Carmen Gebhard, The Irony of Competition II in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 134 - 142

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
134 From a Swedish point of view, the act of enlargement itself had much more significant impact on the region than small steps and achievements in the field of cross-border cooperation could have.478 Finland assumed a more pragmatic attitude and largely detached the enlargement issue from other efforts of ‘getting the EU involved’ in the region. The Finnish ND initiative opened another chapter in the history of the Swedish- Finnish divide in regional matters. E. The EU Northern Dimension – Showcase for the Swedish-Finnish Divide? I. The Irony of Competition II The immediate post Cold War setting appeared to provide the ideal framework for the Nordic ideology of peaceful cooperation and pacifism to eventually triumph on a wider European scale. For the first time in decades, enduring international peace seemed within reach; however, ironically, this scenery did not allow for the traditional and widely established Nordic ‘third way’ to do ‘business as usual’. After decades of Nordic engagement and effort to keep the tension in the Nordic region low, surprisingly, the lack of bipolar tension indeed had a negative impact on Nordicness and Nordic togetherness.479 The global political changes had significant repercussions on the functioning of Nordic togetherness.480 Decisive markers in this context have been each Nordic country’s choices in the context of European integration. First, it was Denmark in 1973, and then Sweden and Finland in 1995, to abandon the old Nordic policy of distanciation. Norway and Iceland have continued to adhere to their traditional positions. This situation left the Nordic countries divided on an essential issue. The majority [of the Nordic group] had transcended the borderline that used to be rather important for the Nordic self-understanding, while others have remained with these policies. […] Norden was no longer the same joint meeting-ground it used to be now that a major constitutive wall or external borderline, that of ‘Europe’, had fallen.481 However, EU-accession and consequent membership itself were not the sole factors to determine the applicability of Nordic togetherness. What actually decided for the Nordic system of cooperation to loose momentum was the choice of the Nordic EU member states to remain within or to detach themselves from the Nordic commonsense. There actually was considerable potential for newly integrated countries like Sweden and Finland to at least get together in a Nordic coalition within the EU and thus, to pool common interests and common goals as they had been present throughout decades of Nordic cooperation. The departures of the Nordics could have been unified to the extent that Norden could have been given the function of a vehicle for the Nordic Member States to coordinate their European policies. Most importantly, the EU ND could have 478 See DUBOIS Jeroen: The Northern Dimension as Prototype of the Wider Europe Framework Policy. University of Liverpool, Working Paper. Liverpool 2004, p. 3. 479 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. 187. 480 See chapter “Nordic Togetherness – the Changing Role of Nordic Cooperation”, p. 61-. 481 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. 187. 135 been taken as an ideal opportunity for Sweden and Finland to revive their cooperative relationship. The following presentation of the intra-Nordic reception of the EU ND will show how, on what grounds and to what extent this chance has been seized by neither of the two. 1. The Finnish Northern Dimension Initiative The institutional process that led to the creation of the EU Northern Dimension (Fin. pohjoisen ulottuvuuden/Swed. nordliga dimensionen) was initiated by Finland in 1997. The first formal outline of the Finnish Northern Dimension Initiative (NDI) was produced in the context of a letter written by Paavo Lipponen, then Finnish Prime Minister, to the (then) President of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, in April 1997. In this seminal letter, Lipponen called for the establishment of a comprehensive policy to cover “the whole northern dimension of the Union’s external relations.”482 The idea itself was not exclusively new. Since the end of the Cold War, Northern Europe had turned into a very active region in terms of regionalist activities and initiatives. While its Nordic fellows, most importantly Denmark and Norway, immediately set out to take initiatives for the foundation of consultative regional councils, Finland adopted a rather passive and reactive role in these early years.483 Finland was in an outsider position when Denmark together with Germany set up the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) in 1992, and it was not perceptibly involved in the creation of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), initiated by Norway in 1993. With its accession negotiations in full swing, the launch of the BEAC came as a surprise to the Finnish establishment.484 Additionally, in 1996, the European Commission launched the Baltic Sea Region Initiative (BSRI) within the CBSS framework, which put the Finnish government even more in a reactive position.485 Ojanen identified three main objectives for the Finnish initiative: First of all and in view of the circumstances outlined above, Finland wanted to show some sort of integrationist activism, offering its specific knowledge and experience in the region for a common project on the European level. Secondly, it probably tried to seize the chance of customising the EU policy agenda to its own national interests. Thirdly, Finland wanted to give a clear statement of its post Cold War policy direction, namely the conscious break with historical dependencies and its 482 See CATELLANI Nicola: The EU’s Northern Dimension. Testing a New Approach to Neighbourhood Relations? Utrikespolitiska Institutet, Research Report 35, Stockholm 2003, p. 14. 483 See ARTER David: Small State Influence within the EU. The Case of Finland’s Northern Dimension Initiative. In: Journal of Common Market Studies, No. 5/2000, pp. 667-697, here p. 681. Finland had promoted the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) in 1989. However, this action was not embedded in a wider European or transnational context but was carried out in Finland’s domestic domain and had a distinct intergovernmental character. Finland did not try to link the resulting Rovaniemi process to the question of EU accession, and thus, missed an important opportunity to become more visible as a regional stakeholder. Involving non-European partners (Canada, USA) as from 1991, the initiative never got much attention in the EU context. See official homepage of the Arctic Council [12 February 2008]. 484 CATELLANI Nicola: The EU’s Northern Dimension. Testing a New Approach to Neighbourhood Relations? Utrikespolitiska Institutet, Research Report 35, Stockholm 2003, p. 9. 485 For more details about the initiative, see chapter “The Finnish Initiative from a Swedish Point of View”, p. 136-. 136 traditional status of non-alignment.486 Some months later, in September 1997, Lipponen presented the political objectives of the initiative in a speech delivered at the ‘Barents Region Today’ conference in Rovaniemi/Finland.487 With the accession of Finland and Sweden, the European Union now extends from the Mediterranean to just a few kilometres from the Barents Sea. The Union has thus acquired a natural ‘northern dimension.’ My thesis [...] is: we need a policy for this dimension too. Lipponen’s argument that through the 1995 enlargements, the EU had not only gained new borders but also a set of geopolitical responsibilities has been recurrently reflected in political analysis. Accordingly, Haukkala identifies the EU ND as one of the direct products of EU enlargement emphasising that by way of the 1995 Northern enlargement, the EU had already gained a ‘northern dimension’. [Through the 1995 enlargement] the EU established its presence in the region and acquired a new direct contact with Russia in the form of the 1300-kilometre Fenno-Russian border.488 Joenniemi developed the idea further by claiming that the geopolitical changes resulting from the Finnish EU accession had literally forced the EU to become active player in the region. The new and ‘fuzzy’ constellations of the region forced the EU to make use of its presence with the more northerly aspects gained by enlargement. Particularly the joint border with Russia, acquired in the context of Finland’s membership, mandated reflection as the EU became Russia’s immediate neighbour.489 To a certain extent, the emergence of a new border to Russia certainly influenced the politico-strategic attitude and perspective of the EU towards Northern Europe. However, the long-term effects of the 1995 enlargement round had to be questioned, and the respective relevance of the EU ND even more so. The perceived challenge or responsibility of the EU to become an active and visible player in this part of the continent proved to be a short-term ambition and declined in the late 1990s. Once the Finnish aspirations had been formally contented, the considerable part of geostrategic attention shifted to the East and turned to the issue of formal Baltic integration. The bilateral relations with Russia retained highest priority, which would not yet argue against the EU ND. However, the policy channels that were chosen in order to enhance this relationship did not exclusively focus on the EU ND framework. Other, more direct policy channels were favoured in order to become active in the region, just as the preaccession process of the Baltic States. The foreign political conduct of Russia in view of 486 See OJANEN Hanna: The EU and its ‘Northern Dimension’. An Actor in Search of a Policy, or a Policy in Search of an Actor? In: European Foreign Affairs Review, 2000, pp. 359-376, here pp. 361-362. 487 See LIPPONEN Paavo: The European Union Needs a Policy for the Northern Dimension. Speech delivered at the conference “Barents region today” in Rovaniemi/Finland, 15 September 1997. Official website of the Finnish Government [26 December 2007]. 488 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 p. 105. 489 See JOENNIEMI Pertti/SERGOUNIN Alexander A.: Russia and the European Union’s Northern Dimension. Encounter or clash of civilizations? Novgorod 2003, p. 10. 137 the upcoming EU integration of the Baltic three was perceived a litmus test for the future relationship, and more generally, for the potential possibilities to stabilise the European neighbourhood in a sustainable way.490 The idea of the EU being “forced to act in the North” and the EU ND being the result of this enforcement certainly goes too far. The Finnish initiative was adopted on official terms and Finland got its way to an extent that it had transferred a set of distinct national interests to the level of “common responsibility”. Finland managed to draw official attention to a part of the continent that was at that time well outside the area of common concern for most member states. Other neighbourhood regions – such as the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe – were ranked much higher on the common list of shared EU challenges than the North. The long debate on European identity in the international system did not include the problems raised in that region in a satisfying way. […] Somehow, it was for many observers and politicians like an area forgotten or at least low on the agenda of threat perception. The benign neglect was due to geographical distance, the lack of historical memories and – perhaps most important – to apparently crisis-free evolutions.491 Hence, at the early stage, Lipponen obviously had to avail himself of certain argumentative strategies in order to relativise the obvious curiosity of the initiative and to foil the wave of suspicion and latent protest emanating from the southern European Member States. An important element in this appeasement strategy was to ask neither for new funding instruments nor for particular EU ND budgetary allocations. Another dodge was to avoid considerations about new institutional structures to support the objectives of the future EU ND working agenda, and instead, to enhance the existing formal capacity of the EU and the Member States to implement the policy. Worried commentators claim the EU was implicitly pushed to take up responsibility, which it was unwilling and unable to shoulder. The EU as a key action [sic!] was apparently asked to contribute to solving some, so far rather distant problems; critics were afraid that a new regional responsibility without clear objectives and an adequate set of instruments would add to the ‘capability-expectations gap’ that the haunted Union was blamed for throughout the nineties. 492 This could help to explain why during the first decade of policy implementation, the engagement and moral commitment of the EU institutions has been considerably low. The very early stages of the process (between the launch of the initiative and the first Commission Communication) were characterised by only lukewarm support for the initiative among certain sectors of the Commission’s DG External Relations.493 An important evidence for the Commission’s reluctance in this respect can be found in the development of what could be called the “EU ND talk”. While the original Finnish declarations laying out the ambitions of the initiative were characterised by a positive 490 See BILDT Carl: The Baltic Litmus Test. Revealing Russia? In: Foreign Affairs, September/October 1994, pp. 72-85. 491 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 19. 492 Ibd., here p. 20. 493 CATELLANI Nicola: The EU’s Northern Dimension. Testing a New Approach to Neighbourhood Relations? Utrikespolitiska Institutet, Research Report 35, Stockholm 2003, p. 15. 138 and widely enthusiastic tune, the subsequent EU documents that were to lay the ground for the respective EU policy framework were far more contained and close to noncommittal. The following statement offers a good example in this respect: The ND ensures that the EU’s activities and instruments continue to focus on this region. However, it should not be seen as a new regional initiative, which in the Commission’s view is not necessary. The CBSS and BEAC continue to play a useful role in addressing the problems facing the region. The Commission continues to participate in these fora, in particular regarding the exchange of information, cooperation and further development of these instruments in the perspective of advancing the objectives of the ND.494 The Finnish initiative had initially postulated the establishment of a distinct EU policy that would address the specific needs and interests listed on their ambitious agenda. What the Commission made out of these prospects is that it limited the function of the EU ND to the coordination of existing programmes, and moreover, relegated to the sufficiency of existing instruments for regional development.495 Concerning the assistance programmes relevant for the Northern Dimension, the European Community will follow the existing procedures, within existing budgets. Assistance will continue to be provided through existing programmes.496 The motivation behind the EU ND was obviously strongly related to the overall EU strategy towards Russia, if it was not reducible to that motive, and the general expectation that the EU ND could add more substance to this bilateral relationship. The EU has appeared keen to purge the de-centralising notions from the initiative, whilst in other respects it has turned the ND into an initiative that actually supports the development of the Union’s actor status. Consequently, the focus of the ND has shifted somewhat from what the EU can do for Northern Europe, to what the ND can do for the EU.497 The European Commission made clear that in fact there was no urgent need for a new regional initiative. These unfavourable preconditions were accompanied by general scepticism among the other Member States, and most significantly, also by Sweden. 2. The Finnish Initiative from a Swedish Point of View Sweden’s reaction to the Finnish initiative was rather retentive and reserved. At first, that was most probably because Finland had not considered consulting its neighbour and Nordic fellow on the issue, even though the two new Member States would have had very similar backgrounds as well as a series of shared policy interests. According to the Nordic tradition of cooperative politics, the Nordic Council would have offered the appropriate platform for a prior consultation involving also the other Nordic Countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. The fact that Finland did by no means show the political 494 Northern Dimension for the Policies of the Union. Communication from the Commission. COM(1998) 589 final, 25 November 1998, pt. 10. 495 See HEININEN Lassi: Ideas and Outcomes. Finding a Concrete Form for the Northern Dimension Initiative. In: OJANEN Hanna (ed.): The Northern Dimension. Fuel for the EU? Helsinki 2001, pp. 20-53, here p. 38. 496 Ibd., pt. 29. 497 BROWNING Christopher S.: Westphalian, Imperial, Neomedieval. The Geopolitics of Northern Europe and the Role of the North. In: Id. (ed.): Remaking Europe in the Margins. Northern Europe after the Enlargements. Aldershot 2005, pp. 85-101, here p. 91. 139 will to coordinate its policy plans with its Nordic fellows and take multilateral steps to prepare the initiative on the regional level, provoked considerable intra-Scandinavian irritations.498 From a Swedish point of view, the Finnish initiative was seen as a competing project destined to challenge Sweden’s firmly established Baltic Sea activities. Since the end of the Cold War, Sweden had largely tried to keep distinct regional issues outside the grasp of supranational influence and to rather use other channels, and most importantly, the CBSS framework, in order to involve the EU more actively in the Baltic Sea area. The above-mentioned Baltic Sea Region Initiative (BSRI), launched by the Commission in 1996 and strongly promoted by the then Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, was an important example in this context. In the context of its presidency in the CBSS (1995- 1996), Sweden had enhanced the establishment of the so-called Visby-Charter, a framework document of the CBSS stating the regional objectives of the organisation, and thus, seeking to offer a functional point of reference for the EU to become more involved as an active player in the course of its implementation. The resulting “Visby- Process” was formally acknowledged by a Commission communication on the BSRI.499 Even though by contrast, the Finnish initiative addressed a much wider geographical area not only including the Baltic Sea region but the ‘far up North’ as well, its objective reliance on the BSRI appeared evident to Swedish policy makers and experts in the field. In fact, the following comparison shows that both content and institutional design of the ‘Finnish’ policy were very similar to the BSRI. The Baltic Sea Region Initiative500 The ‘Finnish’ EU ND501 “The objective of this document is to present an initiative to strengthen political stability and economic development in the BSR.” “The ND approach shall promote economic development, stability and security in the region.” “The BSR has a huge potential in terms of natural resources, production and trade. Its population is about 60 million of which half are EU citizens.” “The Northern region is of particular significance to the EU. It is a region of great natural resources, with considerable human and economic potential.” “The present initiative does not require funding additional to the existing Community programmes, nor affect the responsibilities of each provider of assistance with regard to their individual programmes and the rules which govern them. It outlines proposals for taking full advantage of existing co-operation and programmes by intensifying regional co-ordination and focusing on priority areas.” “Concerning the assistance programmes relevant for the ND, the EC will follow the existing procedures, within existing budgets. Assistance will continue to be provided through existing programmes. The Northern Dimension ensures that the Union’s activities and available instruments continue to focus on this region.” Table 14: The Baltic Sea Region Initiative and the EU ND in Comparison 498 See DUBOIS Jeroen: The Northern Dimension as Prototype of the Wider Europe Framework Policy. University of Liverpool, Working Paper. Liverpool 2004, p. 2. 499 See Communication from the Commission. Regional cooperation initiative in the Baltic Sea Region. SEC(96) 608 final, 10 April 1996. 500 Communication from the Commission. Regional cooperation initiative in the Baltic Sea Region. SEC(96) 608 final, 10 April 1996. 501 A Northern Dimension for the Policies of the Union. Communication from the Commission. COM(1998) 0589 final, 25 November 1998. 140 Also the official objectives and policy issues addressed in the EU ND widely coincided with the main concerns and aims voiced in the BSRI context. The focus on the relationship with Russia, on environmental issues as well as on the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking was recurrent in both documents. While seeking to position and evaluate the Finnish initiative in a wider geographical context, Wessels chose to consider the general significance of regional initiatives by Member States, In a broader retrospective on the history of the European international profile, the Finnish initiative was in the end not particularly surprising: nearly all member states and most new states in particular define their role within the EU in terms of their own history and geography. […] This kind of national mission for the Union as a whole serves to keep and strengthen former ties and to underline one’s importance within the Union in relation to other EC states, who are supposed to accept a certain kind of natural ‘de facto’ leadership of the respective country in the common approaches. At the same time this, intra EU profile helps to reconcile one’s own national identity with the sometimes difficult membership of the EU: The Union is then perceived as a continuation of historical and geographical concerns and missions with other means – as the support of the whole of the Union needs to be mobilised. A merging and even fusion of national European perceptions and interests is then expected.502 These considerations might help to explain the reluctant Swedish attitude towards the Finnish initiative. It was seen as a Finnish act of claiming regional leadership while this, based on a long tradition of regional self-awareness, had in turn been reserved by Sweden. When looking at these arguments in light of the Swedish integration policy, it becomes clear that Sweden pursues a different strategy in the course of its EU membership. While Sweden certainly holds strong regional ties that largely bind major parts of its foreign and security policy agenda, these ‘very Swedish’ items still seem to be safely kept outside its official EU working programme. Sweden can hardly be claimed to seek to establish a systematic transfer of its regional agenda to the EU level, neither in view of creating an individual profile towards its fellow member states nor in order to pursue its major politico-strategic goals. To remain in Wessels’ wording, since its accession to the EU, Sweden did everything to avoid the impression of its EU level activities to assume the character of a ‘continuation of historical and geographical concerns.’ This argument was easily sold in the Finnish public, since public opinion was heavily influenced by the newly emerged chance of ‘rushing into the West’, and therefore, traditionally featured a less distinct scepticism towards integration. In Sweden, in turn the notion of a systematic transfer of former domestic or rather exclusively Nordic issues to the unloved Eurocratic realm appeared to provoke connotations of loss of sovereignty. The comments by Herolf, a Swedish scholar and foreign policy analyst, are symptomatic for the Swedish attitude of reluctant reservedness and pragmatic albeit selective Nordic solidarity when it comes to the validation of the “Finnish Dimension”, the EU ND. 502 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. 22. 141 In Sweden, the terms ‘Northern ‘Dimension and ‘Northern Cooperation’ have traditionally been associated with the five Nordic states. […] The Finnish Proposal for a ND of the EU, while having received the full endorsement of Swedish politicians, is not particularly well known among the public at large. Insofar as it is discussed, it is seen as a proposal signifying that the northern part of Europe should attract greater attention from others within the European Union. The [Swedish] government has also expressed a wish that this will lead to a strengthening of the regional organisations in the area.503 While there were certain reservations to this, as Herolf put it, “full endorsement” of the EU-ND among Swedish politicians, this quote also points at one of the most important specificities about the Swedish perspective on the policy. The potential of the EU ND to enhance existing forms of cooperation has major priority. While [regional cooperation] is an area in which Sweden is deeply engaged, it is also one in which it is eager to see other European states contribute, namely as trade partners and supporters in security cooperation and a variety of organisations, each according to its specific capability. Among them the European Union is, however seen to have a particularly important role, due to the rich spectrum of capabilities within this organisation.504 The role of the EU as a framework actor for Baltic Sea Regionalism is not explicitly mentioned; the EU is rather seen as one out of many factors that contribute to the overall picture of a networked BSR. Moreover, special emphasis is given to the instrument of enlargement, which from an official Swedish point of view, appears to be the “single most significant building stone in a genuine, all-embracing security order.”505 The analytical choice employed by Herolf reflects yet another particular feature of the Swedish view on the EU ND. The term ‘Northern Dimension’ is not limited here to the Finnish initiative to create a northern dimension of the EU, but encompasses the impact which events and developments in northern Europe have on European security in general, and the EU in particular, and the role which various actors inside and outside the EU may play in this region.506 There is a certain tendency in these statements of trying to ‘de-finlandise’ the policy framework, and to disperse and relativise the air of Finnish leadership in the field of EU involvement in Northern Europe. To a certain extent, this way of dealing with the policy could also be identified in the course of the years following the Finnish advance. Sweden has been criticised for its strategic reluctance in this context, and for utilizing the EU ND as a tool and an arena for its wider Nordic anti-cohesion course in regional politics.507 The following chapter will pick out two events of enhanced Swedish exposedness in this respect, the Swedish EU Presidency in 2001 and its CBSS 503 HEROLF Gunilla: The Swedish Approach. Constructive Competition for a Common Goal. In: BONVICINI Gianni/VAAHTORANTA Tapani/WESSELS Wolfgang (eds): The Northern EU. National Views on the Emerging Security Dimension. Helsinki 2000, pp. 141-160, here p. 142. 504 Ibd., here p. 142. 505 See LINDH Anna: Sweden in Europe. Address by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs/Stockholm, 16 December 1998. Cited in: HEROLF Gunilla: The Swedish Approach. Constructive Competition for a Common Goal. In: BONVICINI Gianni/ VAAHTORANTA Tapani/WESSELS Wolfgang (eds): The Northern EU. National Views on the Emerging Security Dimension. Helsinki 2000, pp. 141-160, here p. 153. 506 Ibd., here p. 143. 507 JUKARAINEN Pirjo: Norden is Dead. Geopolitical Re-making of Norden in a Nordic Journal. In: Cooperation and Conflict, No. 12/1999, pp. 355-382, here p. 362. 142 Chairmanship in 2006-2007, which should provide a deeper insight into the specific approach Sweden has exemplified in the context of the EU ND’s implementation. II. And the Story Goes On: Is Sweden Trying to ‘Keep the EU ND Alive’? At the time Sweden took over the EU Presidency from France in January 2001, the EU ND was just entering its operational phase. The European Council of Feira in June 2000 had adopted the first EU ND Action Plan for the period of 2001-2003 and mandated the Swedish Presidency to elaborate a “Full Report on the Northern Dimension” to be presented at the European Council of Göteborg in June 2001. Despite the distinct Swedish reluctance in the context of the Finnish initiative, the Northern Dimension nonetheless formed part of the priority areas indicated on the Swedish agenda. The Swedish Presidency set out the aim to produce more actionoriented input and to further the implementation of the policy in the sense of concrete measures and activities. Sweden requested the European Commission to report to the Foreign Minister’s Conference in Luxembourg in April 2001 on actions initiated in line with the ND Action Plan, and effected the formulation of the full report as foreseen. However, this should not be taken as a proof for a positive Swedish attitude or commitment. Sweden was merely sticking to the mandate posed by the Portuguese Presidency, and was in this sense simply fulfilling its “technical” obligations. Even though many observers did see the evidence of Sweden actually attaching importance to this very EU policy in the course of its presidency,508 it should be considered that there might have been incidental parallels between the Swedish agenda and the EU ND objectives. Anne Haglund states that Sweden chose to prioritise enlargement and achieved the political breakthrough one had aimed for, this also benefited the development of the ND. Also the second Presidency theme of environmental protection was compatible with the development of the ND.509 While these assertions are certainly appropriate to some extent, the mere fact that most of the issues prioritised by the Swedish presidency do basically coincide with the overall objectives of the ND, should not be misinterpreted. For the purpose of this study, it is rather important to look at how Sweden sought to promote its political interests on the European scene and whether and to what extent it used the EU ND as a framework to achieve certain political results in the course of its presidency. Concerning the Swedish efforts to further development in environmental issues, one must state that the EU ND did not explicitly constitute the main point of reference for the presidency. The Swedish government generally seemed to welcome the policy at that time since it was seen as a “flexible tool for advancing its own interests.”510 In the presidency conclusions, the EU ND appears to be rather detached from other issues, and it is clearly not applied as an overarching policy frame for action, most particularly regarding its core objectives, objectives that would even largely comply with major 508 See e.g. STENLUND Peter: Implementation of a Northern Dimension. In: Northern Research Forum (ed.): North meets North. Proceedings of the First Northern Research Forum, held in Akureyri and Bessastaðir, Iceland. 4-6 November 2002, pp. 126-129, here p. 127. 509 HAGLUND Anne: The EU Presidency and the Northern Dimension Initiative. Applying International Regime Theory. Vaxjö 2004, p. 125. 510 Ibd., p. 122.

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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.