Carmen Gebhard, Application Pattern II: The Correlation Between Meso and Macro-Level in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 190 - 193

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
190 III. Application Pattern II: The Correlation Between Meso and Macro-Level The question of applicability of EIT can also be posed in another context. Are the European Integration Theories at hand suitable to explain the correlation between macro-level integration and the integrative dynamics at the meso-level (i.e. in the BSR)? It appears obvious that the analysis aiming to answer this question has to focus on the potential “regional dimension” featured by various theoretical models. Hence, virtually “applicable” approaches should (at least) provide an understanding of – how the EU relates to its own (territorial) parts, – and vice versa, how these “parts” relate to the overall EU framework. Trying to remain within the practical scope of this study, I am neither willing nor able to detect these aspects in every single approach to integration that the last decades of European studies have put forth. Hence, I would like to approach this analytical complex by applying a (negative) logic of exclusion, by asking: What limits are set to the applicability of European Integration Theory when it comes to the explanation of complex political processes between the EU and a European regional entity such as the BSR? The search for the answer to this question should first lead us to the consideration of the following tendencies in (European) Integration Theory: – Given the fact that most European Integration Theories are designed to explain EU internal processes, there is a clear lack in emphasis on the specific circumstances of foreign policy.673 Since the complex interrelation between the EU and the BSR as a European meso-region can be regarded as part of a “grey zone” between the EU’s internal and external policy dimension, it is likely to constitute a marginal or borderline case for most theoretical models available in the field. – The traditional (and many of the current) approaches to European integration have been (explicitly or inexplicitly) designed for the European macro-level, i.e. the European integration process. These models largely tend to be either state-oriented or empirically focussed on the structural process of institutionalisation and the build-up of a (potentially) supranational polity sui generis. – The major strands in EIT seem to base on a “unitarist thesis”, following a certain “drive for centrality” which implies that their analytical sharpness is low by nature when it comes to the explanation of “peripheral” or decentralising phenomena.674 – Most theoretical approaches to European integration draw a sharp line between macro-level and sub-level action. Instead of identifying and analysing the linkages between the two (or more) levels, the respective political processes are largely treated as two different and distinct political phenomena. When it comes to the discussion of approaches that consider the complex correlation between different levels of political action, one specific connotation may certainly crop up: the one of multi-level governance models in EIT. In fact, as laid out in the context of the first application pattern, governance models do not only describe the dispersion of competence across territorial levels but they also focus on the interconnection of 673 See CHRISTIANSEN Thomas/TONRA Ben: The Study of EU Foreign Policy. Between international relations and European studies. In: Idd. (eds): Rethinking European Union Foreign Policy. Manchester/New York 2004, pp. 1-9, here p. 4. 674 See PARKER Noel: Integrated Europe and its ‘Margins’. Action and Reaction. In: Id./ ARMSTRONG Bill (eds): Margins in European Integration. Houndmills 2000, pp. 3-27, here p. 18. 191 multilevel political arenas in the process of governing. In contrast to state centric approaches, multi-level governance does not contend that state sovereignty is preserved or even strengthened trough further integration; nor do multi-level governance approaches suggest that nation state influence absolutely controls institutional development beyond the state level. Decision-making between various levels of action is seen as loosely interconnected instead of assuming the persistence of tightly nested and hierarchical chains of bilateral links. Institutions are perceived to have an independent influence in policy making that cannot be derived from their role as agents of national executives.675 By emphasising the poly-centricity of complex systems of integration, governance approaches certainly cover many important aspects that are significant in the context of the second application pattern. The correlation between the regional arena (the BSR) and the wider EU framework appears to comply with the notion of loose multilateral links as suggested by multi-level governance approaches. However, besides the fact that these approaches are not equipped to analyse the motivation behind such cross-level interactions, meaning interests and obviously existing efficiency calculations, they do not provide sufficient analytical potential to grasp the politico-strategic dynamics underlying this multi-layered system. As noted by Marsh and Furlong, “in practice, multilevel governance can also mean obscure elite-led agreements and public incomprehension.”676 Multi-level governance approaches are not perfectly precise in this respect. Another point of reference for the analysis of the macro-meso relationship, meaning macro-level processes and the respective bottom-up and top-down effects, results from the consideration, that from a nation state perspective (Sub)regionalism and European integration can be seen as two substantially different or even diametrically opposed processes of structural change virtually moving a political system ‘beyond the nation state’.677 Power and governance is dislocated “upwards” to the supranational level, and “downwards” to regional and local entities. The latter movement could also be said to head “outwards” since non-state bodies gain centre stage.678 At the dawn of the twenty-first century, twin forces continue to stretch the nation-state in opposite directions. States as they enter the new millennium are transformed not only by the centripetal pull of supranational integration, but also by the centrifugal forces of resurgent Regionalism. [...] Uncertainty generated by these countervailing forces prompts powerful and contentious arguments about the normative and empirical roles of subnational actors in increasingly complex webs of multi-level governance.679 675 See HOOGHE Liesbet/MARKS Gary: Multi-Level Governance and European Integration. Lanham 2001, p. 3. 676 MARSH David/FURLONG Paul: A Skin not a Sweater. Ontology and Epistemology in Political Science. In: MARSH David/STOKER Gerry (eds): Theory and Methods in Political Science. London 2001, pp. 17-41, here p. 38. 677 ‘Beyond the nation state’ as a phrase dates back to Ernst B. Haas, one of the main exponents of Neo- Functionalism. HAAS Ernst B.: Beyond the Nation-State. Functionalism and International Organization. Stanford 1964. 678 See AMIN Ash: Spatialities of Globalisation. In: Environment and Planning, No. 34/2002, pp. 385- 399, here p. 386. 679 DOWNS William M.: Regionalism in the European Union. Key Concepts and Project Overview. In: Journal of European Integration, No. 3/2002, pp. 171-177, here p. 171. 192 Even though depending on the perspective these two dynamics do not always occur in terms of “countervailing forces” it should be taken into account that the alleged permanent cleavage between supranational “integratedness” and regionalist affixedness is likely to affect a nation state’s foreign policy orientation.680 (Sub-) Regionalism may also influence a state’s membership conduct and thereby have a positive or negative effect on the process of macro-level integration. These potentially conflicting dynamics between a macro-level entity and meso-level formations that intersect with the catchment area of the former are widely neglected in most theoretical models on regional (and European) integration. Together with the four counter-factors mentioned above, this consideration should make us reconsider the analytical self-limitation to the field of EIT. One of the strongest arguments in this regard is what Rumford called the EIT’s inherent “European solipsism”, meaning the tendency in European integration studies of viewing the EU as “the sole author of European developments.” In order to understand the dynamics of contemporary European transformation, EU studies must encourage a greater diversity of (theoretical) perspectives. [...] Developments in Europe are best studied within a global framework.681 Decades of academic thinking about European integration have taught us to restrict our perspective onto the European case and to reject any sort of external analysis that tries to generalise the specific European case or abstract it on a more global basis. IR Theory has been blamed for its tendency to “normalise” the EU by applying a certain (statecentric) logic to a system that is allegedly sui generis. 682 The dominant paradigm in IR scholarship regards European integration as the practice of ordinary diplomacy under conditions creating unusual opportunities for providing collective goods through highly institutionalised exchange. From this ‘intergovernmentalist’ perspective, the EC is essentially a forum for interstate bargaining. Member-states remain the only important actors at the European level.683 In fact, most traditional IR approaches concentrate on constellations of power and interest among states and neglect other significant factors such as the formative impact of institutions on state level political conduct or the importance of values and norms for the formation of interests and strategic objectives; most scholars in the field probably 680 Another very different perspective on the parallel process of Supranationalisation and Regionalism builds the basis of notions like the ‘Europe of the Regions’. According to the regional federalist perspective, the two dynamics do not appear as countervailing forces. They both contribute to the aim of compensating “what the modern nation state cannot do in a world of complex interdependence.” The vision behind this concept is a decentralised European federation in which the role and power of nation states is progressively reduced to a scale where state centrality is irrelevant to political reality. See GÄRTNER Heinz: Modelle Europäischer Sicherheit. Wie entscheidet Österreich? Vienna 1997, p. 56. See also chapter “What kind of ‘Europe of the Regions’?”, p. 206-. 681 RUMFORD Chris: Rethinking European Spaces. Territory, Borders, Governance. In: Comparative European Politics, Issue 2/3 (July/September 2006), pp. 127–140, here p. 129. 682 This criticism has been fairly present in the general dispute between neo-realists/ intergovernementalists and constructivists. For more details on this dispute, see CHRISTIANSEN Thomas/JØRGENSEN Knud Erik/WIENER Antje: The Social Construction of Europe. In: Journal of European Public Policy 6:4, Special Issue 1999, pp. 528-544, here p. 533. And MORAVCSIK Andrew: ‘Is Something Rotten in the State of Denmark?’ Constructivism and European Integration. In: Journal of European Public Policy 6:4, Special Issue 1999, pp. 669-681. 683 PIERSON Paul: The Path to European Integration. A Historical Institutionalist Approach. In: Comparative Political Studies, No. 2/1996, pp. 123-163, here p. 124. 193 also feel themselves merely focussing on the interaction of states through diplomacy or violence within an overall context of structural anarchy.684 However, EIT could equally be blamed for trying to develop a “general theory of regional integration from very particular European experiences.”685 Hurrel probably has a point claiming that some political or social phenomena might appear to be politically complex but theoretically, turn out to be “rather easily explicable” by applying a “traditional toolkit.”686 He also goes on with a rather provocative but probably useful recommendation. Rather than try and understand other regions through the distorting mirror of Europe, it is better to think in general theoretical terms and in ways that draw both on traditional International Relations and on other areas of social thought. Hence we should consider foundational sets of ideas before they have become encrusted by their application to a particular region or case.687 While in this context, Hurrell is referring to the applicability of EIT to other regions, meaning regions outside Europe, these considerations appear to be also highly relevant for the theoretical complex addressed in this study. These considerations build the point of departure for the following trial application of IRT to the Baltic Sea case. They have also led to the consideration of yet another theoretical camp in political science for the purpose of this study. By way of concluding this theoretical section, an “outsider” approach taken from the field of traditional comparative analysis, the system theoretical model developed by Talcott Parsons will be dealt with, intending to point out the added value alternative theoretical choices can bring when trying to analyse an issue as complex as the “Baltic Sea Conundrum.” D. Inputs from International Relations Theory Most approaches in IRT developed before or during the Cold War have mainly focussed on large-scale and global developments and processes. Only after the superpower overlay had been lifted, also IRT slowly started to open itself towards political phenomena at a “lower” level of action. However, since state-centric perspectives still dominate scholarship in this field, a theoretical IR model explicitly treating the subject of meso-regional cooperation or regionalism is difficult to come by. However, selected traditional IR approaches do address the aspect of cooperation occurring within a certain geopolitical unit, and therefore, appear to be arguably applicable for the purposes of this study. The arrangement of this chapter takes over the structure suggested for the discussion of various different approaches in EIT.688 The aforementioned “application pattern I” refers to the BSR in terms of a macro-cosmic entity, treating it as a phenomenon of its own with less attention to the ways it relates to the ‘outside world’, mainly meaning the broader context of European integration. The 684 See ROSAMOND Ben: Theories of European Integration. Basingstoke 2000, p. 164. 685 See ibd., p. 159. 686 HURRELL Andrew: The Regional Dimension in International Relations Theory. In: FARRELL Mary/HETTNE Björn/VAN LANGENHOVE Luk (eds): Global Politics and Regionalism. London 2005, pp. 38-53, here p. 39. 687 Ibd., here p. 39. 688 See also table 19 presented in chapter “Applying Integration Theory to the Baltic Sea Case: Application Patterns”, p. 162-.

Chapter Preview



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.