Carmen Gebhard, Introductory Remarks on Regionalism and Integration in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 154 - 155

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
154 Chapter 4: Explaining the Baltic Sea Conundrum Many interpretations have been attached to the phenomenon of Baltic Sea Regionalism: for some, it is the response to globalisation, for others it is the manifestation of postmodern security thinking541 or a post-security construction.542 Lehti describes the regionalist dynamics after 1989 as “attempts to reorganize a disintegrating world [...] and a result of the blurring of the Cold War East-West division.”543 The early crossborder activities took place in what Lehti calls a “formative moment”, meaning that old narratives were replaced by new ones with the overall aim of “bringing order in the midst of change.”544 Sander identifies a certain predisposition for transnational cooperation or a “propensity for joining organisations” that is inherent to people living around the Baltic Sea.545 The following section seeks to address the question of how and to what extent various different theoretical approaches (European Integration Theories, International Relations Theories and Comparative approaches) can be applied in order to explain the “Baltic Sea conundrum” meaning the set of specificities that distinguishes the BSR from other European regions, most importantly its eminent cooperative cohesiveness that turns the region into a showcase for regionalism and subregionalism. The central aim is to identify the analytical and explanatory value of various approaches, and thereby to provide a comprehensive basis and starting point for consecutive analyses on Baltic Sea regionalism. A. Introductory Remarks on Regionalism and Integration Regionalism can be defined as a process in international politics that is based on mutual support, cooperation, coordination and cohesive networking between different actors within a certain geographical range. Integration, on the other hand, can be described as an act or process of a group of entities, and most commonly states, uniting to form an integrative whole or community. Integration can, just as regionalism, reach various levels of commitment, along a continuum from shallow to deep, depending on what degree of involvement the concerning parties wish to have.546 Shallow integration involves, for example, the elimination of trade barriers or the restrictions to free movement of people. Deep integration, on the other hand, includes further steps of commitment such as formalised harmonisation of procedures, institutionalisation or centralisation. 541 E.g. WÆVER Ole: The Baltic Sea: A Region after Post-Modernity? In: JOENNIEMI Pertti (ed.): Neo-Nationalism or Regionality. The Restructuring of political space around the Baltic Rim. Stockholm 1997, pp. 293-342. 542 JOENNIEMI Pertti: Norden, Europe and Post-Security. Copenhagen Peace Research Institute, Working Papers, 11/1998. 543 See LEHTI Marko: Possessing a Baltic Europe. Retold National Narratives in the European North. In: Id./SMITH David J. (eds): Post-Cold War Identity Politics. Northern and Baltic Experiences. London 2003, pp. 11-49, here p. 14. 544 See ibd., here p. 21. 545 See SANDER Gordon: Off Centre. Baltic hands link across a troubled sea. In: Financial Times, 8 April 2000. 546 See BURFISHER Mary E./ROBINSON Sherman/THIERFELDER Karen: Regionalism. Old and New, Theory and Practice. Paper presented at the International Conference “Agricultural policy reform and the WTO. Where are we heading?” Capri/Italy, 23-26 June 2003, p. 5. 155 These definitions show that regionalism and integration are very close concepts. One of the essential preconditions for integration is a basic will and disposition to cooperate with other actors. This readiness and voluntariness of action also builds the ground for regionalism. In most cases, entities brought together by way of integration are also united by geographical vicinity. Integration processes often extend to the borders of a certain regional entity, e.g. a continent or parts of it respectively. Thus, in a certain way, European integration can be interpreted as a process of regional integration, a process that strengthens the economic, political and ideological links between the European states by way of cooperation. Baltic Sea Regionalism is based on similar grounds. Processing cooperation and networking across the Baltic Sea rim is an instance of integration, i.e. of the various actors conspiring for cooperation and togetherness. In line with this argumentation, BSR-based regionalism can be defined as yet another case of regional integration. Wrapping up, European integration and Baltic Sea Regionalism can both be seen as living examples of regional integration, with the geographical range building the main qualitative disparity between the two. Macro-level - European Integration Meso-level - Baltic Sea Regionalism Hence, besides the fact that the European project and the process of Baltic Sea Regionalism are closely related to each other (in the sense of macro- and respective subregion), it can also be assumed that they follow a similar logic, the logic of progressive integration. These considerations lead to the next step of argumentation. Given this conceptual closeness between regionalism and integration, it appears legitimate and viable to address the corpus of (European) Integration Theory (EIT) to try to explain the inherent dynamics of Baltic Sea Regionalism and moreover, to trace the correlation between the broader process of European integration and the specific regional development in the BSR. B. Theoretical Approaches to European Integration I. European Integration Theory: Addressing regional integration? Consulting the ‘oracle’ of EIT for the purpose of this study means, first and foremost, to concentrate on the ‘regional’ or ‘regionalist’ focus of the different theoretical approaches at hand. Many analysts equate the concept of ‘regional integration’ to that of ‘(general) integration’ by using the terms interchangeably.547 However, not all approaches to European integration do explicitly emphasize the geographical or regional aspect. According to Rosamond, viewing European integration as an instance of regionalism, i.e. as “the tendency of groups of territorially-adjacent states to cluster together into blocs”, is actually only one approach out of several. He claims that there are at least four different “locations”, where one can seek to find an explanation for European integration:548 547 See for example MATTLI Walter: The Logic of Regional Integration. Europe and Beyond. Cambridge 1999. 548 See ROSAMOND Ben: Theories of European Integration. Basingstoke 2000, pp. 14-15.

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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.