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Carmen Gebhard, The ‘Nordic Bloc’ – Driving Core for Baltic Sea Regionalism? in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 75 - 78

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
75 In 1992, the ‘5+3’ meetings started on the prime ministerial level. The Prime Ministers now meet annually to discuss common foreign policy and regional issues. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs meet annually since 1993, the Ministers of Defence since 1994, and the Ministers for Regional Cooperation (Baltic States are represented by Ministers of Foreign Affairs) since 1996. Cooperation according to formula 5+3 also got a new impetus through frequent consultations on the level of Political Directors. Ad hoc meetings with the participation of one guest country are also common. On important example was the presence of the EU High Commissioner Javier Solana at the abovementioned meeting in Middelfart/Denmark in summer 2000. At the given meeting Ministers have come to a consensus that forthcoming meetings are to be called Nordic Baltic 8. The NB8 cooperation system heavily relies on the coordination between the Nordic Council of Ministers, on the one hand, and the Baltic Council of Ministers, on the other. Since 2005, the NB8 also engages in the development of support programmes for the Russian and Belarus NGOs in the BSR in order to further strengthen the civic society development and democracy in the region.240 II. The ‘Nordic Bloc’ – Driving Core for Baltic Sea Regionalism? Given their experiences in the context of Nordic Cooperation, the Nordic States have a certain tradition in the field of cooperation across borders. This might lead to the assumption that Nordic Cooperation could have provided for some sort of “driving core” or “source of inspiration” for Baltic Sea Regionalism after 1989.241 Indeed, over the years, the Nordic States have established a tight network of cooperation on both state and non-state level. Networking between nongovernmental actors, including organised interest groups and political parties as well as daily informal contacts among civil servants have always been a significant basis of the Nordic Cooperation.242 Intra- Nordic collaboration and togetherness is a structural phenomenon that has not only shaped the external policies of the respective states, it has also led to the generation of a certain Nordic image in international politics.243 ‘Nordic-ness’ or ‘Nordicity’ was, and still is, often seen as some sort of third way, as a political choice in itself, materialised in the institutional framework of Nordic Cooperation. The ‘Nordic Model’ is still widely perceived to embody a set of morally superior political visions, e.g. the pre-eminence of the welfare-state model, a strict approach to democracy and human rights, strong socio-democratic traditions, all adding up with the substance of shared historical heritage as well as a common cultural and ideological background.244 For many Nordic officials, even today, ‘Nordic togetherness’ 240 See PABRIKS Artis/UNCKEL Per: The Baltic Sea Region - the Most Stable and Dynamic. Statement by the Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Secretary General of the Nordic Council, 6 November 2006. Official Website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia. . www.mfa.gov.lv/en [8 December 2007]. 241 See BONNÉN Preben/SØSTED Michael: The Origin, Development and Perspectives of Nordic Cooperation in a New and Enlarged European Union. In: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, Nr. 1/2003, pp. 19-32, here p. 27. 242 See SUNDELIUS Bengt/WIKLUND Claes: Nordisk samverkan vid femtio. Visst finns det en framtid! In: Idd. (ed.): Norden i sicksack. Tre spårbyten inom nordiskt samarbete. Stockholm 2000, pp. 325-350, here p. 327. 243 See SUNDBERG Jan: Partier og interessorganisationer i Norden. Copenhagen 2001, p. 3. 244 For more details about issues like Nordic superiority and exclusiveness, see chapter “Old North vs. New Regionalism. Visions Competing for the Same Space?”, p. 76-. 76 is a beloved and viable concept. Thus, they try to promote the vision behind it and to keep it a present issue on the European level and more generally, within the outside perspective on the North. One of the more recent examples was Henrik Lax, the candidate of the Swedish People’s Party (svenska folkpartiet) for the Finnish presidential elections in 2006, arguing that [Our] Nordic ties constitute a unique asset that enables [us] to build bridges to the Baltic countries and to Russia, which would increase the prospects for a prosperous Baltic Europe.245 However, as argued before, the quality and substance of Nordic togetherness has changed over time. In the course of the 20th century, Nordic Cooperation has passed different stages of institutionalisation and consolidation. The external conditions have always played a decisive role for the overall development of intra-Nordic cooperation. This applies particularly to the impact of the EU integration process, with the 1995 and the 2004 EU enlargements building two of the most important geo-political changes in the Northern European constellation. These changes have certainly led to a gradual diversification of activities and to the adaptation of formerly common positions. Studies have shown, for instance, that Sweden and Finland, once they had joined the EU, started to adapt their voting behaviour within the UN to the European mainstream.246 Only in questions where there was no EU consensus a distinctive stance among Nordic countries could be established, e.g. concerning the reform of the UN Security Council.247 Intra-Nordic Coordination in the UN framework has once been the cornerstone of Nordic Cooperation.248 However, Nordic Cooperation has certainly lost in substance. Hence, also the integrative impact of Nordicness should not be overestimated, in neither the EU context nor concerning Baltic Sea Regionalism. A closer look at the development of Baltic Sea Regionalism or integration shows that the Nordic Countries, most notably Sweden and Finland, pursued rather different regional strategies.249 As for the quality and significance of Nordic unity and togetherness, the post Cold War setting constituted an enormous challenge. The political changes of 1989/90 revolutionised the circumstances for foreign policy of most states in Europe. For the Nordic States, the new geopolitical constellation did not only involve the medium-term integration into the European project; the Nordic Countries also had to incorporate into newly arising spatial concepts, such as the ‘New North’ or the new ‘Baltic Sea Region’. The post Cold War situation was quite ambivalent for the Nordic countries. On the one hand, they were offered a new variety of regional policy options 245 LAX Henrik: Vision, courage, tolerance. For a better Finland. Election manifesto 2006. Personal website of Henrik Lax www.henriklax.nu [24 November 2007]. 246 For more details, see WIKLUND Lena: Nordisk samling i FN. In: SUNDELIUS Bengt/WIKLUND Claes (eds): Norden I sicksack. Tre spårbyten inom nordiskt samarbete. Stockholm 2000, pp. 253- 274. 247 BONNÉN Preben/SØSTED Michael: The Origin, Development and Perspectives of Nordic Cooperation in a New and Enlarged European Union. In: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, Nr. 1/2003, pp. 19-32, here pp. 26-27. 248 See WIKLUND Lena: Nordisk samling i FN. In: SUNDELIUS Bengt/WIKLUND Claes (eds): Norden i sicksack. Tre spårbyten inom nordiskt samarbete. Stockholm 2000, pp. 253-274, here p. 281. 249 This will be addressed in chapter “Excursus: Mare Europaeum – Whose Mare Nostrum?”, p. 111-. 77 that allowed for a geo-strategic reorientation. On the other hand, now they were also forced to take major strategic decisions while the bipolar structure had never asked for any geo-political creativity.250 Every now and then the Nordic countries might feel a certain nostalgia for the good old days of the Cold War, when national strategy was a stable and predictable phenomenon. United in what became known as the ‘Nordic Balance’, a strategic concept of their own design but resulting from the bipolar division of the international system, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Denmark formed something of a regional quilt of complementary strategic choices.251 During the phase of global block confrontation, the Nordic ‘third way’ had justified the reluctant position of “surveying the international arena from a distance with a certain air of superiority.”252 However, the geopolitical changes after 1989 considerably challenged the viability and credibility of this traditional Nordic attitude. Distance now meant: away from the centre of the new dynamism. The future lay with integration, participation, involvement – not neutrality and non-engagement. The future was in Europe, Norden just backward and reluctant.253 The Nordics had to re-orient themselves on the map of the ‘New Europe’. In this context, it was most of all Sweden that was pulled into a strong coil of geopolitical identity crisis. While Finland tried to capitalise politically on its newly gained independence by strongly aspiring towards Western European integration, not least in order to create distance to past ideological and political dependencies from (then Soviet) Russia.254 Due to its traditional transatlantic ties, Norway pursued a very clear post Cold War strategy in geopolitics. Regionally, it focussed more on the Barents and Arctic dimension, while globally, it was more given to the tendencies of general internationalisation and globalisation than to institutional integration, e.g. in the framework of the EU or (sub)regional cooperation initiatives.255 Taking these considerations together, there appears to be reason enough to question the ability of the Nordic ‘core’ to enhance or stimulate further (sub)regional integration. In the post Cold War setting, the Nordic group rather strived towards foreign policy individualisation 250 See MOURITZEN Hans: The Nordic Reactions to the Soviet Coup and Disintegration 1991. Testing Weak Power Theory. Centre for Peace and Conflict Research (ed.): Working Paper, 13/1992. Copenhagen 1992, p. 2. 251 DAHL Ann-Sofie: To Be or Not to Be Neutral. Swedish Security Strategy on the Post Cold War Era. In: INBAR Efraim/SHEFFER Gabriel (eds): The National Security of Small States in a Changing World. London 1997, pp. 175-196, here p. 175. 252 See TASSINARI Fabrizio: Mare Europaeum. Baltic Sea Region Security and Cooperation from Post-Wall to post-Enlargement Europe. Copenhagen 2004, p. 117. 253 WÆVER Ole: Balts, Books and Brussels. Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI) Working Papers, No. 11. Copenhagen 1994, p. 4. 254 See DAHL Ann-Sofie: To Be or Not to Be Neutral. Swedish Security Strategy on the Post Cold War Era. In: INBAR Efraim/SHEFFER Gabriel (eds): The National Security of Small States in a Changing World. London 1997, pp. 175-196, here p. 176. 255 See TUNANDER Ola: Norway’s Post Cold War Security. The Nordic Region Between Friend and Foe, or between Cosmos and Chaos. In: ORRENIUS Anders/TRUEDSON Lars (eds): Visions of European Security. Focal Point Sweden and Northern Europe. Stockholm 1996, pp. 48-63, here p. 50. 78 with each of the five applying different strategies in order to avoid geopolitical marginalisation.256 III. ‘Old North’ vs. ‘New Regionalism’ – Competing for the Same Space? The post-Cold War boom of cooperative regionalism in the BSR has often been referred to as the rise of the ‘New North’, or the dawn of ‘New Regionalism’. In fact, the epochal events of the late 1990s have not only changed the political and geo-strategic framework of Northern European affairs, they have also altered the nature of what is generally perceived to account for ‘Northern Europe’ and the ‘North’. Up until the late 1980s, the notion of a ‘Nordic sphere’ was a very strong marker in terms of mental geography. Until the breakdown of the Communist block the model of the Nordic welfare state represented a third way between the two dominant superpowers and their attendant ideologies.257 During the Cold War, the Nordic block actually constituted a clearly delimitable entity whose politico-strategic substance was hardly ever questioned from the bi-polarised outside world. Nordic unity had largely been fostered by relative isolation in both the political and the geographical sense.258 The Nordic States are, as Joenniemi put it, “not to be held responsible for the emergence and success of Norden.”259 The Cold War setting had been ideal in the sense that the notion of this “third way” justified a certain reluctance towards the “embattled international arena”.260 However, in the course of post-Soviet transition, the well-established image of a ‘Nordic North’ happened to be considerably challenged. 256 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. For a Swedish-Finnish comparison in this respect, see chapter “Excursus: Mare Europaeum – Whose Mare Nostrum?”, p. 111-. 257 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. 258 See JAANSON Kaido: The Baltic States and Norden. In: The Baltic Review, Vol. 19. Online Edition. Website of the Journal ‘The Baltic Review’ www.tbr.ee [12 August 2007]. 259 JOENNIEMI Pertti: Norden as a Post-Nationalist Construction. In: Id. (ed.): Neo-Nationalism or Regionality: The Restructuring of Political Space around the Baltic Rim. Stockholm 1997, pp. 181- 234, here p. 214. 260 See TASSINARI Fabrizio: Mare Europaeum. Baltic Sea Region Security and Cooperation from Post-Wall to post-Enlargement Europe. Copenhagen 2004, p. 117.

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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.