Carmen Gebhard, Enlarging the Union – Association, Partnership and Accession in the BSR in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 89 - 94

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
89 Chapter 3: The EU Northern Dimension A. Introduction: The EU Approach Towards the North An assessment of the “EU approach towards the North” (or “Northern Europe”) as it is addressed in this chapter should include all policy initiatives and programmes that generally deal with regionness in Europe as well as with issues like (re)bordering and the development of transnational cooperation.293 The analytical objective behind this exercise lies in the identification and characterisation of what could be called the supranational context conditioning cross-border cooperation and all patterns and processes that relate to the emergence and establishment of regional entities in the widest sense of the term. Given the amount and variety of different policy areas that are likely to be relevant from this perspective, such an assessment cannot be exhaustive. However, it can serve as a point of reference for the analysis of single state policy conduct within a European region, or rather a region that in various different ways is related to, influenced by and potentially, impacting on, the wider framework of European integration. The EU has played an important role in the post Cold War development of Northern Europe, and most importantly, of the BSR. First and foremost, the EU must be regarded as the most important provider of security and stability in the BSR. It is arguably the most significant soft security actor in the region, even if from a critical point of view mainly “by sheer merit of its attraction and the ensuing disciplinary effect.”294 However, the political stability of the Northeastern sphere of the European continent has been one of the main ambitions of the European project after 1989. Generally, there are two ways of how the EU can approach and affect a region like the BSR: (1) as a political actor that disposes of concrete instruments to address specific regional challenges, and (2) in the sense of its indirect impact as a normative framework, and as a political and ideological point of reference for various state- and non-state actors, and their respective regional orientation and strategies (i.e. through the above-stated “disciplinary effect”). In practice, it proves to be difficult to distinguish clearly between these two categories. The EU policy approaches towards Northern Europe include a variety of instruments that comply with either one of each, or both categories. In 1998, the EU has established a specific framework for its policy actions and objectives in Northern and Northeastern Europe, the so-called “Northern Dimension” (EU ND).295 Other EU policies, like the general process of EU enlargement, and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), had a more indirect albeit not less important impact on the region. 293 See KRAMSCH Olivier/PIJPERS Roos/PLUG Roald/VAN HOUTUM Henk: Project Study Report. EXLINEA (Lines of Exclusion as Arenas of Co-operation Reconfiguring the External Boundaries of Europe Policies, Practices and Perceptions). Research on the Policy of the European Commission Towards the Re-bordering of the European Union. Nijmegen 2004, p. 1. 294 See MOROFF Holger: Introduction. In: Id. (ed.): European Soft Security Policies. The Northern Dimension. Kauhava 2002, pp. 12-36, here p. 17. 295 See A Northern Dimension for the Policies of the Union. Communication from the Commission. COM(1998) 0589 final, 25 November 1998. 90 The following chapter deals with some of the EU policies, instruments and institutions that have or had a direct or indirect impact on the regional development in Northern Europe: the EU enlargement process, the establishment of the EU Committee of the Regions, the EU programmes and instruments in the field of regional development, and the most recently released ENP. The EU policy directly designed for the Northern European sphere, the EU ND, will also be shortly introduced at this point in order to complete the overall picture of how the EU approaches this part of Europe as an actor in this region or sub-region. However, the background of its establishment and its political significance will be revisited in greater detail at another point of this study.296 I. Enlarging the Union – Association, Partnership and Accession in the BSR In the history of the European project, enlargement has proved to be a very strong and successful stability instrument. Missiroli called enlargement “a quintessential security policy” that has had remarkable success all over the European continent, and more specifically, also in respect to the stabilisation of the Baltic Sea Rim.297 The two enlargement rounds that directly affected the BSR, the 1995 EU accessions of Sweden and Finland, and the 2004 accessions of the three Baltic States and Poland, have decisively changed the geopolitical landscape in Northern Europe, and have additionally altered the overall international profile of the European Union. 1. The Swedish and Finnish EU Accession The Nordic States have traditionally shown an inherent reluctance towards regional political cooperation. Consequently, they were also among the last European core countries to seek formal EC/EU membership.298 Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland were absent at the creation of the Treaty of Rome and eventually joined the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a more limited trade partnership that was less threatening to national control over policy than EC membership would have been.299 The key argument used by Sweden and Finland in order to legitimise their reluctance towards wider European integration had mainly been related to their foreign and security political orientation. Given the supranational ambitions of the European project in many political areas, the neutral status was seen as a strong condition of (self)exclusion. Nordic governments long viewed political integration with the European Community and other entangling alliances such as NATO as options of last resort, and instead, these states have maintained the greatest possible distance from supranational forms of cooperation.300 296 See chapter “The EU Northern Dimension – Showcase for the Swedish-Finnish Divide?”, p. 132-, and chapter “Evaluation: The EU ND Reconsidered”, p. 148-. 297 MISSIROLI Antonio: The European Union and Its Periphery. Stabilisation, Integration, Partnership. Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP). Occasional Papers, No. 32. Geneva 2002, p. 5. 298 With the exception of Denmark which became a full EU member in 1973 (just as Greenland, which however, withdrew membership in 1985). 299 INGEBRITSEN Christine: The Nordic States and European Unity. Cornell 1998, p. 5. 300 Ibd., p. 6. 91 In the late 1980s, there were first indications for a shift in the Swedish and Finnish policy orientation towards the European project. The Austrian application for formal membership posed in July 1989 came as a surprise to both Sweden and Finland. It was most of all Sweden that had excluded the membership option over decades with recurrent reference to its official status of permanent neutrality (Swed. alliansfrihet). 301 The Swedish accession was preceded by a decade long domestic struggle both between and within the political parties. The overall dependence on public support led to the persistence of largely fuzzy attitudes. Now that even Austria – whose neutrality clause had always been perceived far more rigid and exclusive – had applied for membership, the inner-Swedish debate naturally gained new momentum. However, it was the progressive decline of the Swedish economy that eventually opened the doors of traditional Swedish reluctance towards wider European integration.302 After in 1990 a last attempt of the social democratic government to find a domestic solution for the crisis had failed, the way to the Swedish membership application was paved. The official application request was posed on the 1 July 1991. The suspicion that economic considerations had tipped the balance was strengthened by the fact that Prime Minister Carlsson left it to Finance Minister Allan Larsson to announce the new integration policy. The government’s haste in dealing with this issue was also evident from the fact that it had not taken the time to inform the other Nordic governments in advance.303 The Finnish application occurred comparably late, in March 1992.304 The formal request was submitted after a short an uncontroversial debate and without any greater discussion in public. The reason for this very different political atmosphere preceding the accession is to be found in the specific Finnish Cold War experience. Because of the FCMA Treaty Finland was an exception among European neutrals. Permanent neutrality, according to the Swiss and Austrian model, imposed an obligation to the countries concerned to remain outside all wars, an idea also inherent in the Swedish neutrality doctrine. Finland’s position was different because the FCMA Treaty included an obligation to abstain from neutrality under specific circumstances defined in the Treaty. It was precisely this deviation from the fundamental purpose of neutrality – neutrality in war – which was the most original feature of Finland’s Cold War neutrality policy.305 301 Sweden had already applied for EC membership in July 1967; however, this first attempt of entering the Community was dimissed by a French veto (in the context of the British case). Once there would have been another chance to pose another request for membership, the Swedish amibtions had already dissolved due to domestic struggles between the political parties but also due to the negative opinion in the Swedish public. For more details, see MILES Lee: Sweden and Security. In: REDMOND John (ed.): The 1995 Enlargement of the European Union. Aldershot 2000. 302 See HADENIUS, Stig: Modern svensk politisk historia. Konflikt och samförstånd. Stockholm 2003, pp. 219-220. 303 LUIF Paul: On the Road to Brussels. The Political Dimension of Austria’s, Finland’s and Sweden’s Accession to the European Union. Vienna 1995, p. 216. 304 It was only the Norwegian request that was posed even later, in November 1992. 305 RUHALA Kalevi: Alliance and Non-Alignment at the Onset of the 21st Century. In: RIES Tomas/HULDT Bo/MÖRTBERG Jan/DAVIDSON Elisabeth (eds): The New Northern Security Agenda. Perspectives from Finland and Sweden. Strategic Yearbook 2004, pp. 103-118, here p. 114. 92 The fall of the Soviet regime had major repercussions for Finnish sovereignty, and most significantly, for its freedom of action in the foreign and security political field. After having been locked in the formal obligations of the so-called Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (TFCMA) over decades, both the Finnish political leaders and the Finnish public were ready and willing to take the newly opened opportunities in order to enhance integration in the wider European project. For Finland, the question of EU membership was very much about a “return to Europe” and the liberation from past dependencies both in political and ideological terms. In the late 1980s, the Finnish economy had also been caught by a progressing commercial crisis. Finland had to face a difficult economic situation as the intense and lucrative commercial relations it had maintained with the Soviet Union during the Cold War broke down after 1989/90.306 However, the political pressure emanating from the unclear post Soviet situation was much more decisive in respect to the Finnish attitude towards EU accession. While for Sweden, the economic motives constituted the main reason for immediate application, Finland still had to consider the potential security political consequences overhasty action could have had in the immediate post Cold War situation. In fact, the Finnish membership request had to be delayed for months until the bilateral relationship with Russia allowed for this decisive step.307 From the EU perspective, this second Northern enlargement involving the two Nordic core countries has been a largely uncontroversial event. Both candidates exceeded the threshold standards that should qualify them for full membership. Since Sweden even abstained from posing any sort of reservation concerning its neutrality policy, even the security political circumstances were largely serene.308 Also the Finnish quest for enhanced security to protect it against Russia did not find much visibility on the European scene. Hence, the enlargement event itself gained fairly little public attention in the other 12 Member States.309 Once the round had been concluded and Sweden and Finland had entered the Union formally in January 1995, the Northern case was quickly removed from the public debate, and the main strategic interests of the EU turned (back) to the eastern sphere and the expected ‘Big Bang’ enlargement in Central and Eastern Europe. In contrast, some analysts have repeatedly claimed that this enlargement had added a Northern dimension to the European working agenda – and that the launch of the Northern Dimension policy had then been a natural if not mandatory step of the European project towards a more active stance in this part of the continent.310 306 See ARTER David: Scandinavian Politics Today. Manchester 1999, p. 334. See also DUBOIS Jeroen: The Northern Dimension as Prototype of the Wider Europe Framework Policy. University of Liverpool, Working Paper. Liverpool 2004, p. 1. 307 See LIPPONEN Paavo: Finnish Neutrality and EC Membership. In: HARDEN Sheila (ed.): Neutral States and the European Community. London 1994, pp. 63-103, here p. 80. 308 For an extended discussion of the issue of neutrality in the European integration context, see GEBHARD Carmen: Europäische Integration und Neutralität. Österreich und Schweden im Vergleich. Diplomarbeit Vienna 2004. 309 The Swedish-Finnish enlargement could – with the likely exception of Switzerland and Norway – be seen as a last step in the “Western European process of market integration” before the process of “Europe reuniting again” started in the end of the 1990s. See CHRISTIANSEN Thomas: Towards Statehood? The EU’s move towards Constitutionalisation and Territorialisation. In: Centre for European Studies. University of Oslo (ed.): ARENA Working Paper, No. 21, August 2005, p. 20. 310 For more on this argument, see chapter “The Finnish Northern Dimension Initiative”, p. 132-. 93 2. The Baltic States The EU policy of enlargement towards the Baltic States passed through the various traditional stages of formal integration: full membership has been anticipated by bilateral trade agreements and the conclusion of association agreements.311 The following table gives a brief overview of the most important stages in this mid term integration process.312 27 August 1991 The EU recognises the independence of the Baltic States 11 May 1992 Conclusion of Agreements on Trade and Commercial Economic Cooperation 27 January 1994 3 February 1994 18 July 1994 Lithuania joins the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Programme Estonia joins the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Programme Latvia joins the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Programme 9 May 1994 The Baltic States are admitted to the WEU (associate partners) 18 July 1994 EU signs free trade agreements with the three Baltic States 10 December 1994 The European Council of Essen adopts a pre-accession strategy 27 October 1995 28 November 1995 08 December 1995 Latvia submits EC membership application Estonia submits EC membership application Lithuania submits EC membership application 31 March 1998 EU starts accession negotiations with Estonia 15 February 2000 EU starts accession negotiations with Lithuania and Latvia November 2000 NATO accession talks start 16 April 2003 Signing of the accession treaties for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 29 March 2004 NATO accession of the three Baltic States 1 May 2004 EU accession of the three Baltic States Table 10: Chronology – the European Integration Process of the Baltic States Unlike the Northern enlargement in 1995, the 2004 accession round including the Baltic States, had very strong ideological implications. Its preparation was framed by the overarching motto of European re-unification, and accordingly, for the candidate countries themselves it was mainly an issue of ‘returning to Europe’ after a long period 311 The case of Poland will not be considered in detail since the Baltic cases appear to be more relevant for the development of regionalism in the BSR, and thus, for the research purpose of this study. 312 The scheme also includes important developments such as NATO accessions, since they are thought to have major repercussions on the way the BSR is positioned on the virtual strategic map of Europe. The scope of this chapter will not allow for a detailed discussion of the pre-accession processes in the Baltic States. For more information, see PETTAI Vello/ZIELONKA Jan (eds): The Road to the European Union, Vol. 2. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Manchester 2003. 94 of dependence and ideological confinement.313 From the early 1990s onwards, the “return to Europe” was an omnipresent topic in all three Baltic States. The EU and NATO symbolised a sense of belonging to Europe, or the West. Thus, the declaration to be European or Western implied a clear political programme of striving to join these institutions.314‘ The rhetoric in the Baltic public was also dominated by the issue of being and feeling “abnormal”, and accordingly, by the wish to achieve the state of political “normality”. The whole era of Soviet rule was perceived as a state of abnormity and “false history”. Normality in turn was not a clearly defined set of circumstances, but it was a notion as vague as being part of the “West” again. Thus, the integration into Western institutions was deemed the sole possibility for the Baltic States to re-gain the state of normality.315 The accession of the Baltic States could generally not be seen separate from the bilateral relations of both the EU and the Baltic States with Russia. What Carl Bildt called the Litmus test for Russia’s new direction after the breakdown of the Soviet empire, meaning its policies towards the Baltic States after their independence, was indeed a crucial factor in the EU relationship with Russia.316 As for the Baltic States, formal membership in both NATO and EU equally opened new channels across which they could encounter their big neighbour. Membership of the EU and NATO gave the Baltic decision makers a firm ground, confidence and structural power they never had before to deal with Russia.317 II. The EU Committee of the Regions The legal establishment of the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR) in the course of the treaty of Maastricht was based on very different and partly diverging positions among the regional representations of the EU Member States.318 The German Länder as well as the Belgian and Austrian federal provinces were among the first sub-national actors that expressed reservations about the way in which the distribution of the then European Community’s regional support was increasingly held to the responsibility of member state governments, i.e. the national level. In a parallel development, the progress of the overall European integration process, most importantly the Single European Act (SEA) 313 See KEMPE Iris: Russia, the EU and the Baltic States. Filling in a strategic white spot on the European map. In: BUHBE Matthes/KEMPE Iris (eds): Russia, the EU and the Baltic States. Enhancing the Potential for Cooperation. Moscow 2005, pp. 3-4, here p. 4. 314 LEHTI Marko: Eastern or Western, New or False? Classifying the Balts in the Post-Cold War Era. In: TASSINARI Fabrizio/JOENNIEMI Pertti/JAKOBSEN Uffe (eds): Wider Europe. Nordic and Baltic Lessons to Post-Enlargement Europe. Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). Copenhagen 2006, pp. 69-88, here p. 71. 315 See EGLITIS Daina Stukuls: Imagining the Nation. History, Modernity, and Revolution in Latvia. Pennsylvania 2004, p. 8. 316 See BILDT Carl: The Baltic Litmus Test. Revealing Russia? In: Foreign Affairs, September/October 1994, pp. 72-85. 317 PAULAUSKAS K?stutis: The Baltics. From Nation States to Member States. European Institute for Security Studies (EU-ISS), Occasional Papers, No. 62. Paris 2006, p. 39. See also chapter “The Baltic States and Baltic Unity – Imposition or Expedient?”, p. 67-. Fore more about the role of Sweden and Finland in the context of the Baltic enlargement, see chapter “Sweden, Finland and the BSR”, p. 128-. 318 See also chapter “What kind of ‘Europe of the Regions’?”, p. 206-.

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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.