world. [...] He enthusiastically welcomes befriended and invited guests. Yes – he is for sure hospitable. An inhabitant of a Baltic city is in touch with nature in his every day life in its richest and most secret form – the Sea. [...] Yes – Homo Balticus loves nature. He is very sensitive to its threatened values and unites eagerly to protect it. Homo Balticus is very active. He still sets out for work, knowledge and entertainment but always comes back to his town. [...] Homo Balticus is not afraid of risk, he is full of initiative, he is open to technical and organizational inventions. Homo Balticus, thanks to his contacts with the greatest masterpiece – nature – is sensitive to art.160 This description was published in a UBC information folder aiming to give an overview of the association’s founding principles. In its 1998-1999 Action Plan, the UBC even set out the ambition of furthering the knowledge about Homo Balticus in order to strengthen the image of Baltic identity.161 Even though it is the UBC that is vigorously promoting this special breed of man, the idea has also appeared in a very different context. The notion of a certain human species native to the Baltic littoral has often occurred in the Baltic States during their early post-communist transition phase. Morality is the core of self-consciousness of the Baltic Man. It is one of those untranslatable and thus essential words. [...] Morality is a mark of the divine order and the godly imperative goodness in a man.162 After 1996, Algirdas Patackas, then member of the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) repeatedly adopted the notion of Baltic moral exclusiveness to distinguish Baltic people from the mass of Soviet rulers. These attempts of distancing themselves from the past were, as Balockaite put it, part of the “healing process” after the Soviet experience.163 In this case, the act of promoting the idea of a morally supreme ‘Baltic Man’ was clearly related to the general process of political and ideological transition. In Estonia, a similar discourse was linked with the process of European integration. The ‘Baltic Man’ was thought to especially qualify for instant EU membership. In one of his imaginative speeches, Toomas Hendrik Ilves outlined the notion of what he called “Yule-land” (literally ‘North-land’), a visionary spatial entity also inhabited by a certain breed of man. In his description, this entity would extend from Estonia and Finland, over Sweden and Norway to the British Isles. According to Ilves, these countries share a stock of normative principles that determine their societies and their people’s whole way of being and acting. In contrast to the Orthodox East and the Catholic South, this Yule-land would be based on protestant ethics, progressive modernism and the diligence 160 UBC information folder 1993. 161 See UBC Action Plan 1998-1999. Official UBC website www.ubc.net [30 November 2007]. 162 PATACKAS Algirdas: Redos ratas. Kaunas 1988, p. 2. Translation by BALOCKAITE Rasa: Demystifying Social Reality. European Integration processes in Lithuania 2003. Kaunas 2003, p. 3. 163 See ibd., p. 4. 58 of its hard-working people, a picture that is remarkably close to the image produced by the UBC.164 J?ul in Estonia, Joulu in Finland, Jul in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Yule on the British Isles. [...] Today, these peoples share a common mentality expressed in rationality, stubbornness and diligence. They rank the highest in the world in Internet connections and in mobile phone penetration, lowest in the world in corruption.165 Visionary statements of this type recurrently suggest the idea of the Baltic Sea area and certain parts of it respectively to be united in some sort of innate or even genetically inbred moral exclusiveness, if not supremacy. A less popular connotation in this regard is offered by modern history: precedent ideas about the existence of a morally and ethnically superior breed of man inhabiting the area were produced in the context of Scientific Racism under the German Nazi Regime. The proto Nazi race theorist Hans F. K. Günther identified the Aryan race to be constituted by two major ethnical strands: the Nordic and the Eastern Baltic one. The Nordic-Baltic race was perceived as the natural leader and the essentially Moral Man.166 Even though this comparison might appear overdrawn if referred to in this context it nevertheless helps to characterise the argumentative strategies politicians and other region-building actors have tried to apply in this regard. The idea of moral supremacy albeit on very different grounds has also a strong tradition in the Nordic context.167 Even though these visions were sometimes carried too far and became “counterproductive to efficient practical co-operation” they nevertheless helped to create a feeling of common identity around the Baltic Sea.168 V. The Argument of Challenges – United in Diversity Another argumentative tool that was implemented in the Baltic Sea region-building discourse was the accentuation of challenges. While many associations and initiatives in the early post Cold War wave of regionalism availed themselves of the abovementioned history tool, others strictly abstained from the attempt to link present ambitions to any sort of alleged historical predecessor, or to avail themselves of identity-related arguments. These region-building projects rather appealed to the “other side of the coin”, the differences, challenges and problems that the region was and is facing in present days, and promoted Baltic Sea Regionalism as a useful forum to overcome obviously existing differences as well as to find constructive solutions for common problems such as the lack of infrastructure, illegal migration, drugs- and arms trafficking, environmental degradation etc.. Instead of reviving historical concepts, they chose to emphasise the fact that the BSR has never been a homogenous entity and that, 164 See ILVES Toomas Hendrik: “Estonia as a Nordic country”, speech given at the Swedish Institute of Foreign Affairs, 14 December 1999. Official Website of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs www.vm.ee [25 November 2007]. 165 Ibd. 166 See also FISCHER Eugen/GÜNTHER Hans F.K.: Deutsche Köpfe nordischer Rasse. Munich 1927. 167 For more details, see ØSTERGÅRD Uffe: The Geopolitics of Nordic Identity from Composite States to Nation-States. Copenhagen 1997. 168 See 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. 86.

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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.