From the CIAO Atlas Map of Europe 

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CIAO DATE: 07/02

Can Europe Be Told From The North? Tapping Into the EU's Northern Dimension

Pertti Joenniemi

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
March 2002

The Challenge

The European Union has been furnished with a Northern Dimension (ND). The initiative, taken originally by Finland in 1997, has landed on the Union's agenda yielding policy documents, high-level conferences and some projects pertaining to Europe's North. It outlines, in terms of the spatial markers used, a sphere that reaches far beyond the northernmost North. The initiative aims, in one of its aspects, at turning northernness into a representational frame and regime that nurtures communality and influences the relations between the Union, its northern member states, some accession countries and Russia as well as Norway as non-applicants. The neo-North embedded in the move offers a joint arena for those already 'in', actors on their way 'in' and the ones that remain 'out'. In essence, it mediates in their relations, and contributes to what Christiansen, Petito and Tonra have called the "fuzziness" of the European Union by blurring established divisions. 1

This chapter probes, using the initiative as a starting-point, into the question whether Europe can be told from the North. It seeks to explore the constitutive aspects of the discourse waged around the Northern Dimension, including what remains in the shadows and what is obscured from sight. The North is hence not approached as a marker with a given content and unproblematic status. Instead, the aim is to expose its open, contingent and unstable nature and, in that context, view critically the ontological and methodological orientations that have pertained to research focusing on the initiative.

In its final part the chapter moves on to explore the vistas of the EU - and Europe more broadly - against the backdrop of changes in the representational frames underlying the European configuration. In particular, the question is pursued how these vistas resonate with a marker such as the North. It is assumed that some of them are more open to northernness informing policy responses whereas others reject such a marker out of hand as a non-European departure. The catapulting of northernness into a legitimate departure in the context of the Union's representational politics should - against this background - be quite indicative as to the balance between the different configurations and the way their relationship is unfolding.


Note 1: Christiansen, Thomas, Fabio, Petito and Tonra, Ben, Fuzzy Politics Around Fuzzy Borders: The European Union's Near Abroad. Cooperation and Conflict, Vol. 35, No. 4, (Dec. 2000), pp. 417-31.Back