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.