International Conference


International Conference


28-29 May 2015
University of Tartu

From the outset, Baltic Sea regionalism was a project conceived to attain two major political goals. One was to provide a consolidation ground for regional cooperation between partners that share a similar normative background and are eager to pool resources for the sake of building a coherent regional society. Key drivers for change in this region-building process are the EU and the Nordic countries, both were instrumental in successfully integrating the three Baltic states into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, and in spreading EU-based normative and institutional standards across the region. The EU enlargement of 2004 can be considered a successful fulfilment of this goal. Being an almost internal sea within the EU and having an extensive institutional framework for regional cooperation, in 2009, the EU member states along the Baltic rim set a new goal to develop a coherent and prosperous European macro-region receiving its political expression through the launch of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR).

Another priority for the Baltic Sea region was to engage Russia through a number of institutional bridges, such as city-to-city partnerships, trans-border Euroregions, and the Northern Dimension programme. The key idea was to create a cohesive space for the interaction of all regional actors and thus avoid East-West divides. The domestic and international developments of recent years have undermined the success stories of this political goal. The Russian government has become more and more centralised, thus making it difficult to involve local partners from Russia in cross-border cooperation projects. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has acted as a wake-up call for all European countries, making it nearly impossible to not perceive Russia as a security threat in the Baltic Sea region. Moreover, the Russian government itself considers NATO’s reactive measures as a threat to its security. This increases the security dilemma in the region and undermines all possible cooperation frameworks between the EU and Russia.

While the first political goal of Baltic Sea regionalism has been successful, with a move to the next stage of cooperation, the second goal has, thus far, failed. Furthermore, the question of cooperation efficiency remains on the agenda. In particular, despite a mutual will for cooperation, the EUSBSR and the existing Pan-Baltic cooperation framework face challenges of governance. The high number of different but overlapping intergovernmental cooperation institutions has raised the issue of leadership for the strategy’s implementation. Variance in the political commitment of the participating member states hampers the successful implementation of the agreed projects on the ground. At the same time, the potential of Multi-Level Governance (MLG) still awaits full exploitation for the region’s socio-economic development. Furthermore, the involvement of Russia in regional cooperation and especially in the implementation of the EUSBSR is an increasing challenge, particularly in the era post the Ukraine crisis.

In the light of these developments and the Estonian presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the following questions shall be discussed during the two-day conference at the University of Tartu, May 28-29, 2015:

Panel 1 Pan-Baltic institutions: challenges in leadership: Does the EUSBSR need explicit leadership? If yes, should we establish a new institution or assign this task to an existing one? What should be done with the other institutions

Panel 2 Multilevel governance and regional interaction: how to improve involvement of different stakeholders?: How can the political commitment of all member states be ensured in times of austerity? Shall the role of cities, regions and the private sector be strengthened to increase the impact of BSR cooperation on the ground?

Panel 3 The Baltic Sea region in the wider European context – security challenges and their policy implications: How do different Baltic Sea region countries perceive the Ukrainian crisis and what is its impact on their relations with Russia? Would different national strategies in relations with Russia undermine regional cooperation and the EU joint policies vis-à-vis Russia? Or can the Baltic Sea region develop stronger regional institutions capable of protecting the regional milieu from negative spill-overs from other regions or transpositions of EU-Russia conflictuality?
What is specific in the BSR as compared to other borderland areas located at the intersection of EU and Russian interests? Should Russia be involved in the Baltic Sea region-building process and in the implementation of the EUSBSR more closely? If yes, to what extent? How existing obstacles involving Russia should be overcome? Can cities and regions serve as mediators to involve Russian partners in the agreed strategies and projects?

Registration: due to limited places, organisers kindly ask to register to attend the conference by e-mail: Registration is open until May 20, 2015.

The conference is sponsored by the UT Centre for EU-Russia Studies (CEURUS). Participation is free of charge.

See the Conference programme (.pdf)