Carmen Gebhard, The Contended Sea – A Brief Historical Retrospect in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 113 - 115

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
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. 114 question of the Baltic Sea being a Mare Nostrum implies, equal to the Roman notion, that there is an immanent struggle for regional domination as well as certain dynamics of expansion and conquest. In the history of Northern Europe, yet another Latin expression has gained considerable importance; the notion of Dominium Maris Baltici (Dominion of the Baltic Sea) depicts the struggle for regional domination and supremacy that the various powers around the Baltic Sea have been leading for more than 400 years. The Baltic Sea has traditionally been pivotal to the overall balance of power in Northern Europe.391 In fact, early modern BSR history was dominated by continuous battles for the maritime control over the sea rim. The table below gives an overview of the circumstances characterising the phases of BSR development.392 8200 BC-1100 AD 1100-1500 1600-1939 1939-1989 1989- (current) pre-historical time The Hansa Age Dominium Maris Baltici Iron Curtain Revival and growth 1st crossing trade expansion Vikings Hanseatic League dominates Network between 70 cities around the Baltic and the North Sea Swedish inland sea (1660) Russian domination (18th ct) Prussian period (19th ct) bipolar divide system of Nordic balance Fall of the Berlin Wall democratic development EU enlargement NATO enlargement Table 13: Phases in the Historical Development of the BSR From the 17th to the 20th century, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Russia struggled for hegemony in the Baltic Sea area. During Sweden’s Great Power period in the 17th century, the Baltic Sea was considered a Swedish inland sea connecting the geographical areas occupied by Sweden. The dominant powers in the 19th and 20th century have been Germany and Russia. With the Second World War, the BSR became divided for half a century until the end of the Cold War.393 The BSR was, and still is, a contended area among the regional stakeholders. While distant notions of a power related dominion over the region or a struggle for a Baltic Mare Nostrum are certainly not neatly applicable to nowadays’ circumstances, this bold analogy yet leads us to the issue of the current nature of power balance in the BSR. The following section of the study tries to outline the contemporary significance of a notion like Mare Nostrum in the BSR context, focussing in particular on the geo-political and geo-strategic orientation of Sweden and Finland as two major regional stakeholders. It mainly seeks to develop the argument that their foreign, European and regional 391 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. 29. 392 Table generated on the basis of HENRIKSSON Torsten: The Baltic Sea Region. Invest in Sweden. Stockholm 1998, p. 6. 393 For more details, see KIRBY David: Northern Europe in the Early Modern Period: the Baltic World 1492-1772. London 1990. And ØSTERGÅRD Uffe: Eidora Romani Terminus Imperii. Cooperation and Integration in Nordic and European Contexts. Jean Monnet Centre, University of Århus, Newsletter 20, 16 December 2004. 115 orientation, policy formulation and political conduct are strongly influenced by their self-image and their awareness about their geopolitical position.394 II. What Accounts for Swedish and Finnish Self-Perception? Immediately after 1989, Sweden and Finland found themselves in very different geopolitical positions, which decisively influenced the politico-strategic choices the two countries have taken in the years to come. Their individual war experience proved to be one of the major factors determining their individual foreign political self-perception after the breakdown of the bipolar global setting. While Finland just as the Baltic States had been involved in the global block confrontation, Sweden had largely profited from the relative lack of Great Power interest in the European periphery. Because of their fortunate geographical position, the overwhelming majority of Swedes was able to live through the Cold War without noticing that they were involved in a war. Consequently, the [Swedish] population has not yet realised that they came out on the winning side. If noticed at all, this new confusing state of affairs is often deplored and many almost long back to the bad, but predictable, old days of Cold War confrontation. Because of this isolationist mentality the majority of Swedes, contrary to the Finlanders, have tended to ignore the Baltic character and determinants of their common history.395 In the context of block confrontation, Sweden found enough room to pursue its policy of active neutrality, performing as a mediator in various global contexts, such as in Cuba, Northern Vietnam and the German Democratic Republic (GDR).396 Finland, in turn, had been restricted in foreign political terms since any sort of political activism could have provoked a dangerous reaction on the systemic level. Its geopolitical role during the Cold War was determined by its exposition to Soviet influence. Finland is the only small state neighbouring the USSR and not allied to the US that managed to avoid Soviet occupation during the Cold War. However, Finland did not occupy a sheltered geopolitical position such as Sweden, and was under almost constant Soviet pressure. Activism under these conditions would have been extremely dangerous. […] The alternative for Finland, given her [Finland’s] geopolitical situation, would have been closer diplomatic ties to the Soviet Union. This would have opened further channels for Soviet pressure, as well as risking the tenuous relations with the West, which Finland desperately sought to maintain, especially in her economic relations.397 Finland had been more exposed to the logics of the global system confrontation than any other of the Nordic states. However, in certain contexts, Finland actually appeared to try to take over a more active or even proactive role; probably the most important example in this regard is the strong Finnish support for the Commission on Security and 394 See chapter “Sweden and Finland as European Actors and Regional Stakeholders”, p. 125-. 395 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. 27. 396 See FÄLLDIN Thorbjörn: Sveriges roll i en spänningsfylld värld. In: Internationella Studier av Utrikesdepartmentet. Stockholm 1984, pp. 29-35, here p. 29. And JERNECK Magnus: Olof Palme. En internationell propagandist. In: HULDT Bo/MISGELD Klas (eds): Socialdemokratin och den svenska utrikespolitiken. Stockholm 1990, p. 112-139. 397 RIES Tomas: Actvism and Nonalignment. The Case of Finland. In: DAHL Ann-Sofie/HILLMER Norman (eds): Activism and (Non)Alignment. Stockholm 2002, pp. 71-82, here p. 74.

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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.