The Arctic is the new Baltic? Expertise on both is needed!

These utmost Arctic weather conditions that we are experiencing at the moment raised a couple of thoughts about the Arctic.

The Arctic is becoming an integrated part of the global economy. Many positive visions regarding the economic prospects of Arctic resources and sea routes are linked to this globalization. In addition to the coastal states, the economic security and welfare of the local populations and indigenous peoples are expected to benefit. At the same time, attention towards the Arctic raises concern over the sustainability and ethics of Arctic energy exploration and its linkages to exacerbating climate change.

The ambassador of Finland to Norway Erik Lundberg wrote about the Norwegian interest for the Arctic, and the call for Finnish know-how (in Finnish, see Pulloposti 3/2016). True, as Finland possesses one of the northernmost areas in the world with a permanent population, there no doubt is different kind of expertise regarding life in northern conditions. Northern know-how is very much needed now that the Arctic ‘hype’ is here and everyone wants to have its piece of the ‘Arctic cake’. For us, this know-how perhaps does not appear as anything exotic, but as part of our everyday practice. The needed know-how is not only technical or economic in character – also know-how on e.g. the political, social and cultural conditions of life in the northern areas is very much needed. In this context, we can take advantage of our good experience from regional cooperation within the Baltic Sea region rather than reinvent the wheel. By being an expert on the Baltic Sea region, you’re halfway to becoming an expert on the Arctic, too.

P.S. Freezing over? Check the tips on how to survive winter in Finland and enjoy it!

The Baltic Sea Region (Studies) in 2016 (and beyond)

As it stands today, the Baltic Sea Region forms a visible entity on the map of Europe. The region is often presented as a prime example of new regionalism, desecuritisation, transnational environmental cooperation, and new forms of governance. Consisting of eight EU member states and the Russian Federation*, the region, which has a long history of cooperation and conflict, serves as a microcosm where east and west, and also north and south, come together. The Baltic Sea in the centre of the region provides an interesting medium uniting and disuniting the region in many terms, both material and symbolic.

During its almost 20 years of history, the Baltic Sea Region Studies programme at the University of Turku has been focusing on the historical and current political, economic and cultural development of the region and looking at the processes of European regionalisation and globalization from the perspective of this vital region. The programme has also contributed to the national and international co-operation in and among the countries of the region, thus facilitating the regionalisation process in its tiny but not insignificant part.

Now that the Baltic Sea region is well established and even officially recognised within the European Union, and many co-operative institutions are in place, the regional “hype” has, perhaps, somewhat faded away. Accordingly, we should ask what is the role and significance of the region currently and in future? What is the Baltic Sea Region (Studies) offering, what can its contribution be?

I think that because of its geographical scope, on the one hand, and the advanced stage of regionalization, on the other, the Baltic Sea region offers an excellent “laboratory” to gain insight into e.g. the emergence and management of diverse transnational challenges that ultimately threaten the security and well-being of humankind. This laboratory offers a prism to look at the interplay between the local, regional, and global scales of these challenges and their governance. In order to fully comprehend this problematic, a multidisciplinary approach making sense of various material and human dimensions conditioning our life in the region needs to be applied.


*When the entire catchment of the Baltic Sea is included in the definition of the region, the number of countries is 14.