Empire-building and Region-building in the Baltic, North and Black seas areas

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Empire-building and Region-building in the Baltic, North and Black seas areas. The Fourth International Conference on Nordic and Baltic Studies of The Romanian Association for Baltic and Nordic Studies, 24-26 May 2013, Constanta, Romania / The Romanian As
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Conference background
The conference continues and develops a project that the Romanian Association for Baltic and Nordic Studies has initiated in 2010, aiming at investigating, comparing and describing the relations, encounters, intersections, confluences, mutual influences and/or parallels between the Nordic and Baltic Sea areas, on the one hand, and the Black Sea region, on the other. The project was structured in annual international conferences usually taking place in late May. Thus, the first conference, entitled "Romania and Lithuania in the Interwar International Relations: Bonds, Intersections and Encounters" was held on 19-21 May 2010 and concentrated, as the title suggests, on the present and historical relations between two countries belonging to these two areas. The second and the third editions of the annual ARSBN conference enlarged their scope, being entitled "The Black Sea and The Baltic Sea Regions: Confluences, influences and crosscurrents in the modern and contemporary ages" (May 20-22, 2011) and respectively "European Networks: the Balkans, Scandinavia and the Baltic World in a Time of Economic and Ideological Crisis" (May 25-27, 2012).
During its three editions, the ARSBN conference addressed fundamental problems within the current agenda of the Nordic, Baltic and Black sea states and contributed with fresh ideas and innovative research results to the general knowledge in the scientific field. Moreover, the conference advanced draft proposals useful to the European decision-makers of different fields.
While the participants to the first two editions of the conference concentrated rather on the historical dimension of the relations, the third edition brought together specialist from various fields (political science, economics, IR, minority studies etc.) and addresses, besides the historical aspect of relations, aspects relevant to the present time, i.e. the current global economic crisis, the Balkan organized crime in Nordic Europe.
The 2013 conference invites applications from consecrated and young specialists, theorists and practitioners in the most various fields: education, cultural studies, history, IR, political science, economics etc. The 2013 edition of the conference aims at investigating, but also encouraging the intra- and inter- regional exchanges and cooperation.
The conference has developed very fast, each edition bringing together more participants, well known specialist in their fields, from over 20 countries and over 40 institutions. At its third edition, the conference reached a high level of quality, becoming already a very important event in the field of Nordic and Baltic studies.

Aim of the conference
After centuries of nation-building, the world has entered a period of region-building searching for cultural encounters, social and economic development and political cohesion and stability. Today large part of Europe is involved in the European integration project. Nevertheless, the current global economic crisis has also generated debate regarding not only the future expansion of the EU, but the viability of the European project itself, and states involved in the European integration scheme or those pursuing their integration seem to deepen their ambitions.
The EU integration has become the primary conceptual and normative model in the global proliferation of regional integration, but in the course of the last two decades other regional initiatives, associations and structures - in the political, economic, cultural, environment, security etc. fields - have emerged in Europe, especially in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and Black Sea regions. In this context, sometimes regional agendas intersected with the European ones.
However, we encourage not only the inter-regions comparisons and analyses, but also the intra-regions analyses in the most diverse fields - education, art, culture, media, security, environment, international politics, economy etc. While the Baltic and North Sea areas are generally considered pioneer regions in the development of regional integration and identity, the Black Sea Region is often regarded as a laggard in terms of regionalization and region-building.
This conference aims to address problems such as the relation between the EU integration framework and the Baltic, North and Black Sea regional structures; the historic development of these regional initiatives and/or organizations and the relations among them; the interplay between empire-building, region-building, national/nationalist, cultural construction discourses present in these regions, comparisons between the three regions.
The conference approaches the North in the wider perspective of regional cooperation intra- and extra-Nordic muros. The North is regarded as a springboard of regional cooperation which has a strong though faltering historical and cultural background and an obvious European dimension. The downfall of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the process of European integration (whether some of the Nordic countries belong to the EU or not, they are all part and parcel of the process and deeply affected by it) have encouraged the development of regional cooperation in Northern Europe. Belonging to the Northern dimension of the EU meant not only maintaining a regional identity with deep roots in history and culture and make the others acknowledge it, but also strengthening the influence of Nordic countries within and outside the EU and fostering other regional cooperation initiatives in the Baltic Sea area and outside it. Patterned on the Nordic regional cooperation, the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia strengthened their regional cooperation and envisaged deepening their ties to surrounding areas, especially with the Nordic countries. Alongside the Nordic countries, they gradually also turned into a model for the Danubian and Black Sea countries.
Regional cooperation is the unwanted child of empires. The empire-building process is one of the most debated research topics, and reaching a consensus among researchers in this regard can hardly be foreseen. Historians, political scientists, IR theorists, geographers and geopoliticians have given different answers as about the engines of empire-building process and its consequences. What is an empire? How it emerges? What is the role of empires in IR? Is there a distinctive empire ideology? What is imperialism? How empires reach their decline and collapse? How empires have changed throughout the centuries? If sometimes empires resemble each other in a certain period of time when seen from outside, when looking at empires from within, at micro-level, one can see how much the patterns, structures, articulated interests, perceptions of power and authority differ. There is no consensus even on fundamental issues such as how an empire can be defined, i.e. according to various criteria employed Sweden was described as a kingdom or an empire, and similar disputes arise regarding Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. However, we believe that we can broaden our perspective of empire-building when looking at the issue from a larger geographical and cultural perspective of the Nordic, Baltic, and Black seas areas. We can also understand the networks created within empires which later sought to re-knot their cooperation among the emerging sovereign states, often leading to various forms of regional cooperation such as, for instance, the Little Entente and the Baltic League.
In some instances, region-building and empire-building process is blurred and not infrequently empires or large political constructions emerge from region-building initiatives driven by domestic or external challenges as it happened with Poland and Lithuania in the 14th century, with Sweden in the 17th century or with Germany in the 19th century. In fact, this is one of the favored arguments of Eurosceptics who perceive the EU in the same light as these empires. The conference aims at taking a closer look at this topic and setting it within the Nordic, Baltic and Black seas framework.
However, the focus of our introspection is not merely political or diplomatic cooperation. Educational, cultural, commercial or social cooperation networks are also within the range of our interests. The conference is also future-oriented and seeks at contributing to understanding the stakes of regional cooperation for the development of societies in the geographical areas it covers.

In this respect, the conference will address themes such as:
• The empire-building, region-building, national/nationalist, cultural construction discourses present in these regions
• The historic development of these regional initiatives and/or organizations and the relations between them;
• Political, cultural and diplomatic relations between Baltic and/or Nordic states, on the one hand, and the Black Sea countries, on the other
• The relations between the EU integration and different Baltic, North and Black Sea regional structures;
• Education and leadership in the context of regionalisation in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea areas
• Education and leadership: between tradition, challenges and perspectives
• Educational projects: bridges between the Baltic Sea and Black Sea area
• Linguistic unity and diversity in Scandinavia and the Baltic state
• Nordic and Baltic identity through cultural diversity
• Inter- and intra-regions comparisons