Perpetual borders: German-Polish cross-border contacts in the Szczecin area

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Balogh, Péter
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Stockholm University
Borderlands are often peripheral geographically, administratively, and economically. A particularly illustrative case is the Szczecin area at the border between Poland and Germany, where a largecity on one side neighbours to a sparsely populated hinterland on the other. There is a number of similar cases throughout Europe, but studies on them point to a mixed level of linkages following the opening and removal of the physical border.At the project’s start there were few if any studies on the Szczecin area per se, which was here studied through various methods. On the one hand, different pre-EU enlargement plans and visions for the area’s development were compared with practices and realities ofrecent years. This shows that earlier imaginations on the development potentials have not quite materialised, although some of them were probably too optimistic and ambitious from the beginning. Some of the area’s potentials following EU-enlargement have been more successfully exploited than others, and disproportionately by actors coming from outside. On the other hand, cross-border contacts were studied in the discourses on and attitudes towards the other side among local and regional elites, and among local residents more generally. This revealed a polarised attitudinal landscape, not least when compared to country-wide opinion surveys in both Germany and Poland. This is in line with other studies showing that identities are particularly accentuated in border situations, where the Other is more frequently encountered.These results support recent investigations pointing to a continued relevance of the border even after the physical barriers are removed. At the same time, another contribution of this workto border studies is that the time and contingency of the importance of identities and of the border needs more attention. In the Szczecin area, awareness of national identities and of the boundary appeared to be particularly high just after changes in the border’s status occurred –i.e. in 1989–1991, and then around the years 2007–2010. But while its importance may be fluctuating over time, given the opportunities and resources the boundary provides it will always be maintained in some forms.
Szczecin , határmenti térség - Németország - Lengyelország , határmenti térségfejlesztés , nemzeti identitás , határkutatás