Carmen Gebhard, Preliminary Conclusions: The EU as a Regional (F)Actor in Northern Europe in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 111 - 113

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
111 Indeed, the question of objectives, and relatedly, of the interests and strategic goals of the single players involved has been ambiguous right away. One aspect that proved to be a major weakness of the EU ND was the fact that the policy did not get equal support among the Member States. Repeated Finnish exhortations about the joint ‘European responsibility’ towards the Northeastern neighbourhood did certainly not change anything about the sceptical attitude of the Southern Member States that feared to be disadvantaged by this shift of political attention to the North. What certainly contributed to this effect of lacking awareness among the extra-regional Member States was the set of challenges appealed to by the Finnish initiators appeared to be far less acute and urgent than did, for example the complex security political situation on the Balkans. This scepticism and reluctance was not limited to the intergovernmental Member State context. What also hindered a more dynamic development of the policy was the distinct lack of enthusiasm on the side of the European Commission, which could already be told from the final wording of the policy itself, but was also evident in the way the implementation process was administered.382 This again leads to another weakness of the EU ND, which is related to the overall standing of the policy on the EU geopolitical working agenda. This can be assessed by way of comparing it to the respective standing of other EU policies, and by relating each and either basic objectives in view of their potential complementarity or competition. In the early years, the EU ND has often been perceived as “just a synonym for a useful policy vis-à-vis Russia.”383 Critics argued that the EU would rather need a comprehensive policy not only directed towards one part of Russia but towards several geographical and sectoral areas of common concern and interest. The EU ND would then be integrated (!) into a common EU strategy towards Russia, and thus, be incorporated on a more comprehensive framework. This effect of the EU ND being ‘swallowed’ by subsequent or concurrent EU policies with regional impact will be taken up in the next chapter about ‘the EU as a regional (f)actor in Northern Europe. C. Preliminary Conclusions: The EU as a Regional (F)Actor in Northern Europe The question of what quality the EU’s (f)actorness has in respect to Northern Europe is certainly difficult to be answered within one single chapter. As pointed out at the beginning of this section, the EU has two different ways of how it can impact on a region like the BSR and other meso-regions in Europe. The two channels are indeed available in every context of European integration: the EU can either perform diffusely, in the sense of a broad normative framework with an alleged “disciplinary” power,384 or it can operate actively by establishing concrete policy instruments for a certain policy field or indeed, a specific region. 382 See HAUKKALA Hiski, interview on 22 November 2006. Unpublished personal notes. This aspect will be taken up in chapter “The Finnish Northern Dimension Initiative”, p. 132-, and in chapter “Evaluation: The EU ND Reconsidered”, p. 148-. 383 WESSELS Wolfgang: Introduction. The Northern Dimension as a Challenging Task. In: BONVICINI Gianni/VAAHTORANTA Tapani/WESSELS Wolfgang (eds): The Northern EU. National Views on the Emerging Security Dimension. Helsinki 2000, pp. 18-29, here p. 20. 384 MOROFF Holger: Introduction. In: Id. (ed.): European Soft Security Policies. The Northern Dimension. Kauhava 2002, pp. 12-36, here p. 17. 112 The global assessment of the EU’s actorness towards its Northern ‘outskirts’ as it has been conducted in the course of the previous chapters could lead to the conclusion that the first ‘diffuse’ channel of governance projection is far more pronounced in the Northern European area. This implies not least that the EU engages in European regions with widely differing intensities. On the one hand, it depends on the geostrategic priorities of the Union, on the other, it is also related to the perspective of single member states and their respective power of influencing the EU’s overall orientation towards a certain part of the continent. In EU terms, the distribution of financial resources is the first and foremost dependent variable in this regard.385 The most prominent example in this context is the permanent competition between the Mediterranean States and the Northern and Northeastern states when it comes to the distribution of EU funding. The BSR and more generally, Northern Europe has entered the EU working map only recently. However, when in the course of the 1990s the overall EU ambition for Eastern enlargement emerged, suspicion among the Mediterranean Member States started to grow exponentially. Most particularly Spain and Portugal feared to be sidelined by the EU prospects of actively furthering the post Soviet transformation in the European East and Northeast. Considering the overall constitution of today’s EU approach towards the North including Northwestern Russia and the wider European neighbourhood, the EU ND does not appear to take centre stage, or rather, to form a genuine framework in terms of an overarching policy structure that actually helps to pool the instrumental resources employed in the region. The EU approach towards the North is still rather fragmented, and cannot be said to be focussing on or to be framed by the EU ND. The EU internal standing of the ND has been considerably challenged by the emergence of other EU policies with geopolitical or regional implications, e.g. the bilateral agreements and partnerships the Union upholds with some of the regional actors. The establishment of the ENP in 2004, as well as the conclusion of the Four Spaces agreement reached in 2003, with the central aim of strengthening the bilateral relations with Russia, have led to a certain marginalisation of the EU ND as a stand-alone policy. A similar effect may be related to the 2004 enlargements that virtually shifted the focus of the EU’s regional engagement towards the East, and away from the North. Haukkala anticipated the midterm consequences this step in European integration history might have for the ND: After enlargement the ND will have only three partners, Iceland, Norway and Russia, of which two will have more privileged avenues for their dealings with the Union, especially in the context of the European Economic Area agreement. This will result in a situation where the Northern Dimension will become centered almost entirely on Russia.386 Haukkala pointed out that a Baltic enlargement could also have a certain positive effect on the post enlargement standing of the ND: the accession of the Baltic States would prolongate the EU border with Russia and could thus create an opening and demand for an increase in cross-border interregional cooperation. However, it cannot be denied that 385 See SCHULZ Günther: Wie weit liegt Br?ssel von der Ostsee entfernt? Die Rolle der Europäischen Union in Nordosteuropa. In: WELLMANN Christian (ed.): Kooperation und Konflikt in der Ostseeregion. Gegenwartsfragen 81. Kiel 1999, pp. 22-36, here p. 23. 386 HAUKKALA Hiski: Whose Governance? Challenging the Dominant Northern Dimension Discourse. In: Northern Research Forum (ed.): Northern Veche. Proceedings of the Second Northern Research Forum, held in Veliky Novgorod, Russia. 19-22 September 2002, pp. 105-107, here pp. 105-106. 113 the EU enlargement policy, the EU Strategic Partnership with Russia as well as the ENP have opened new policy channels that progressively sidelined the EU ND and to some extent even challenged its very existence on the geopolitical working agenda of the EU. By adopting the EU ND, the EU may be perceived to have shown a certain level of awareness about the specific needs of the Northern European sphere. However, apparently, and in contrast to other policies such as the ENP, in the context of the EU ND the EU did not make full use of its “opportunity to discipline a sphere previously at the fringes of its grasp.”387 This applies particularly to the attitude of the European Commission, whose commitment has remained somewhat vague and inconsistent throughout the whole implementation process. In the ‘wider Europe’ context of the ENP, the Commission has often been said to be striving to expand its foreign political role given that the conclusion of the enlargement negotiations had considerably narrowed its domain.388 In contrast, the Commission never seized this chance in the context of the Northern Dimension, and instead, chose to adhere to a reluctant position where much symbolic action was and is accompanied by flowery and uniquely vague and reluctant policy statements.389 The following chapter intends to prepare a more in-depth discussion of the EU ND, putting special focus on the role and attitude of Sweden and Finland as two major regional stakeholders, in the specific context of the implementation of the policy. Sweden and Finland are compared alongside a set of factors that appear to account for and impact on the way they structure their politico-strategic choices in the BSR, with special respect to the EU ND. D. Excursus: Mare Europaeum – Whose Mare Nostrum? I. The Contended Sea – A Brief Historical Retrospect It is very common to use Latin terminologies in the context of seas and their geopolitical and geo-strategic significance. In recent years, the Baltic Sea has often been labelled the “European Sea” (or Mare Europaeum) given the fact that through the 1995 and 2004 enlargements, it has almost become an inland sea of the EU.390 The notion of Mare Nostrum (Our Sea), on the other hand, alludes to the Southern European counterpart of the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean. It came into use as an affectionate expression the ancient Romans assigned to it in the course of the expansion of the Roman Empire across the wide coastal area of the Mediterranean and beyond. The 387 See JOENNIEMI Pertti: The Northern Dimension. Allegiance or Revolt? In: HEININEN Lassi/LASSINANTTI Gunnar (eds): Security in the European North. From ‘Hard’ to ‘Soft’. Rovaniemi 1999, pp. 71-82, here p. 72. 388 See MAGEN Amichai: The Shadow of Enlargement. Can the European Neighbourhood Policy Achieve Compliance? Stanford Centre on Democracy, Development, and The Rule of Law (CDDRL), Working Paper, No. 68/2006, p. 390. 389 The question of lacking commitment by the Commission will be taken up again in chapter “The Finnish Northern Dimension Initiative”, p. 132-, and in chapter “Evaluation: The EU ND Reconsidered”, p. 148-. 390 See e.g. Baltic Study Net. Introduction to the Baltic Summer School Mare Europaeum, Berlin 23 July – 6 August 2006. Website of the Centre for Baltic Sea Region Studies (CEBAST) [27 September 2007]. And TASSINARI Fabrizio: Mare Europaeum. BSR Security and Cooperation from Post-Wall to post-Enlargement Europe. Copenhagen 2004.

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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.