Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences

By Marko Lehti; David J.Smith | Go to book overview

5

The Encounter Between the Nordic and the Northern: Torn Apart but Meeting Again?

PERTTI JOENNIEMI and MARKO LEHTI

The northern part of Europe has been quick to capitalize on the new openness of the post-Cold War years. Numerous region-building projects have been instigated across the previous East-West divide, and borders appear to have become rather malleable. Indeed, one could say that over the last few years, the region has turned into a veritable laboratory of spatial politics. 1 One of the moves challenging long-established constellations and markers of political space is the Northern Dimension Initiative (NDI), launched by Finland in 1997 and subsequently approved by the European Union. Integral to the NDI has been talk of a new northern Europe comprising not only the Nordic countries but also the Baltic states and north-west Russia as well as parts of Germany and Poland. The resulting tension between this new northernness and more traditional markers (West, East, but more especially Nordic) brings forth a host of questions to be sorted out both conceptually and concretely in terms of spatial practices.

Looking at today's northern Europe, it also appears that the influence of the traditional logic of realpolitik, involving divisive, statist borders clearly indicating who is 'inside' and who is 'outside', has declined in importance. The categories of 'us' and 'them' are no longer as strictly separated from each other as they used to be, and it may also be observed that the needs of the former do not automatically take priority over the latter. Such a hierarchy has now become far less distinct, as exemplified by an increasing number of trans-border projects or the fact that the Finnish-Russian border has turned into an EU border where various freedoms are supposed to carry the day. 2 The hierarchy that used to be there is sidelined by approaches featuring more equality and parity between 'us' and 'them', as previous divisions are replaced by a multiplicity of overlapping jurisdictions.

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