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Nordic Russian and Eastern European Studies Conference
Intentions, Interactions and Paradoxes in Post-Socialist Space
24-25 May 2013 in Helsinki, Finland

Abstracts

The EUs eastern edge: processes of bordering and cross-border integration
Chair: Sarolta Németh (Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu)
Jussi Laine (Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland): Bordering, Political Landscapes and Social Arenas at EU external borders
Margit Säre (Peipsi Center for Transboundary Cooperation, Tartu, Estonia) and Elena Nikiforova (Centre for Independent Social Research, St. Petersburg, Russia): The pitfalls and promises of EU programmes of cross-border cooperation: the case of the Estonian-Russian border
Endre Sík and Boglárka Szalai (TARKI Social Science Research Institute, Budapest, Hungary): The Hungarian-Ukrainian border: income-generating migration and other cross-border interactions
Matti Fritsch and Sarolta Németh (Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland): Dynamics and trajectories in cross-border interaction between Southeast Finland and its neighbouring Russian regions

The four papers included in our proposed panel look into recent de- and re-bordering processes between the EU and its eastern ‘Neighbourhood’ at different spatial-political levels and assess the potential for territorial integration across this external border.
The opening paper presented by Jussi Laine (Karelian Institute, Finland) provides a theoretical analysis of ‘bordering processes’ that are relevant along EU-external borders in particular, based on the first results of the EUBORDERSCAPES (EU FP7, 2012-2016) project. ‘Bordering’ highlights interconnections between territorial and relational perspectives in border research; it recasts and re-frames political landscapes and social arenas. The process of bordering is closely linked to identity-formation and identity-politics because it creates socio-cultural, political and geographic distinctions that become apparent particularly at the external borders of the EU. Thus, borders can be read in terms of: 1) a politics of identity, 2) a geographical definition of difference, and 3) a politics of interests. This presentation maintains that it is crucial to listen and understand the bottom-up voices, the on-the-ground situations and local politics of borders that frame social arenas, political landscapes and strategies of accommodation, challenging the top-down geopolitical control of borders.
The other three papers in the panel summarise the first interesting results of the empirical fieldwork in three of the nine case study areas of the EUBORDERREGIONS project (EU FP7, 2011-2015). They provide insight into those on-the-ground situations that are mentioned above, obstacles and facilitators of co-operation, shifting and reinforced identities and vested interests across different sections of the eastern EU-border. The Estonian-Russian case is presented by Margit Sääre (Peipsi Institute, Estonia) and Elena Nikiforova (CISR, Russia). The first empirical findings at the southern section of the Finnish-Russian border are summarised by Matti Fritsch and Sarolta Németh (Karelian Institute, Finland). Preliminary results from fieldwork at the Hungarian-Ukrainian border are introduced by Endre SÍk and Boglárka Szalai (TÁRKI, Hungary).  Since each of these three papers offer analyses of findings from over twenty in-depth interviews with key regional stakeholders and several weeks of comprehensive on-site observations carried out between October 2012 and May 2013, they unveil the latest tendencies as well as some fascinating intricacies in the developments of the border regions. Finally, besides presenting regional specificities, these studies also share an enquiry into the possibilities for ‘territorial cohesion’ across EU-external borders.