Kühnhardt, Ludger (2002) The Lakes of Europe. ZEI Discussion Paper: 2002, C 104. [Discussion Paper]
[Introduction]. Usually, Europe is defined and designed along the geography it constitutes and the history it accrued. The political organization of Europe is related to both of it and at the same time not free of contradictions with regard to any reasonable meaning of a "European identity". There are more institutions than one, given the existence of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, and – last but not least - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which institutionalizes the United States of America as a European power. Europe is grappling with its borders towards the East and the South East. Can Russia belong to the core institutions of Europe? Is Turkey a European country? In any case, the discussion is following the primacy of territorial thinking. Europe, that is Europe’s territory and the ambition to link it both with Europe’s past and the future Europe hopes for. But Europe, that is also Europe’s lakes, the seas and waters which are an integral nevertheless peripheral part of Europe’s shape. The Mediterranean and the Black Seas, even the Caspian and certainly the Baltic and the North Sea do impact on Europe’s self-perception and are related to many of the challenges ahead of Europe at the beginning of the twenty-first century. They are no less important than the Atlantic Ocean has unquestionably been for the shaping and the destiny of Europe in the course of the last five hundred years, culminating in the important role the north American democracies have played for Europe during the twentieth century. Intuitively, contemporary Europeans tend to perceive the waters which surround and enclose European territories as borders, as limits and dividing lines. The opposite coast lines constitute "the other", far away and often strange lands. At least they are likely to divide and to constitute black - and wet - holes without meaning and reason. This, however, may very well change in the course of the next years. A Europe which is defining its identity and is shaping its political organizations can no longer overlook the fact that its surrounding waters are an integral part of the shaping and making of the “new Europe“. The lakes of Europe are part of Europe since they constitute bridges rather than barriers. For better or worse, the opposite coast lines are part and parcel of Europe’s future. This seems to be evident in the case of the Atlantic Ocean although transatlantic relations are going through a period of deep redefinition since the binding glue of the common enmities of the Cold War is no more. The Baltic Sea is rediscovering that it is the magnetic force which brings its adjacent nations closer together than ever before since centuries. The Black Sea has only begun to discover the meaning and potential of the very same fact. The North Sea is still defining the global view of countries such as Iceland and Norway, while the Caspian Sea is being reinvented as a function of its sea-bed and the surrounding oil and gas fields.
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