The Baltic Sea Region

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2003

15 Pages, Grade: A-



1 Introduction

2 The Baltic Sea Region – some general facts
2.1 Work and self-perception of the BSR
2.2 International Behavior towards the BSR

3 Theoretical background
3.1 The classical approaches
3.1.1 The inside-out approach
3.1.2 The outside-in approach
3.2 The region-building approach

4 Applied approaches
4.1 The BSR in terms of the inside-out approach
4.2 The BSR in terms of the outside-in approach
4.3 The BSR in terms of the region-building approach

5 Conclusions

6 References


In the contemporary debate about regions, the Baltic Sea Region is one of the most frequently used topics. The objective of this paper is to prove that, regardless of formal speeches and co-operation in many fields, the BSR is not a natural region, but only an artificial construct according to the interests of some politicians. To work this out, I am introducing important concepts for the theory of regionalism (inside-out, outside-in and region-building approach) and apply them on the case of the Baltic Sea Region.

“Regions are

what politicians and people

want them to be.”

Joseph S. Nye[1]

1. Introduction

One of the most incisive events of International Politics was the end of the Cold War in 1989. Especially in terms of the development of regions, it was a crucial event giving „(...) new actuality to the study of regions and regionalism“ (Neumann 1992, p. 3). With the fall of the Iron Curtain, regional integration received fresh impulses and is now one of the most dynamic and current processes in contemporary Europe. All over the continent regions emerge and are the object of discussion. An area of special interest in studies of regionalism is the northern part of Europe, where momentarily – for example with the Baltic Sea Region – an interesting and active process of region-forming is taking place.

But not only in the field of geopolitics are regions becoming important. In the scientific world, innumerable definitions of the term ‚region‘ and discussions about theoretical approaches of the subject have occurred in the last years and still persist. The debate is vivid and controversial, especially among scientists in Northern Europe. Since nearly everybody in the academic and political world today is creating their own definition of regionalism, and especially the word ‘region’, formation processes and so-called regions should critically be investigated.

Keeping that in mind, I will take a closer look at the so-called „Baltic Sea Region“. What does this term imply, and is the Baltic Sea Region a real natural region according to some – later specified – criteria? Or does it only represent another artificial product created in the interest of some countries or influential groups?

To answer this question, I will first make some general remarks about the overall view of the Baltic Sea Region by describing types of cooperation between the “belonging” countries and the international behaviour towards the area. After doing this, the theoretical background of this work is going to be developed. With the inside-out, the outside-in, and the region building approaches, three main concepts (for the analysis of regions) are introduced. In the following chapter, the ‚Baltic Sea Region‘ will be analyzed according to these approaches and their specific criteria of the term ‘region’. Finally, it will be decided whether the Baltic Sea Region can be seen as a real region or not according to these criteria.

2 The Baltic Sea Region – some general facts

As mentioned in the introduction, the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) is a phenomenon of contemporary Europe whose existence cannot be neglected. After the end of the Cold War, the idea of a Hanseatic League, a Nordic economic area or whatever it may be called, became familiar[2]. Strong efforts oriented towards economic and political co-operation were made. In the meantime, a lot of organizations and cooperative institutions – like the „Council of the Baltic Sea States“ (CBSS) – had been established and link the activities of the countries. But not only the member states act in many respects as a uniform complex – the BSR. Other countries, especially the EU and the U.S., perceive and address the BSR as well as joint region.

2.1 Work and self-perception of the BSR

Today the CBSS is the institutional framework of the BSR, consisting of eleven member states - Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia – and one representative of the EU. Its foundation was the result of a Danish-German Initiative from 1992, when the Foreign Ministers Genscher and Ellemann-Jennsen invited their colleagues from the other enumerated countries

„(...) to meet in Copenhagen in order to strengthen and put into relief existing co-operation among the Baltic Sea States and to decide on the establishment of a „Council of the Baltic Sea States“ (...) that should serve as an overall regional forum (...) to achieve a genuinely democratic development in the Baltic Sea region, a greater unity between the member countries and to secure a favourable economic development .“[3].

This co-ordination occurs by now on nearly every field of policy, e.g. civil security, health and labor issues, environmental and economic co-operation[4] and led to various projects. These projects, and in general the CBSS-work, are administrated by the International Secretariat[5]. The Council itself consists of the Foreign Ministers and the EU-Representative, which hold regular annual meetings (the first one in Copenhagen 1992, the last in March 2002 in Svetlogorsk), while the Field ministers meet in accordance with their own decisions on ad hoc basis.

To shorten explanations, the co-operation model within the BSR is of a the traditional intergovernmental nature. The member-countries are the main actors, and they are more or less working together in different fields, because they perceive similar interests and challenges. Above all these areas of co-operation the CBSS „(...) has a unique role in the region as a vehicle for political dialogue and co-ordination of measures favouring democracy and stability.“[6], and the relatively institutionalized complex of the BSR is holding the self-esteem of being a region.

2.2 International Behavior towards the BSR

Not only actors within the system of the BSR, but also from outside, perceive the BSR, as already mentioned, more or less as a complex of countries within Europe that belong together. Since the EU is quite intensively integrated in this complex (some BSR-countries are members of the EU, others are applicants), it has to deal with the northern challenge.

The EU took all developments of forming and co-operating in consideration and launched a number of official Communications concerning that region. The most important one is probably the „Baltic Sea Region Initiative“ (BSRI), that was created in 1996 to „(...) strengthen political stability and economic development in the Baltic Sea region.“[7]. But even before that, the European Union showed interest in that area and developed some approaches like in 1994 „Orientations for a Union Approach towards the Baltic Sea States“ and in 1995 "Current State of and Perspectives for co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region“[8].


[1] Joseph S. Nye (ed). International Regionalism. XXXXXXXXXXXX. p. 338.

[2] Actually the idea of a Hanseatic League was not new, but only reinvented, because the Hanseatic League was already – and especially in the beginning quite successfully – existing in the Middle Ages from 1356 to its official end in 1669.


[4] For a more detailed look on the various fields of co-operation see

[5] which is - located in Stockholm – one of the most important branches of the CBSS (other bodies are for example the Committee of Senior Officials [CSO]). For further information about the organisational structure see

[6] So EU’s valuation, in: The Baltic Sea Region Initiative. Communication from the Commission. Brussels, 10.04.1996; SEC(96) 608 . Final, in:, 18.10.2002.

[8] For more detailed information see 18.10.2002.

Excerpt out of 15 pages


The Baltic Sea Region
Vilnius University  (Department of Political Science)
Baltic Sea Region - Cooperation, Conflict and Regionbuilding
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ISBN (eBook)
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Baltic, Region, Baltic, Region, Cooperation, Conflict, Regionbuilding
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Simone Prühl (Author), 2003, The Baltic Sea Region, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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