Trends in Southeast Asia: The politics of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

Saturday,2014
A People’s SAARC protest in Kathmandu.

 
The 18th South Asian Associations for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit took place at Kathmandu, Nepal on November 25 and 26. The heads of the eight states of South Asia took part in the summit.
Kathmandu was a showcase of what has happened repeatedly in the three decades since the birth of the SAARC. Leaders make rhetorical speeches and spend time on expensive retreats and sightseeing — then head home forgetting what was said in the summit hall.
“SAARC remains largely ineffective, hostage to the political polemics of member-nations particularly India and Pakistan,” said Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of the International Relations department of Dhaka University.
A People’s SAARC summit was held as an alternative in Kathmandu from November 22-25. About 5000 social and political activists took part its opening ceremony on November 22. There were 71 workshops held to discuss an alternative agenda for SAARC heads of the state to consider.
It was organised by People’s SAARC Steering Committee, made up of 14 leading activists from all eight countries of the region.
Three agreements were supposed to be signed at the 18th SAARC summit to improve road and rail connections, and integrate power trade in the region.
The eight-member countries of SAARC are India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Since its inception in 1985, SAARC signed a number of agreements and conventions, but faltered in translating ideas into collective actions.
For an instance, the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism was inked in 1987, within two years of the group’s birth. Extra protocols to the convention updated the strategies in 2004. But, in reality, it was not effective, as several South Asian nations have seen a rise in terrorism.
There are other examples as well. The SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement, which was finalised in 1993, came into effect in 1995. It was followed by the South Asian Free Trade Agreement in 2004. But those remain unimplemented, as issues of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers are yet to be addressed.
Moreover, the SAARC Food Bank Agreement was signed in 2007, but it is yet to be implemented. SAARC Development Fund was constituted in 2008 and SAARC Seed Bank in 2011, but none of those has seen much success.
Two of the important SAARC countries, Pakistan and India have been close to war on several occasions during the last 30 years of its existence. Border clashes have become a norm in recent months particularly since Indian Prime Minister Nardner Modi has come into power in India.
Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Modi both shook hands and spoke informally for five minutes. That was all what they had to offer each other. The two nuclear-armed nations have already broken the thread of negotiation earlier this year after some clashes at the border of Kashmir, a territory both countries claim as their own.
The SAARC summit failed to address the growing threat posed by religious fundamentalists groups. The ascendance of religious extremism and intolerance is a serious challenge to democracy in the region.
Pluralism and diversity, which are the hallmark of the region, are under threat from such groups, which often enjoy overt or covert patronage from the state. Women’s rights and other freedoms are the first to be targeted by extremist groups.
The region is fraught with conflicts. Security is diminishing and governments’ militaristic response, far from resolving these conflicts, is undermining the rule of law and increasing insecurity.
The number of conflict-induced internally displaced persons and refugees in the region have spiraled.
People’s rights have deteriorated in recent years, in particular, to freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to protest.
Freedom of press remains threatened and the independence of the media is seriously compromised by the growing influence and control of vested interests, including the corporate sector.
The preparation for this SAARC summit was going on for months in one of the poorest country in the region. In Kathmandu, there was a big drive to clean most roads on the way to venue. The ruling elite in all SAARC countries very fond of the impressionist strategy of cleaning the roads prior to such meetings.
It will be business as usual after the event is over. I personally saw soldiers cleaning the roads of Kathmandu three days before the main event. This is a rare scene in most countries of South Asia. Soldiers are normally there to rule, not clean the streets.
The People’s SAARC summit issued a joint declaration after holding all of its seminars, workshops and other events to formulate a joint strategy and point of view. It reaffirmed commitments to justice, peace, security, human rights and democracy in the region on the basis of equality for all and the elimination of all forms of discrimination.
The declaration said that peoples must unite to challenge the systematic and structural marginalisation and exclusion of people through the dominant neoliberal economic model.
This model is violently restructuring the region’s economic policies and cultural life, and undermining and devaluing the values and institutions of democracy.
We have come together to resist the threat to democracy from chauvinism, sectarianism, and communalism. Increased securitisation and militarisation of states and society in the name of combating terrorism and defending national security and increasing arbitrary detention, torture, custodial rape and extra-judicial killings have reduced space for democratic dissent and freedoms.
We have come together to respond to new challenges that have emerged in the form of climate change and environmental degradation which are of transnational dimensions; extraction of natural resources; food, water and energy crisis; and resource grab by governments and corporates.
We must fight growing violence against women and girls, lower caste members, various tribal groups and indigenous peoples. Must must oppose discrimination against all minorities, including religious, sexual, linguistic, cultural and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees.
The systematic and structural processes and practices of discrimination further reinforce and reconstitute traditional forms of exploitative and oppressive structures. This includes patriarchy and caste, which are recreated in new forms, in the name of progress, modernisation and reform.
The People’s SAARC noted the renewed focus on SAARC by member countries and believes its stated goals of “deeper integration for peace and prosperity” is possible only when this cooperation goes beyond the interests of regional elites and corporations.
It must allow socio-economic empowerment and enable the people of South Asia to build their regional identity. It must push just and sustainable development towards re-shaping the democratic institutions.
The official SAARC summit issued a long statement filled with empty word on issues of regional cooperation, combating terrorism, poverty alleviation, development goals, food security, the environment, women’s rights and access to health and education.
The South Asian region features some of the world’s worst human development indicators. According to conservative estimates, 44% of the population of India lives in poverty on less than US$1 a day.
In Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the statistics are slightly better — at 38%, 31% and 29% respectively. In Bhutan and Afghanistan, where data is unavailable, the proportion of people living on US$1 a day or less is likely comparable with India in Bhutan’s case and much higher in Afghanistan.
Internationally, South Asia has the worst indicators for female illiteracy and has very poor rates of child mortality.
The reason is simple. All the countries of South Asia are implementing neoliberal agendas. They are busy in privatising and taking loans from International Monetary Fund and World Bank that come with neoliberal conditions.
Capitalism in all the countries has ensured there is a great divide among the population. Some of the world’s most most rich people can be found in India as well as the most poor. Feudalism remain intact in various forms, while religious fundamentalism has emerged one of the region’s most threatening challenges.
In India and Pakistan, there is race to increase military spending and other countries are not far behind. There is no education for all, but Indian and Pakistani rulers are proud to be part of so-called nuclear nation club.
The SAARC process has become a laughing stock despite the high expectations the summit built after the friendly gestures from all the head of the states.
It is the process of the People’s SAARC that can have a positive effect by bringing together the real representatives of the people. An integrated, nuclear-free, nuclear free South Asia is still a dream to be realised.
 
[Farooq Tariq is a member of the core committee of the People’s SAARC and is general secretary of Pakistan’s Awami Workers Party.]
 
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By Tang Siew Mun
 
Asia needs US$8.22 trillion to fund its infrastructure investment from 2010 to 2020, and existing lending institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are unable to meet these requirements. Asia’s annual funding requirement of US$747.5 billion is 4.5 times more than the ADB’s subscribed capital.
 
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) can potentially provide up to US$30 billion of funding a year. This would be on average three times more than the loans approved by the ADB in 2011–13.
 
Every geographical region — except North and Central America — is represented in the AIIB. The United States and Japan are the only East Asia Summit members not in the AIIB. Japan is also the only major Asian economy that has not committed to joining.
 
The participation of European countries transforms the AIIB from a regional institution with a singular power base (China) to an entity that is broad-based and inclusive. The “European weight” was particularly important in redressing the institutional imbalance skewed in China’s favour and may reduce small states’ concerns about Chinese domination.
 
Washington’s response to the AIIB initiative has been a strategic misreading that failed to anticipate its allies’ reactions in warming up to and eventually supporting the proposal. East Asian countries will now be watching what effect the Chinese initiative and American non-participation will have on the U.S. rebalance to Asia.
 
The AIIB effectively breaks the American, European and Japanese monopoly on global financing, and concomitantly provides China with a new mechanism to expand its political influence in the region and make a bid for regional leadership. It signals the changing order in Asia.
 
China’s management of the AIIB will indicate to Southeast Asia how China exercises its large and still growing power. Whether China will opt for just and benevolent leadership or one exercised with an iron fist will decide the region’s perceptions of China.
 
In bankrolling the AIIB, China is stepping up to assume its responsibility as a major power in committing financial resources, having political will, and espousing a long-term view and sustained interest to drive and lead regional development.
 
See paper here

Nepal: People's SAARC challenges regional elite's agenda

Saturday, December 6, 2014
A People’s SAARC protest in Kathmandu.

 
The 18th South Asian Associations for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit took place at Kathmandu, Nepal on November 25 and 26. The heads of the eight states of South Asia took part in the summit.
Kathmandu was a showcase of what has happened repeatedly in the three decades since the birth of the SAARC. Leaders make rhetorical speeches and spend time on expensive retreats and sightseeing — then head home forgetting what was said in the summit hall.
“SAARC remains largely ineffective, hostage to the political polemics of member-nations particularly India and Pakistan,” said Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of the International Relations department of Dhaka University.
A People’s SAARC summit was held as an alternative in Kathmandu from November 22-25. About 5000 social and political activists took part its opening ceremony on November 22. There were 71 workshops held to discuss an alternative agenda for SAARC heads of the state to consider.
It was organised by People’s SAARC Steering Committee, made up of 14 leading activists from all eight countries of the region.
Three agreements were supposed to be signed at the 18th SAARC summit to improve road and rail connections, and integrate power trade in the region.
The eight-member countries of SAARC are India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Since its inception in 1985, SAARC signed a number of agreements and conventions, but faltered in translating ideas into collective actions.
For an instance, the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism was inked in 1987, within two years of the group’s birth. Extra protocols to the convention updated the strategies in 2004. But, in reality, it was not effective, as several South Asian nations have seen a rise in terrorism.
There are other examples as well. The SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement, which was finalised in 1993, came into effect in 1995. It was followed by the South Asian Free Trade Agreement in 2004. But those remain unimplemented, as issues of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers are yet to be addressed.
Moreover, the SAARC Food Bank Agreement was signed in 2007, but it is yet to be implemented. SAARC Development Fund was constituted in 2008 and SAARC Seed Bank in 2011, but none of those has seen much success.
Two of the important SAARC countries, Pakistan and India have been close to war on several occasions during the last 30 years of its existence. Border clashes have become a norm in recent months particularly since Indian Prime Minister Nardner Modi has come into power in India.
Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Modi both shook hands and spoke informally for five minutes. That was all what they had to offer each other. The two nuclear-armed nations have already broken the thread of negotiation earlier this year after some clashes at the border of Kashmir, a territory both countries claim as their own.
The SAARC summit failed to address the growing threat posed by religious fundamentalists groups. The ascendance of religious extremism and intolerance is a serious challenge to democracy in the region.
Pluralism and diversity, which are the hallmark of the region, are under threat from such groups, which often enjoy overt or covert patronage from the state. Women’s rights and other freedoms are the first to be targeted by extremist groups.
The region is fraught with conflicts. Security is diminishing and governments’ militaristic response, far from resolving these conflicts, is undermining the rule of law and increasing insecurity.
The number of conflict-induced internally displaced persons and refugees in the region have spiraled.
People’s rights have deteriorated in recent years, in particular, to freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to protest.
Freedom of press remains threatened and the independence of the media is seriously compromised by the growing influence and control of vested interests, including the corporate sector.
The preparation for this SAARC summit was going on for months in one of the poorest country in the region. In Kathmandu, there was a big drive to clean most roads on the way to venue. The ruling elite in all SAARC countries very fond of the impressionist strategy of cleaning the roads prior to such meetings.
It will be business as usual after the event is over. I personally saw soldiers cleaning the roads of Kathmandu three days before the main event. This is a rare scene in most countries of South Asia. Soldiers are normally there to rule, not clean the streets.
The People’s SAARC summit issued a joint declaration after holding all of its seminars, workshops and other events to formulate a joint strategy and point of view. It reaffirmed commitments to justice, peace, security, human rights and democracy in the region on the basis of equality for all and the elimination of all forms of discrimination.
The declaration said that peoples must unite to challenge the systematic and structural marginalisation and exclusion of people through the dominant neoliberal economic model.
This model is violently restructuring the region’s economic policies and cultural life, and undermining and devaluing the values and institutions of democracy.
We have come together to resist the threat to democracy from chauvinism, sectarianism, and communalism. Increased securitisation and militarisation of states and society in the name of combating terrorism and defending national security and increasing arbitrary detention, torture, custodial rape and extra-judicial killings have reduced space for democratic dissent and freedoms.
We have come together to respond to new challenges that have emerged in the form of climate change and environmental degradation which are of transnational dimensions; extraction of natural resources; food, water and energy crisis; and resource grab by governments and corporates.
We must fight growing violence against women and girls, lower caste members, various tribal groups and indigenous peoples. Must must oppose discrimination against all minorities, including religious, sexual, linguistic, cultural and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees.
The systematic and structural processes and practices of discrimination further reinforce and reconstitute traditional forms of exploitative and oppressive structures. This includes patriarchy and caste, which are recreated in new forms, in the name of progress, modernisation and reform.
The People’s SAARC noted the renewed focus on SAARC by member countries and believes its stated goals of “deeper integration for peace and prosperity” is possible only when this cooperation goes beyond the interests of regional elites and corporations.
It must allow socio-economic empowerment and enable the people of South Asia to build their regional identity. It must push just and sustainable development towards re-shaping the democratic institutions.
The official SAARC summit issued a long statement filled with empty word on issues of regional cooperation, combating terrorism, poverty alleviation, development goals, food security, the environment, women’s rights and access to health and education.
The South Asian region features some of the world’s worst human development indicators. According to conservative estimates, 44% of the population of India lives in poverty on less than US$1 a day.
In Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the statistics are slightly better — at 38%, 31% and 29% respectively. In Bhutan and Afghanistan, where data is unavailable, the proportion of people living on US$1 a day or less is likely comparable with India in Bhutan’s case and much higher in Afghanistan.
Internationally, South Asia has the worst indicators for female illiteracy and has very poor rates of child mortality.
The reason is simple. All the countries of South Asia are implementing neoliberal agendas. They are busy in privatising and taking loans from International Monetary Fund and World Bank that come with neoliberal conditions.
Capitalism in all the countries has ensured there is a great divide among the population. Some of the world’s most most rich people can be found in India as well as the most poor. Feudalism remain intact in various forms, while religious fundamentalism has emerged one of the region’s most threatening challenges.
In India and Pakistan, there is race to increase military spending and other countries are not far behind. There is no education for all, but Indian and Pakistani rulers are proud to be part of so-called nuclear nation club.
The SAARC process has become a laughing stock despite the high expectations the summit built after the friendly gestures from all the head of the states.
It is the process of the People’s SAARC that can have a positive effect by bringing together the real representatives of the people. An integrated, nuclear-free, nuclear free South Asia is still a dream to be realised.
 
[Farooq Tariq is a member of the core committee of the People’s SAARC and is general secretary of Pakistan’s Awami Workers Party.]
 
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Economic integration for whom?

Nepal: People’s SAARC challenges regional elite’s agenda

Saturday,December 6, 2014
A People’s SAARC protest in Kathmandu.

The 18th South Asian Associations for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit took place at Kathmandu, Nepal on November 25 and 26. The heads of the eight states of South Asia took part in the summit.
Kathmandu was a showcase of what has happened repeatedly in the three decades since the birth of the SAARC. Leaders make rhetorical speeches and spend time on expensive retreats and sightseeing — then head home forgetting what was said in the summit hall.
“SAARC remains largely ineffective, hostage to the political polemics of member-nations particularly India and Pakistan,” said Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of the International Relations department of Dhaka University.
A People’s SAARC summit was held as an alternative in Kathmandu from November 22-25. About 5000 social and political activists took part its opening ceremony on November 22. There were 71 workshops held to discuss an alternative agenda for SAARC heads of the state to consider.
It was organised by People’s SAARC Steering Committee, made up of 14 leading activists from all eight countries of the region.
Three agreements were supposed to be signed at the 18th SAARC summit to improve road and rail connections, and integrate power trade in the region.
The eight-member countries of SAARC are India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Since its inception in 1985, SAARC signed a number of agreements and conventions, but faltered in translating ideas into collective actions.
For an instance, the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism was inked in 1987, within two years of the group’s birth. Extra protocols to the convention updated the strategies in 2004. But, in reality, it was not effective, as several South Asian nations have seen a rise in terrorism.
There are other examples as well. The SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement, which was finalised in 1993, came into effect in 1995. It was followed by the South Asian Free Trade Agreement in 2004. But those remain unimplemented, as issues of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers are yet to be addressed.
Moreover, the SAARC Food Bank Agreement was signed in 2007, but it is yet to be implemented. SAARC Development Fund was constituted in 2008 and SAARC Seed Bank in 2011, but none of those has seen much success.
Two of the important SAARC countries, Pakistan and India have been close to war on several occasions during the last 30 years of its existence. Border clashes have become a norm in recent months particularly since Indian Prime Minister Nardner Modi has come into power in India.
Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Modi both shook hands and spoke informally for five minutes. That was all what they had to offer each other. The two nuclear-armed nations have already broken the thread of negotiation earlier this year after some clashes at the border of Kashmir, a territory both countries claim as their own.
The SAARC summit failed to address the growing threat posed by religious fundamentalists groups. The ascendance of religious extremism and intolerance is a serious challenge to democracy in the region.
Pluralism and diversity, which are the hallmark of the region, are under threat from such groups, which often enjoy overt or covert patronage from the state. Women’s rights and other freedoms are the first to be targeted by extremist groups.
The region is fraught with conflicts. Security is diminishing and governments’ militaristic response, far from resolving these conflicts, is undermining the rule of law and increasing insecurity.
The number of conflict-induced internally displaced persons and refugees in the region have spiraled.
People’s rights have deteriorated in recent years, in particular, to freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to protest.
Freedom of press remains threatened and the independence of the media is seriously compromised by the growing influence and control of vested interests, including the corporate sector.
The preparation for this SAARC summit was going on for months in one of the poorest country in the region. In Kathmandu, there was a big drive to clean most roads on the way to venue. The ruling elite in all SAARC countries very fond of the impressionist strategy of cleaning the roads prior to such meetings.
It will be business as usual after the event is over. I personally saw soldiers cleaning the roads of Kathmandu three days before the main event. This is a rare scene in most countries of South Asia. Soldiers are normally there to rule, not clean the streets.
The People’s SAARC summit issued a joint declaration after holding all of its seminars, workshops and other events to formulate a joint strategy and point of view. It reaffirmed commitments to justice, peace, security, human rights and democracy in the region on the basis of equality for all and the elimination of all forms of discrimination.
The declaration said that peoples must unite to challenge the systematic and structural marginalisation and exclusion of people through the dominant neoliberal economic model.
This model is violently restructuring the region’s economic policies and cultural life, and undermining and devaluing the values and institutions of democracy.
We have come together to resist the threat to democracy from chauvinism, sectarianism, and communalism. Increased securitisation and militarisation of states and society in the name of combating terrorism and defending national security and increasing arbitrary detention, torture, custodial rape and extra-judicial killings have reduced space for democratic dissent and freedoms.
We have come together to respond to new challenges that have emerged in the form of climate change and environmental degradation which are of transnational dimensions; extraction of natural resources; food, water and energy crisis; and resource grab by governments and corporates.
We must fight growing violence against women and girls, lower caste members, various tribal groups and indigenous peoples. Must must oppose discrimination against all minorities, including religious, sexual, linguistic, cultural and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees.
The systematic and structural processes and practices of discrimination further reinforce and reconstitute traditional forms of exploitative and oppressive structures. This includes patriarchy and caste, which are recreated in new forms, in the name of progress, modernisation and reform.
The People’s SAARC noted the renewed focus on SAARC by member countries and believes its stated goals of “deeper integration for peace and prosperity” is possible only when this cooperation goes beyond the interests of regional elites and corporations.
It must allow socio-economic empowerment and enable the people of South Asia to build their regional identity. It must push just and sustainable development towards re-shaping the democratic institutions.
The official SAARC summit issued a long statement filled with empty word on issues of regional cooperation, combating terrorism, poverty alleviation, development goals, food security, the environment, women’s rights and access to health and education.
The South Asian region features some of the world’s worst human development indicators. According to conservative estimates, 44% of the population of India lives in poverty on less than US$1 a day.
In Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the statistics are slightly better — at 38%, 31% and 29% respectively. In Bhutan and Afghanistan, where data is unavailable, the proportion of people living on US$1 a day or less is likely comparable with India in Bhutan’s case and much higher in Afghanistan.
Internationally, South Asia has the worst indicators for female illiteracy and has very poor rates of child mortality.
The reason is simple. All the countries of South Asia are implementing neoliberal agendas. They are busy in privatising and taking loans from International Monetary Fund and World Bank that come with neoliberal conditions.
Capitalism in all the countries has ensured there is a great divide among the population. Some of the world’s most most rich people can be found in India as well as the most poor. Feudalism remain intact in various forms, while religious fundamentalism has emerged one of the region’s most threatening challenges.
In India and Pakistan, there is race to increase military spending and other countries are not far behind. There is no education for all, but Indian and Pakistani rulers are proud to be part of so-called nuclear nation club.
The SAARC process has become a laughing stock despite the high expectations the summit built after the friendly gestures from all the head of the states.
It is the process of the People’s SAARC that can have a positive effect by bringing together the real representatives of the people. An integrated, nuclear-free, nuclear free South Asia is still a dream to be realised.

[Farooq Tariq is a member of the core committee of the People’s SAARC and is general secretary of Pakistan’s Awami Workers Party.]

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por Marcelo Saguier
El artículo analiza las condiciones en las que la UNASUR podría facilitar una estrategia regional de aprovechamiento de la minería para el desarrollo integral. Ello depende de que logre fortalecer las capacidades de los estados de intervenir en el mercado de minerales, regular la minería y democratizar las políticas mineras.

Descargar de: http://rrii.flacso.org.ar/Doc/mineria-para-el-desarrollo-integral-en-la-estrategia-de-unasur/
por Marcelo Saguier
El artículo analiza las condiciones en las que la UNASUR podría facilitar una estrategia regional de aprovechamiento de la minería para el desarrollo integral. Ello depende de que logre fortalecer las capacidades de los estados de intervenir en el mercado de minerales, regular la minería y democratizar las políticas mineras.

Descargar de: http://rrii.flacso.org.ar/Doc/mineria-para-el-desarrollo-integral-en-la-estrategia-de-unasur/
por Marcelo Saguier
El artículo analiza las condiciones en las que la UNASUR podría facilitar una estrategia regional de aprovechamiento de la minería para el desarrollo integral. Ello depende de que logre fortalecer las capacidades de los estados de intervenir en el mercado de minerales, regular la minería y democratizar las políticas mineras.

Descargar de: http://rrii.flacso.org.ar/Doc/mineria-para-el-desarrollo-integral-en-la-estrategia-de-unasur/
por Marcelo Saguier
El artículo analiza las condiciones en las que la UNASUR podría facilitar una estrategia regional de aprovechamiento de la minería para el desarrollo integral. Ello depende de que logre fortalecer las capacidades de los estados de intervenir en el mercado de minerales, regular la minería y democratizar las políticas mineras.

Descargar de: http://rrii.flacso.org.ar/Doc/mineria-para-el-desarrollo-integral-en-la-estrategia-de-unasur/
por Marcelo Saguier
El artículo analiza las condiciones en las que la UNASUR podría facilitar una estrategia regional de aprovechamiento de la minería para el desarrollo integral. Ello depende de que logre fortalecer las capacidades de los estados de intervenir en el mercado de minerales, regular la minería y democratizar las políticas mineras.

Descargar de: http://rrii.flacso.org.ar/Doc/mineria-para-el-desarrollo-integral-en-la-estrategia-de-unasur/


por Marcelo Saguier
El artículo analiza las condiciones en las que la UNASUR podría facilitar una estrategia regional de aprovechamiento de la minería para el desarrollo integral. Ello depende de que logre fortalecer las capacidades de los estados de intervenir en el mercado de minerales, regular la minería y democratizar las políticas mineras.

Descargar de: http://rrii.flacso.org.ar/Doc/mineria-para-el-desarrollo-integral-en-la-estrategia-de-unasur/


By Dorothy Grace Guerrero
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is less than one year away from launching its Economic Community or AEC, a common market that will comprise 600 million people and have a combined GDP of nearly US$2 trillion (64 trillion baht).
It is being propped up by free trade and investment agreements with the European Union, the United States, Japan, China and other big partners. Proponents claim the expansion in economic activities will benefit the poor by boosting production and consumption in the region, but is it that simple?
Economic forecasts for the 10 Asean economies are positive; the OECD expects average annual GDP growth of over 5% from 2014 to 2018, with Indonesia reaching 6% growth, and the Philippines at 5.8%.
The Asean Blueprint for economic integration under the AEC, signed in 2007 by Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, envisaged our full integration into the global economy. To pursue this, leaders committed to establishing free-market policies for goods, services, investment, money and labour.
So far, this road map isn’t boosting democracy and socio-economic development. The free flow of investment isn’t really promoting people’s well being, or protecting human rights and realising environmental security. The regulations removed by liberalisation are the same ones that used to protect domestic industries, workers, the environment, and consumers.
The experiences of CLMV countries show that unchecked foreign investment leads to land grabbing and natural resource loss. Many developing nations are now learning the bitter lesson that free trade does not operate on a level playing field and the rules always favour rich countries.
Myanmar is about to host the Asean Summit for the first time. The country is now the prime target of transnational corporations eager to open up its market and exploit its resources.
Myanmar’s accession to the AEC effectively completes Asean’s total submission to the regulations of neoliberal capitalism and the principles, policies and processes of economic liberalisation, as well as the commodification and financialisation of irreplaceable natural resources.
The first Asean People’s Forum/Asean Civil Society Conference is taking place in Yangon right now with more than 1,200 representatives from local organisations, NGOs, and advocacy groups that will discuss the gaps in regional community building and the need to make the bloc more responsive to poor people’s needs.
Indeed, many in the region have been critical of the Asean model of economic integration as governments are losing their policy space to protect and nurture domestic industries, which leads to the de-industrialisation of the more advanced capitalist economies and condemns the rest to the status of underdevelopment.
The race to the bottom is making it harder for countries to protect local farmers that are producing food and their infant industries that are producing goods for domestic use as well as for export.
The corporate takeover of governance of the commons and the rolling back of hard-won rights to local access and management of land, forests and water are undermining human rights standards. Unelected and unaccountable negotiators and consultants, often employed by corporations, trade away our rights in exchange for corporate profits.
Our current methods of wealth production rely on dispossessing the poor and criminalising or oppressing those who promote rights-based development. This scenario worsens poverty and inequality. The region’s record on protecting social, environmental and labour standards is poor, and neoliberal market reforms would make it worse.
Asean countries already have high rates of socio-economic inequality. Thailand, among the most prosperous in the region, is now ranked as the most unequal in Asia, and 12th worldwide, followed by Singapore (29th), Malaysia (33rd), the Philippines (36th), and Cambodia (45th).
Despite the huge amount of wealth swirling in the region, around 66 million people are still living below the poverty threshold in Asean-6 countries and 20 million in CLMV.
Clearly, the model is not working. It’s time to recognise that development can only be sustainable when governments can use their economic policies to pursue national interests, protect and promote local industries, pursue redistribution through equal access to quality public services like education, health, electricity, water and sanitation. Asean countries have a long way to go in this respect.
Dorothy Grace Guerrero is a senior programme officer at Focus on the Global South. More information is at focusweb.org

Article found at:http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/400965/economic-integration-for-whom

West Cold-Shoulders Rebuilding Southern Africa

Lorenzo Fioramonti

 

Crises, like those gripping Europe, tend to expose the process and practice of regional governance as technocratic and elite-driven. But citizens and civil society may well demand more voice and power, in a ‘politicisation’ of regions.

In a globalizing world, where old and new evolutions challenge traditional decision making and (nation) states find it increasingly difficult to govern political processes and economic transactions that are ever more cross-boundary in nature, supranational regional governance has proven a powerful tool to address such growing complexity.

As a meso-level between the state and a hypothetical global government, regional organizations have been purposefully created with a view to providing more effective management structures to deal with phenomena and processes transcending the borders of national communities. Traditionally, trans-frontier natural resources were the first common goods to be placed under the administration of regional organizations. For instance, the oldest existing regional organization in the world is the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, an authority established in Europe during the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Its purpose was to manage cross-boundary transports along the river Rhine, which cuts across France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and – in spite of its limited political clout – it set an important precedent for the future evolutions of European integration. The forerunner of the European Economic Community, which then transformed into the European Union, was the European Coal and Steal Community, a supranational authority created to provide common jurisdiction over the most fundamental natural resources of the continent, whose direct control had historically been the main source of conflict in the region.

Nowadays, there is a virtually endless list of regional organizations operating in divers sectors, entrusted with varying degrees of power and decision-making authority. Although most of them only perform specific functions (e.g. natural resources management, conflict prevention, legal advice, customs control, policing, etc.), there has been an increase in the establishment of ‘general purpose’ regional organizations, of which the EU is the most well-known and developed example. Some of them have evolved out of specific trade agreements (e.g. free trade areas), such as the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), while others have been created with a view to guaranteeing security and development, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the African Union (AU). As famously remarked by P. Katzenstein, the contemporary international arena may very well develop into a ‘world of regions’, where openness and cooperation are reinforced by growth in cross-border exchanges and global transformations in interstate relations.

Regions and crises

According to Karl Deutsch, one of the forefathers of regional studies, the most fundamental example of region-building is constituted by so-called ‘security communities’, groupings of countries that share institutional systems to avoid internal conflicts and address common external threats. In this vein, the existence of certain threats (often in the form of fully-fledged conflicts) has been instrumental to the creation of regional organizations. The European integration project emerged out of the ashes of World War II. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was created after the end of colonialism while its successor, the AU, was established to guarantee peace and development in a traditionally troubled continent. Similarly, ASEAN was founded to oppose the advancement of communism in South East Asia and strengthen the small countries of the region vis-à-vis their strong and powerful neighbours.

Supranational regionalism and crises have always been intimately connected, both empirically and theoretically. Yet, although most theoretical approaches appear to discuss crises as potential springboards for more and better regional cooperation/integration, the opposite is equally true. For instance, De Gaulle’s critical stance vis-à-vis the process of European integration (which led to a prolonged institutional crisis in the 1960s) prompted Ernst Haas, the founder of the neo-functionalist approach, to conclude that regional integration theory was ‘obsolete’. The current sovereign-debt crisis (often dubbed as the Euro-crisis) is raising a lot of doubts about the capacity of the EU to weather the storm and re-launch integration of the European continent. Public discourse not only in Europe, but also in the rest of the world, hints at the fact that regional cooperation/ integration does not deal well with ‘rainy days’, when member states tend to become more inward looking and seek refuge in short-sighted nationalism.

The word ‘crisis’ derives from the ancient Greek verb krinein, which means to ‘separate, decide and judge’. As such, it therefore describes events or phenomena that produce change and lead to decisions. Looking at most current events, it is not easy to gauge the extent to which these crises may lead to more regional cooperation/integration or, conversely, to gradual/abrupt disintegration. However, there is little doubt that they present fundamental turning points in the evolution of regional cooperation/integration and pose significant challenges to all stakeholders involved. At the same time, they may very well become opportunities to reassess the usefulness of supranational regions and prospectively re-design a world of new regions.

Euro-crisis and the weakening of the European model

Crises are revelatory moments. They break the repetitive continuity of ordinary processes and present us with unexpected threats and opportunities. As disruptive events, they force us to rethink conventional wisdom and become imaginative. In the evolution of political institutions, crises have been fundamental turning points opening up new space for governance innovations or, by contrast, reducing the spectrum of available options. They have ushered in phases of progress and prosperity or plummeted our societies into the darkness of parochialism and backwardness.

The current Euro-crisis may have a significant long-term impact on the ‘acceptability’ of regional integration as an end-goal for regionalism not only in Europe, but also in other regions. If the European project fails to deliver the expected outcomes of stability, well-being and solidarity, then it is likely that other regions will refrain from pushing for full-blown integration, perhaps privileging less demanding forms of cooperation. It also appears as if the EU ‘model’ of integration has been severely eroded by the global financial crisis and the turmoil in the Eurozone. There is indeed growing criticism of Eurocentric approaches to regionalism, not only among scholars, but also among leading policy makers. Especially, emerging powers in Africa, Asia and South America are becoming more assertive about the need to find different ways to promote regional governance in a world in which traditional power distributions are being fundamentally called into question. Moreover, the recent popular revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East are likely to reshape geostrategic equilibria in the Mediterranean and possibly usher in a new phase of regional cooperation within the Arab world and also with Europe.  

Citizens and regional governance

Citizens have been the underdogs of regionalism. From Europe, to Africa, Asia and Latin America, civil society has largely been on the receiving end of region-building processes. More often than not, civil society has been intentionally sidelined, while some sympathetic non-governmental organisations have been given the instrumental task of supporting institutions in their efforts at building a regional ‘identity’. In spite of rhetorical references to the importance of civic participation, regionalism has largely developed ‘without the citizens’.

Yet contemporary crises seem to bring ‘the people’ back into the picture, at least insofar as various attempts at regional cooperation and integration stumble upon the ideas, values and expectations of the citizens. The Euro-crisis is not just a matter of scarce liquidity and overexposure of a few national governments and most private banks. It is first and foremost a legitimacy crisis, which is revealing the fundamental limitations of an elite-driven regionalism model. Not disputing the pivotal role that European political elites played in setting the integration process in motion, there is little doubt that ‘deep integration’ will only be achieved when European citizens will have a say over the type of developmental trajectory that the EU should adopt as well as its ultimate goals. Looking at the astonishing amount of public resources channelled to rescue private banks in comparison to the harsh austerity plans enforced on allegedly profligate Member States, one cannot help but ask the question: what actual interests drive regionalism in the world?

Most observers have been traditionally looking at regionalization processes as politically neutral phenomena in international affairs. Research in this field has been generally restricted to the ‘quantity’ of regionalism, rather than its ‘quality’. Whether it is to explain the gradual devolution of authority from nation states to supranational institutions (as is the case with neo-functionalism) or whether it is to demonstrate the continuous bargaining process involving national governments (as is the case with intergovernmentalism), mainstream approaches to regional cooperation and integration have refrained from looking at the quality of regionalization processes. Will there be more or fewer regions in the world? Will regional institutions replace the nation state? Will regional governance become predominant in the years to come? Granted, these are very important questions and deserve to be examined in depth, especially in academic circles. Yet, the current crises force us to assess the state of regionalism in the world not only in terms of its predominance and diffusion, but also – and more importantly – in terms of how it contributes, if any, towards the well-being of our societies.  

Most ‘models’ and ‘practices’ of regionalism have tended to exclude the diversity of voices and roles in society. They have often served the specific interests of ruling elites (as in Latin America and Africa), the ambitions of hegemonic actors (as in Europe and Asia) or the agendas of industrial and financial powers. Moreover, through their apparently neutral technocratic character, most attempts at regional cooperation and integration have aimed to obscure the fact that there are always winners and losers in regionalism processes. 

This top-down model is being increasingly challenged. Overlapping crises and the redistribution of power at the global level call into question the capacity of regions to deliver on their promises, thus unveiling the unavoidable political character of any model of regionalism. In response to the growing cost of regionalism, citizens want to have more say over future regional trajectories and exercise their democratic powers. As a consequence, regionalism is evolving from a ‘closed’ process, designed and packaged by a small circle of political and economic elites, to an ‘open’ process, in which democratic participation and accountability are playing an ever more important role. Borrowing from the jargon of Internet users, one may say that regions are transitioning from a 1.0 phase dominated by technocrats to a 2.0 stage characterised by horizontal networks, alternative models and citizens’ contestations.

The EU, undoubtedly the most advanced and successful example of regionalism in the world, is now experiencing the direst consequences of such a transition. Amid rising unemployment, social malaise and growing discontent for the lack of accountability of national and regional politics, millions of citizens have been protesting against the Union and its political and economic agenda. Contrary to what eurosceptics would have us believe, these citizens do not call for less Europe: they want a different Europe. They would like regional integration to be more about connecting cultures and individuals and less about supporting capital. They would like their regional institutions to focus on helping the unemployed rather than bailing out bankrupt banks. They would like to see more solidarity across classes and generations, rather than less. They would like cooperation to be about building a different future instead of reshuffling old ideas. The future of regionalism may very well entail a growing ‘politicisation’ of regions, whereby citizens and civil society demand more voice and power in influencing not just general principles and values, but also the long-term political trajectories of their regions.

 

Source: Open Democracy

LILONGWE/JOHANNESBURG, Aug 29 2013 (IPS) – The Southern African Development Community has had to revisit its plans to raise funding for its ambitious regional development plan in the wake of a cold-shoulder from western nations and multilateral finance institutions.

“Nobody has come forward to fund any of the projects we have outlined. I have been to Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, among other countries,” SADC deputy executive secretary for regional integration Joao Samuel Caholo told IPS.

“What is holding us back as SADC is our inability to fund our own priorities and programmes. Therefore, a sustainable funding mechanism has to be established if we are to show that we are committed and progressing.”

However, development experts have questioned whether SADC is sufficiently mature to handle ambitious projects such as the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), which is estimated to cost 500 billion dollars.

The RIDMP aims to rebuild the region’s deficit road, rail and ports infrastructure, increase its power-generation capacity, and establish communication and weather systems. Access to water, and providing the infrastructure for its distribution is also a priority.

“SADC has the potential and we are asking for the goodwill of all member states. Let them put in the seed money,” said the outgoing executive secretary.

The long-awaited SADC Development Fund will be modelled on the European Investment Bank and other regional funding ventures. SADC countries will initially contribute 1.2 billion dollars or 51 percent. The private sector and international partners will contribute the remaining 37 and 12 percent respectively.

Contributions will be over a five-year period starting in 2013 based on a country’s affordability, institutional capacity and other criteria, which Caholo was reluctant to divulge.

“If after five years a country fails to pay its contribution, its shares will be recalled and distributed among the complying states so that the 51 percent shareholding by African states is maintained,” Caholo said.

However, a member state will still be able to access funds for its development projects as outlined in the RIDMP.

Professor Eltie Links, the chairperson of Doing Business in Africa at South Africa’s University of Stellenbosch Business School, told IPS that “SADC as a regional body would have to think about the objectives and the management of a new financing arm.”

“The fact that the region comprises a number of countries with varied levels of development makes it essential that some or other form of assistance be given to economies that are suffering in the development sphere. This, however, can only be afforded if there is sufficient economic and financial muscle in the regional body,” Links said.

He said there was no doubt about the need for more infrastructure development in the region, but development aid channelled through SADC “will always be at the cost of the bilateral support given by these same [donor] countries to the region’s needy countries. This aid funding pool has always been finite.”

He suggested that donors would need to be convinced that SADC is now at a stage where it can handle multi-billion dollar projects.

“SADC’s record as an institution that is well organised and governed has been questioned in the past. To the extent that these perceptions of a body with challenges in governance still persist, it will not get the type of support needed for a project financing arm.

“It will also have to demonstrate the ability to administer and manage such funding and projects; something it has not been able to prove beyond any doubt.”

This view was echoed by the chief executive officer of the Frontier Advisory consultancy, Martyn Davies, who argued that the SADC secretariat should not be the body that seeks to fund projects, and should instead focus on coordinating and bringing projects to the point of bankability.

“SADC, unfortunately, does not do enough in harmonising pursuits towards regional integration, and needs to do more of the basics toward promoting the facilitation of trade and capital flow in the region,” Davies told IPS.

“Donors regularly work with SADC, but the more important engagement should be with big business, and this is currently insufficient. There needs to be greater communication from SADC as to its role and also outreach to and engagement with business in order to better implement these goals.”

Trade consultant John Mare agreed that initially SADC should play more of a coordination role.

Mare told IPS a new funding institution was not needed as “there are already too many others – but SADC can help shape bankable projects and relate them to SADC priorities.”

He added that there was a need for better capacities inside SADC to work on such projects and, especially, a greater need for coordinating mechanisms between all stakeholders at national and regional levels.

“A key challenge is to improve SADC coordination with other regional organisations in which many SADC members are also members. It is crucially important that this happens – and the tragedy is that SADC is said to have more capacity than many other regional organisations in Africa,” Mare said.

He added that while there were many potential projects in Africa, what was missing was driving mechanisms for these projects.

Davies agreed there is no shortage of projects, but suggested “the challenge lies in fostering cooperation between the respective governments and bringing the projects to bankability.”

“I have never seen a good project that cannot get funding when politics is aligned.”

Originally published by IPS.

Declaration "SADC We want: acting together -­ ensuring accountability!" (9th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum)

Author: Ilene Grabel
Working Paper, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, malady
June 2012

Abstract:

The current crisis is proving to be productive of institutional experimentation in the realm of financial architecture(s) in the developing world. The drive toward experimentation arose out of the East Asian financial crisis of 1997?98, which provoked some developing countries to take steps to insulate themselves from future turbulence, IMF sanctions, and intrusions into policy space. I argue that there are diverse, unambiguous indications that the global financial architecture is now evolving in ways that contribute to a new institutional heterogeneity. In some policy and institutional innovations we see the emergence of financial architecture that is far less US- and IMF?centric than has been the norm over the past several decades. Moreover, the growing economic might, self? confidence and assertiveness on the part of policymakers in some developing countries (and, at the same time, the attendant uncertainties surrounding the economies of the USA and Europe) is disrupting the traditional modes of financial governance and dispersing power across the global financial system.

In making these arguments it is important not to overstate the case. It is far too early to be certain that lasting, radical changes in the global financial architecture are afoot, or that the developments now underway are secure. Nor am I arguing that all regions of the developing world either enjoy the opportunity and/or have the means to participate in the process of reshaping the global financial architecture. Rather, my goal is more modest. I show here that today there are numerous opportunities for policy and institutional experimentation, and there are clear signs that these opportunities are being exploited in a variety of distinct ways. As compared to any other moment over the last several decades, we see clear signs of fissures, realignments and institutional changes in the structures of financial governance across the global South. I have elsewhere characterized this current state of affairs as one of “productive incoherence.” I use this term to capture the proliferation of institutional innovations and policy responses that have been given impetus by the crisis, and the ways in which the current crisis has started to erode the stifling neo?liberal consensus that has secured and deepened neo?liberalism across the developing world over the past several decades.

The productive incoherence of the current crisis is apparent in the emergence of a denser, multi-layered and more heterogeneous Southern financial architecture. The current crisis has induced a broadening of the mission and reach of some existing regional, sub?regional, bilateral, and national financial institutions and arrangements, and has stimulated discussions of entirely new arrangements. In some limited cases these institutions and arrangements substitute for the Bretton Woods institutions. This substitution is most pronounced in cases when the Bretton Woods institutions have failed or have been slow to respond to calls for support, or when they have responded to such requests with conditionality that has been overly constraining of national policy space. But in most cases, the institutions and arrangements that I discuss here complement the global financial architecture. I will argue in what follows that recent changes in the Southern financial landscape increase its potential to promote financial stability and resilience, support the development of long-run productive capacities, advance aims consistent with human development, and expand national policy space. Moreover, the emergence of a vibrant Southern financial architecture is not simply additive. Rather it may prove transformative, insofar as the Bretton Woods institutions are pushed to respond to long?standing concerns regarding their legitimacy, governance, and conditionalities.

 

 

Download full report

By Tjiurimo Hengari

 

The 19th summit of the African Union (AU) from 9-16 July in Addis Ababa will in all likelihood not be ordinary, purchase as it will mark a decade since the transformation of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) into the AU in 2002 in Durban, South Africa. Crucially, ten years on, the July summit theme ‘Boosting Intra-African Trade’ captures a new agenda and the importance of economic growth and trade integration as essential aspects in the continent’s integration in the global economy.

While the OAU manifestly fulfilled its role and historical mandate of decolonisation, the vision and mandate of the AU is largely premised on development, including economic and political integration of the African continent. In light of this developmental premise and emphasis in its Constitutive Act, which entered into force on May 26, 2002, the AU represents a major shift from the legal, political and institutional framework of its predecessor.

With the summit looming, it is fitting to debate and reflect how this organization has fared a decade on, both in light of its promise of new principles, new thinking, including new approaches to African challenges and governance. These principles and approaches seek to capture on a wide continuum, the nexus between democracy, good governance on the one hand, and on the other Africa’s economic development and integration in the global economy.

Looking back: Ten years since the foundation of the AU

Over the past decade, international relations have gone through profound change. The rise of emerging powers, including China and Brazil have led to a momentous shift, creating new opportunities and threats in Africa’s engagement in international affairs. The global economic contraction in Europe, which started with the global financial crisis in late 2007, has altered the traditional relationship Africa had with key western powers. It has opened Africa’s commodity economies to possible shocks, thus forcing African leaders to accelerate trade integration on the continent, while seeking new partnerships in the developing world.    

On governance, it should be mentioned that the majority of Africa’s 54 states are to varying degrees democratic. There have been slow but steady developments with regard to forms and shapes of democratic governance.

The African Union, for instance, has taken an explicit decision not to recognise countries in which civilian governments have been overthrown by a coup d’état. Also, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), flowing out of the New Economic Partnership for Development (NEPAD) has as its explicit rationale the strengthening of democracies and the accountability mechanisms within it. In Côte d’Ivoire, a democratically elected president finally assumed office in 2011 after a decade of political deadlock and civil strive. In one of Africa’s more or less stable democracies, Senegal, a head of state seeking a de facto third term lost an election early this year and accepted defeat graciously.

Significant progress has been made in creating the institutional infrastructure and processes that are necessary for a more efficient African Union. In addition to these, the African Union has been undertaking crucial peacekeeping missions in various parts of Africa, including Burundi, Sudan and Somalia. The modest successes of these missions can be attributed to good foreign policy collaboration and momentum between Africa’s driver countries, including Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria.

However, as the years wore on, this momentum, also visible in the conceptualisation of Nepad and the APRM seems to have been lost. Moreover, the absence of a coherent state-led, but widely accepted AU approach with regard to conflict resolution and management has created a vacuum in what the AU can do as an institution.  

From an institutional viewpoint, relationships and coordinating mechanisms across diverse issue-areas have been built with various international organisations, including the United Nations and the European Union. Moreover, through the African Union, various attempts had been made with regard to streamlining the activities of regional organisations and economic communities in line with the objectives of the African Union.

Even if modest in their successes, interventions and the legitimisation of the AU’s cross-cutting agenda have allowed Africa to focus on the key challenges of governance, education and economic growth. These have without doubt legitimised the AU as the principal interlocutor in African affairs, worth strengthening.

It deserves mention, however, that the AU is still a work in progress and the past decade of its existence did not mask contradictions between what the AU ambitiously purports to be on the one hand, and the structural and institutional impasse in which it finds itself when it comes to achieving Africa’s developmental aims on the other. A continental institution is a sum of its composite parts. Therefore, it can only be efficient if the constituting membership allows it to function in line with its charter – thereby assuming and building its own institutional dynamism and organisational efficiency.

In light of these challenges, the roadmap that emerges out of the upcoming summit in Addis ought to be transformational and should crucially define the aspirations of the African Union for the next ten years. It will be a missed opportunity if it turns out to be just another summit.

Three Areas for Attention

Three aspects ought to enjoy specific attention. First, in line with its theme the summit should put explicit emphasis on the translation of modest democratic governance into concrete developmental deliverables in African countries. Even if economic growth has been positive over the past decade in many countries, this has not put a dent on widespread poverty and underdevelopment. This does suggest new bridges to be built between African driver countries as a means to bring renewed impetus to Africa’s developmental agenda and coordinated engagement with international actors on economic, environmental and social developmental issues.

Second, more attention should be placed than what has been otherwise the case thus far on the strengthening of regional economic communities as essential anchors in matters of peace, security and development. The past ten years have shown that regional organisations are the best platforms to promote peace, security and development.

As a case in point, under difficult circumstances, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had undertaken commendable work in the promotion of peace in that troubled region. The AU should reinforce such successes by playing a facilitator role based on clearly defined values, norms and objectives. For this to happen, the institutional capacity of the African Union should be strengthened, with more powers devolved to the Commission. A strengthened Commission would allow the institution to develop a coercive soft-power role, while giving it a much more active character in the diffusion of agreed continental norms and objectives.

Third, with the anomaly of two candidates, one from a small country, Jean Ping of Gabon and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma from a big country, South Africa contesting the chairmanship of the AU commission, the summit should provide clear guidelines and principles around leadership of the Commission.

Conclusion

In conclusion, vague and ambitious declarations are less likely to create a more solid African Union as a pivot in Africa’s integration in the global economy. Much of what emerges out of Addis depends on how pragmatic and programmatic the vision of the AU is going forward. African leaders should leave the summit with clearly defined, but manageable outcomes, creating a new dynamic that would address Africa’s chronic challenges.

Tjiurimo HENGARI is the Head of the South African Foreign Poliy and African Drivers Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs, based at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

 

Source: SAIIA

By Tjiurimo Hengari

 

The 19th summit of the African Union (AU) from 9-16 July in Addis Ababa will in all likelihood not be ordinary, as it will mark a decade since the transformation of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) into the AU in 2002 in Durban, South Africa. Crucially, ten years on, the July summit theme ‘Boosting Intra-African Trade’ captures a new agenda and the importance of economic growth and trade integration as essential aspects in the continent’s integration in the global economy.

While the OAU manifestly fulfilled its role and historical mandate of decolonisation, the vision and mandate of the AU is largely premised on development, including economic and political integration of the African continent. In light of this developmental premise and emphasis in its Constitutive Act, which entered into force on May 26, 2002, the AU represents a major shift from the legal, political and institutional framework of its predecessor.

With the summit looming, it is fitting to debate and reflect how this organization has fared a decade on, both in light of its promise of new principles, new thinking, including new approaches to African challenges and governance. These principles and approaches seek to capture on a wide continuum, the nexus between democracy, good governance on the one hand, and on the other Africa’s economic development and integration in the global economy.

Looking back: Ten years since the foundation of the AU

Over the past decade, international relations have gone through profound change. The rise of emerging powers, including China and Brazil have led to a momentous shift, creating new opportunities and threats in Africa’s engagement in international affairs. The global economic contraction in Europe, which started with the global financial crisis in late 2007, has altered the traditional relationship Africa had with key western powers. It has opened Africa’s commodity economies to possible shocks, thus forcing African leaders to accelerate trade integration on the continent, while seeking new partnerships in the developing world.    

On governance, it should be mentioned that the majority of Africa’s 54 states are to varying degrees democratic. There have been slow but steady developments with regard to forms and shapes of democratic governance.

The African Union, for instance, has taken an explicit decision not to recognise countries in which civilian governments have been overthrown by a coup d’état. Also, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), flowing out of the New Economic Partnership for Development (NEPAD) has as its explicit rationale the strengthening of democracies and the accountability mechanisms within it. In Côte d’Ivoire, a democratically elected president finally assumed office in 2011 after a decade of political deadlock and civil strive. In one of Africa’s more or less stable democracies, Senegal, a head of state seeking a de facto third term lost an election early this year and accepted defeat graciously.

Significant progress has been made in creating the institutional infrastructure and processes that are necessary for a more efficient African Union. In addition to these, the African Union has been undertaking crucial peacekeeping missions in various parts of Africa, including Burundi, Sudan and Somalia. The modest successes of these missions can be attributed to good foreign policy collaboration and momentum between Africa’s driver countries, including Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria.

However, as the years wore on, this momentum, also visible in the conceptualisation of Nepad and the APRM seems to have been lost. Moreover, the absence of a coherent state-led, but widely accepted AU approach with regard to conflict resolution and management has created a vacuum in what the AU can do as an institution.  

From an institutional viewpoint, relationships and coordinating mechanisms across diverse issue-areas have been built with various international organisations, including the United Nations and the European Union. Moreover, through the African Union, various attempts had been made with regard to streamlining the activities of regional organisations and economic communities in line with the objectives of the African Union.

Even if modest in their successes, interventions and the legitimisation of the AU’s cross-cutting agenda have allowed Africa to focus on the key challenges of governance, education and economic growth. These have without doubt legitimised the AU as the principal interlocutor in African affairs, worth strengthening.

It deserves mention, however, that the AU is still a work in progress and the past decade of its existence did not mask contradictions between what the AU ambitiously purports to be on the one hand, and the structural and institutional impasse in which it finds itself when it comes to achieving Africa’s developmental aims on the other. A continental institution is a sum of its composite parts. Therefore, it can only be efficient if the constituting membership allows it to function in line with its charter – thereby assuming and building its own institutional dynamism and organisational efficiency.

In light of these challenges, the roadmap that emerges out of the upcoming summit in Addis ought to be transformational and should crucially define the aspirations of the African Union for the next ten years. It will be a missed opportunity if it turns out to be just another summit.

Three Areas for Attention

Three aspects ought to enjoy specific attention. First, in line with its theme the summit should put explicit emphasis on the translation of modest democratic governance into concrete developmental deliverables in African countries. Even if economic growth has been positive over the past decade in many countries, this has not put a dent on widespread poverty and underdevelopment. This does suggest new bridges to be built between African driver countries as a means to bring renewed impetus to Africa’s developmental agenda and coordinated engagement with international actors on economic, environmental and social developmental issues.

Second, more attention should be placed than what has been otherwise the case thus far on the strengthening of regional economic communities as essential anchors in matters of peace, security and development. The past ten years have shown that regional organisations are the best platforms to promote peace, security and development.

As a case in point, under difficult circumstances, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had undertaken commendable work in the promotion of peace in that troubled region. The AU should reinforce such successes by playing a facilitator role based on clearly defined values, norms and objectives. For this to happen, the institutional capacity of the African Union should be strengthened, with more powers devolved to the Commission. A strengthened Commission would allow the institution to develop a coercive soft-power role, while giving it a much more active character in the diffusion of agreed continental norms and objectives.

Third, with the anomaly of two candidates, one from a small country, Jean Ping of Gabon and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma from a big country, South Africa contesting the chairmanship of the AU commission, the summit should provide clear guidelines and principles around leadership of the Commission.

Conclusion

In conclusion, vague and ambitious declarations are less likely to create a more solid African Union as a pivot in Africa’s integration in the global economy. Much of what emerges out of Addis depends on how pragmatic and programmatic the vision of the AU is going forward. African leaders should leave the summit with clearly defined, but manageable outcomes, creating a new dynamic that would address Africa’s chronic challenges.

Tjiurimo HENGARI is the Head of the South African Foreign Poliy and African Drivers Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs, based at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

 

 

9th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum (10-14 August 2013, link
Lilongwe, Malawi)

Representatives of civil society organizations from across the Southern Africa Region, met under the auspices of the Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa (FOCCISA), Southern Africa Development Community – Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (SADC-­?CNGO) and the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) between the 11th to the 14th of August 2013 at the 9th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum issue this statement to the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit scheduled for the 17th?18th August 2013.

Read the Declaration “SADC We want: acting together -­ ensuring accountability!

The themes covered in the Declaration include:

– GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY

* On Democratic Elections

* On Governance

* On Peace and Security

* On Countries

– TOWARDS AN INTEGRATED REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK

* On Finance for Development

* On Trade and Decent Work

– TAKING FORWARD SADC WE WANT CAMPAIGN

– SOCIAL AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
* On Poverty & Development

* On Climate Change

* On Social Protection

* On HIV and AIDS

* On Land and Natural Resources

* On Gender

* On Indigenous Peoples

* On Water

* On child rights

Rebuilding regions in times of crises: the future of Europe and the ‘voice’ of citizens

Lorenzo Fioramonti

Crises, like those gripping Europe, tend to expose the process and practice of regional governance as technocratic and elite-driven. But citizens and civil society may well demand more voice and power, in a ‘politicisation’ of regions.

In a globalizing world, where old and new evolutions challenge traditional decision making and (nation) states find it increasingly difficult to govern political processes and economic transactions that are ever more cross-boundary in nature, supranational regional governance has proven a powerful tool to address such growing complexity.

As a meso-level between the state and a hypothetical global government, regional organizations have been purposefully created with a view to providing more effective management structures to deal with phenomena and processes transcending the borders of national communities. Traditionally, trans-frontier natural resources were the first common goods to be placed under the administration of regional organizations. For instance, the oldest existing regional organization in the world is the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, an authority established in Europe during the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Its purpose was to manage cross-boundary transports along the river Rhine, which cuts across France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and – in spite of its limited political clout – it set an important precedent for the future evolutions of European integration. The forerunner of the European Economic Community, which then transformed into the European Union, was the European Coal and Steal Community, a supranational authority created to provide common jurisdiction over the most fundamental natural resources of the continent, whose direct control had historically been the main source of conflict in the region.

Nowadays, there is a virtually endless list of regional organizations operating in divers sectors, entrusted with varying degrees of power and decision-making authority. Although most of them only perform specific functions (e.g. natural resources management, conflict prevention, legal advice, customs control, policing, etc.), there has been an increase in the establishment of ‘general purpose’ regional organizations, of which the EU is the most well-known and developed example. Some of them have evolved out of specific trade agreements (e.g. free trade areas), such as the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), while others have been created with a view to guaranteeing security and development, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the African Union (AU). As famously remarked by P. Katzenstein, the contemporary international arena may very well develop into a ‘world of regions’, where openness and cooperation are reinforced by growth in cross-border exchanges and global transformations in interstate relations.

Regions and crises

According to Karl Deutsch, one of the forefathers of regional studies, the most fundamental example of region-building is constituted by so-called ‘security communities’, groupings of countries that share institutional systems to avoid internal conflicts and address common external threats. In this vein, the existence of certain threats (often in the form of fully-fledged conflicts) has been instrumental to the creation of regional organizations. The European integration project emerged out of the ashes of World War II. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was created after the end of colonialism while its successor, the AU, was established to guarantee peace and development in a traditionally troubled continent. Similarly, ASEAN was founded to oppose the advancement of communism in South East Asia and strengthen the small countries of the region vis-à-vis their strong and powerful neighbours.

Supranational regionalism and crises have always been intimately connected, both empirically and theoretically. Yet, although most theoretical approaches appear to discuss crises as potential springboards for more and better regional cooperation/integration, the opposite is equally true. For instance, De Gaulle’s critical stance vis-à-vis the process of European integration (which led to a prolonged institutional crisis in the 1960s) prompted Ernst Haas, the founder of the neo-functionalist approach, to conclude that regional integration theory was ‘obsolete’. The current sovereign-debt crisis (often dubbed as the Euro-crisis) is raising a lot of doubts about the capacity of the EU to weather the storm and re-launch integration of the European continent. Public discourse not only in Europe, but also in the rest of the world, hints at the fact that regional cooperation/ integration does not deal well with ‘rainy days’, when member states tend to become more inward looking and seek refuge in short-sighted nationalism.

The word ‘crisis’ derives from the ancient Greek verb krinein, which means to ‘separate, decide and judge’. As such, it therefore describes events or phenomena that produce change and lead to decisions. Looking at most current events, it is not easy to gauge the extent to which these crises may lead to more regional cooperation/integration or, conversely, to gradual/abrupt disintegration. However, there is little doubt that they present fundamental turning points in the evolution of regional cooperation/integration and pose significant challenges to all stakeholders involved. At the same time, they may very well become opportunities to reassess the usefulness of supranational regions and prospectively re-design a world of new regions.

Euro-crisis and the weakening of the European model

Crises are revelatory moments. They break the repetitive continuity of ordinary processes and present us with unexpected threats and opportunities. As disruptive events, they force us to rethink conventional wisdom and become imaginative. In the evolution of political institutions, crises have been fundamental turning points opening up new space for governance innovations or, by contrast, reducing the spectrum of available options. They have ushered in phases of progress and prosperity or plummeted our societies into the darkness of parochialism and backwardness.

The current Euro-crisis may have a significant long-term impact on the ‘acceptability’ of regional integration as an end-goal for regionalism not only in Europe, but also in other regions. If the European project fails to deliver the expected outcomes of stability, well-being and solidarity, then it is likely that other regions will refrain from pushing for full-blown integration, perhaps privileging less demanding forms of cooperation. It also appears as if the EU ‘model’ of integration has been severely eroded by the global financial crisis and the turmoil in the Eurozone. There is indeed growing criticism of Eurocentric approaches to regionalism, not only among scholars, but also among leading policy makers. Especially, emerging powers in Africa, Asia and South America are becoming more assertive about the need to find different ways to promote regional governance in a world in which traditional power distributions are being fundamentally called into question. Moreover, the recent popular revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East are likely to reshape geostrategic equilibria in the Mediterranean and possibly usher in a new phase of regional cooperation within the Arab world and also with Europe.  

Citizens and regional governance

Citizens have been the underdogs of regionalism. From Europe, to Africa, Asia and Latin America, civil society has largely been on the receiving end of region-building processes. More often than not, civil society has been intentionally sidelined, while some sympathetic non-governmental organisations have been given the instrumental task of supporting institutions in their efforts at building a regional ‘identity’. In spite of rhetorical references to the importance of civic participation, regionalism has largely developed ‘without the citizens’.

Yet contemporary crises seem to bring ‘the people’ back into the picture, at least insofar as various attempts at regional cooperation and integration stumble upon the ideas, values and expectations of the citizens. The Euro-crisis is not just a matter of scarce liquidity and overexposure of a few national governments and most private banks. It is first and foremost a legitimacy crisis, which is revealing the fundamental limitations of an elite-driven regionalism model. Not disputing the pivotal role that European political elites played in setting the integration process in motion, there is little doubt that ‘deep integration’ will only be achieved when European citizens will have a say over the type of developmental trajectory that the EU should adopt as well as its ultimate goals. Looking at the astonishing amount of public resources channelled to rescue private banks in comparison to the harsh austerity plans enforced on allegedly profligate Member States, one cannot help but ask the question: what actual interests drive regionalism in the world?

Most observers have been traditionally looking at regionalization processes as politically neutral phenomena in international affairs. Research in this field has been generally restricted to the ‘quantity’ of regionalism, rather than its ‘quality’. Whether it is to explain the gradual devolution of authority from nation states to supranational institutions (as is the case with neo-functionalism) or whether it is to demonstrate the continuous bargaining process involving national governments (as is the case with intergovernmentalism), mainstream approaches to regional cooperation and integration have refrained from looking at the quality of regionalization processes. Will there be more or fewer regions in the world? Will regional institutions replace the nation state? Will regional governance become predominant in the years to come? Granted, these are very important questions and deserve to be examined in depth, especially in academic circles. Yet, the current crises force us to assess the state of regionalism in the world not only in terms of its predominance and diffusion, but also – and more importantly – in terms of how it contributes, if any, towards the well-being of our societies.  

Most ‘models’ and ‘practices’ of regionalism have tended to exclude the diversity of voices and roles in society. They have often served the specific interests of ruling elites (as in Latin America and Africa), the ambitions of hegemonic actors (as in Europe and Asia) or the agendas of industrial and financial powers. Moreover, through their apparently neutral technocratic character, most attempts at regional cooperation and integration have aimed to obscure the fact that there are always winners and losers in regionalism processes. 

This top-down model is being increasingly challenged. Overlapping crises and the redistribution of power at the global level call into question the capacity of regions to deliver on their promises, thus unveiling the unavoidable political character of any model of regionalism. In response to the growing cost of regionalism, citizens want to have more say over future regional trajectories and exercise their democratic powers. As a consequence, regionalism is evolving from a ‘closed’ process, designed and packaged by a small circle of political and economic elites, to an ‘open’ process, in which democratic participation and accountability are playing an ever more important role. Borrowing from the jargon of Internet users, one may say that regions are transitioning from a 1.0 phase dominated by technocrats to a 2.0 stage characterised by horizontal networks, alternative models and citizens’ contestations.

The EU, undoubtedly the most advanced and successful example of regionalism in the world, is now experiencing the direst consequences of such a transition. Amid rising unemployment, social malaise and growing discontent for the lack of accountability of national and regional politics, millions of citizens have been protesting against the Union and its political and economic agenda. Contrary to what eurosceptics would have us believe, these citizens do not call for less Europe: they want a different Europe. They would like regional integration to be more about connecting cultures and individuals and less about supporting capital. They would like their regional institutions to focus on helping the unemployed rather than bailing out bankrupt banks. They would like to see more solidarity across classes and generations, rather than less. They would like cooperation to be about building a different future instead of reshuffling old ideas. The future of regionalism may very well entail a growing ‘politicisation’ of regions, whereby citizens and civil society demand more voice and power in influencing not just general principles and values, but also the long-term political trajectories of their regions.

 

Source: Open Democracy

The hard road to a South American Mercosur

Por Kintto Lucas

En su genial novela El año de la muerte de Ricardo Reis, José Saramago señala “A esta ciudad le basta saber que la rosa de los vientos existe, este no es el lugar donde los rumbos se abren, tampoco es el punto magnífico donde los rumbos convergen, aquí precisamente cambian los rumbos”.

Trasladando las palabras de Saramago al sistema mundo, como diría Immanuel Wallerstein, podríamos decir que cambiarán los rumbos el día que construyamos un sistema mundial multipolar que contribuya a crear un mundo democrático, justo y equitativo.

En ese necesario cambio de rumbos, la integración es un objetivo estratégico para lograr la independencia de América Latina. En ese sentido, es importante fortalecer los distintos niveles de integración y consolidar un bloque suramericano y latinoamericano.

América del Sur vive un momento importante en términos de integración regional, capitalizada más claramente en la Unasur (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas). Un bloque que más allá de las diferencias políticas o económicas de los países que lo integran, ha logrado levantarse como espacio de acuerdos y entendimientos desde la diversidad y ha generado un proceso integrador diferente.

Unasur es la propuesta más importante de integración desde toda América del Sur. Las que surgieron antes, además de ser regionales fueron condicionadas por el libre comercio, porque apostaban a eso, no a la integración.

El Mercosur (Mercado Común del Sur), por ejemplo, fue una propuesta surgida desde el libre comercio desde el neoliberalismo. Si bien luego fue procesando cambios positivos con la irrupción de gobiernos progresistas y es una confluencia fundamental, todavía le falta mucho para consolidarse como Mercosur Suramericano, que sea eje de un modelo de integración productiva de Américas del Sur dentro de Unasur.
La CAN (Comunidad Andina de Naciones), en cambio, surgió como una propuesta integradora distinta, pero finalmente terminó absorbida por la hegemonía neoliberal en los años 90.

Unasur surgió de una forma diferente, y se posicionó como una propuesta de integración desde lo político, llevando adelante acciones trascendentes para solucionar conflictos, consolidar una mirada de defensa de la democracia en común, fortalecer políticas de defensa y sociales integradoras, e inclusive posicionándose como un bloque a tener en cuenta a nivel mundial en el desarrollo de un mundo multipolar.

Unasur ha demostrado que, dentro de las diferencias, se puede llegar a ciertos acuerdos que parten de un punto central: para competir, para ser escuchados en un mundo que va a ser de bloques, tenemos que participar como un todo más compacto, que en este caso es el bloque de América del Sur.

Por ejemplo, el acuerdo del Consejo de Defensa en Unasur, de transparentar gastos militares, de parar la instalación de bases militares estadounidenses, son temas que se han resuelto, con discrepancias pero finalmente llegando a ciertos consensos. También a nivel económico, hubo algunos acuerdos, desde los presidentes, quienes creían que Unasur debía jugar un papel importante para enfrentar la crisis económica internacional en conjunto. Lamentablemente los ministros de Economía han desentonado.

Ahora es necesario consolidar Unasur como bloque de poder e interlocución mundial. Y dentro de ese proceso es fundamental consolidar la institucionalidad de Unasur en sus diferentes instancias, y particularmente la Secretaría General.

Néstor Kirchner, cuando fue secretario general, puso las bases políticas de la Secretaría. Ecuador, cuando fue Presidencia Pro Tempore puso las bases materiales y constitutivas, y le dio institucionalidad. Ema Mejía y Alí Rodríguez consolidaron la institucionalidad. Rodríguez, además, aportó una base teórico-práctica a Unasur con su propuesta sobre los recursos naturales como eje integrador. Es necesario consolidar la gestión de Unasur desde la Secretaría, para fortalecer las acciones del bloque a nivel regional y mundial.

Por su parte la Celac (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños), surgió con la necesidad de consolidar un espacio amplio que promueva un proceso integrador desde la pluralidad latinoamericana, desde procesos más diversos y complejos, pero sin la tutela de Estados Unidos.

Mientras la OEA (Organización de Estados Americanos) surgió como la opción de un determinado momento histórico en que los países vivían sometidos al “liderazgo” de Estados Unidos, que en realidad era una imposición desde ese país, Celac y Unasur surgieron desde los propios países latinoamericanos y suramericanos. La OEA fue un proceso de imposición, Unasur y Celac son, con todas sus dificultades, procesos de integración.

El Alba (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América), que surgió como una propuesta frente a otro intento de imposición estadounidense como el Alca (Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas), ha implementado procesos de complementariedad y solidaridad creando propuestas de integración productiva interesantes. Es necesario establecer un puente entre el Mercosur y el Alba, buscando instancias de cooperación y complementación. Uruguay podría ser un país puente entre el Mercosur y el Alba promoviendo la cooperación y complementación. Uruguay debe fortalecer el Mercosur y fortalecerse en el Mercosur, y paralelamente consolidar su presencia en el Alba y actuar como puente Alba-Mercosur.

Un gran reto en Unasur y en todos los niveles de integración, es involucrar a las organizaciones sociales y a los movimientos sociales en una confluencia desde abajo, desde los pueblos. Obviamente no todas las organizaciones sociales representan al pueblo en general pero sí son instancias importantes que dan base social a los procesos integradores. Si no se produce una integración desde los pueblos, si no hay una integración cultural y de procesos culturales conjuntos de los países, es muy difícil consolidar un proceso integrador de largo plazo.

El mayor enemigo de la integración es el modelo de desarrollo. En este momento los procesos de integración están en medio de dos modelos de desarrollo que se encuentran en disputa. Un modelo de desarrollo que es más soberano, vinculado a la producción nacional, con la idea de cambiar la matriz productiva y dejar de ser solo países primarios exportadores, con una visión desde el sur, desde nuestros países. El otro modelo, por ahora hegemónico, apuesta al libre comercio mal entendido, donde quienes dirigen el mercado terminan siendo las grandes corporaciones, la política comercial se basa en los tratados de libre comercio con las grandes potencias, tratados neocoloniales que van contra la integración y la política económica favorecen la especulación financiera, las importaciones y el consumismo. Ese modelo de desarrollo a veces disfrazado de progresista es el mayor enemigo de la integración. Si no es derrotado a nivel regional y dentro de cada uno de nuestros países no habrá integración y seremos cada día más dependientes. Ahí seguramente recordemos aquella frase del final de Ensayo sobre la ceguera de Saramago cuando dice “Creo que no nos quedamos ciegos, creo que estamos ciegos, Ciegos que ven, Ciegos que, viendo, no ven”.

 

Lee el articulo completo aqui.

Marcelo Saguier

ALAI AMLATINA, 27/07/2012.- Los procesos de integración regional en Sudamérica han dado importantes pasos en la construcción de una comunidad política en base a valores y expectativas comunes. La defensa de la democracia, la resolución de conflictos mediante la diplomacia, el resguardo de la paz y la reivindicación conjunta de la soberanía argentina sobre las islas Malvinas ante los diferendos con el Reino Unido han sido algunos de campos en donde se logró alcanzar un inédito dinamismo y convergencia regional. Muchos de estos consensos acompañaron el surgimiento de nuevas formas institucionales como la UNASUR, ALBA y la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericana y Caribeños (CELAC).

No obstante tales avances, existe otra dimensión del proceso regional en la que es menos evidente que consensos se expresan. Las dinámicas de la región, como espacio socio-político en construcción, actualmente está regida por los patrones de conflictos y cooperación entre gobiernos, empresas y actores sociales en torno a la utilización de los recursos naturales para fines de exportación y de insumos para la industria. Este es el caso de los recursos minerales y del agua de ríos para la generación de energía hidroeléctrica. A diferencia de las avances alcanzados en materia de construcción política regional en otros campos, el lugar que hoy ocupan los recursos naturales en la integración es más inquietante y potencialmente una fuente de tensiones.

Las políticas de utilización de tales recursos, y los conflictos socio-ambientales que se producen por las mismas, en su mayoría son de carácter nacional o sub-nacional. Sin embargo, al mismo tiempo se despliegan algunas iniciativas de carácter regional impulsadas por gobiernos o por actores sociales que regionalizan sus disputas como estrategias de acción frente a la orientación extractivista de algunos proyectos. Es decir que las dinámicas socio-políticas de construcción de un espacio político regional en Sudamérica van más allá de las distintas iniciativas intergubernamentales que se puedan emprender desde los estados. Los recursos naturales constituyen un eje de articulación tanto para iniciativas de cooperación interestatal como también para la movilización social transfronteriza.

La propuesta de este articulo es la de pensar las dinámicas de la construcción política regional desde ésta perspectiva, en la que las interacciones de cooperación y conflicto entre actores públicos, empresariales y sociales moldean el escenario regional, sus posibilidades y limitaciones.

La minería en zonas de frontera es una de las formas que se redefine el escenario social y político regional. El caso más paradigmático de ello es la frontera entre Argentina y Chile. Tradicionalmente, las fronteras internacionales eran zonas en donde no se permitía emprendimientos productivos (o extractivos) dado que constituían lugares sensibles a la defensa del territorio nacional. Los procesos de democratización e integración económica llevados a cabo en la región permitieron desactivar las hipótesis de conflicto que fundamentaron el imaginario geopolítico de gobiernos y sociedades nacionales durante gran parte del siglo veinte. Sin embargo, estos cambios estuvieron asimismo signados por la orientación neoliberal que marcó las políticas de integración durante la década del 90. Una de las características de ello fue el establecimiento de nuevas mecanismos institucionales para atraer y resguardar inversiones. La minería de frontera entre Argentina y Chile es producto de ello, y su expresión más acabada es el acuerdo binacional minero que fuera firmado en 1997 y ratificado en los parlamentos en el 2000.

El territorio comprendido por el acuerdo binacional cubre un área sobre la cordillera de los Andes de más de 200.000 kilómetros cuadrados, lo que equivale al 95% de la frontera internacional de ambos países. El acuerdo concede a las empresas la disponibilidad de minerales y agua para sus procesos de extracción, así como poder de control fronterizo. Pascua Lama es el proyecto binacional de megaminería que fue posible con este acuerdo. Las empresas que desarrollan el proyecto son: Barrick Exploraciones Argentina y Exploraciones Mineras Argentinas, en la Republica Argentina, y Compañía Minera Nevada en Chile. Otros proyectos mineros ya han sido aprobados, amparados en el tratado binacional, se encuentran actualmente en diferentes etapas de desarrollo. Entre ellos, está el proyecto El Pachón en la provincia de San Juan.

El acuerdo minero binacional consiste en un modelo de integración territorial y representa un hito internacional, considerando la extensión del área cubierta, los volúmenes de minerales e inversiones que potencialmente se verían implicados y la posible replicabilidad de este modelo en otras zonas de frontera con comparables condiciones geológicas. Evidentemente, la replicabilidad de este enfoque para la explotación conjunta de depósitos minerales en zonas de jurisdicción nacional compartida está expuesta también a los vaivenes de las presiones sociales frente al extractivismo y al creciente grado de concientización sobre la necesidad de fundar nuevos paradigmas del desarrollo con criterios de sostenibilidad.

La tendencia de minería de frontera se confirma asimismo en otros países latinoamericanos sin que exista necesariamente ningún acuerdo entre los países. Este es caso de los proyectos de exploración minera que actualmente tienen lugar en la frontera de Costa Rica y Nicaragua, de El Salvador y Guatemala y de Perú y Ecuador en la llamada Cordillera del Cóndor – región que en 1995 fue epicentro de un conflicto bélico entre ambos países. En este ultimo caso, desde la resolución del conflicto bélico han habido grandes inversiones mineras atraídas por la riqueza de de yacimientos de oro de este lugar. Incluso sin un acuerdo minero entre ambos países, entre 2005 y 2010 se han triplicado el número de concesiones de exploración a empresas interesadas, en su mayoría del lado peruano de la frontera. Las empresas transnacionales mineras sin duda constituyen actores de creciente influencia en la redefinición del espacio regional y es de suponer que asimismo constituyen factores de influencia en los gobiernos para promover acuerdos mineros internacionales (los gobiernos de Alan García en Perú y Correa en Ecuador habían comenzado a explorar esta posibilidad).

La minería en zonas de frontera contribuye a regionalizar conflictos que se suscitan desde hace años en toda América Latina. Son conocidas las expresiones de resistencia a proyectos mineros llevados a por comunidades rurales en distintas provincias argentinas como Chubut, San Juan, Catamarca, La Rioja y Tucumán. Sin embargo, éstos no son casos aislados sino que se enmarcan en una tendencia generalizada de creciente conflictividad en zonas de exploración minera. Evidencia de ello es que actualmente existen 155 conflictos relacionados a esta actividad en todo Latinoamérica y el Caribe, en las que se ven implicadas 205 comunidades en relación a 168 proyectos mineros. Asimismo, según un informe a cargo del ex Representante Especial del Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas, John Ruggie, las industrias extractivas representan el 28 % de los casos de los casos de violaciones a los Derechos Humanos con complicidad de las empresas. Esta tendencia global se profundiza en América Latina. Un elemento común a tales conflictos es la ausencia de debate público sobre los cuáles son los beneficios y costos de estos proyectos – definidos en términos económicos, sociales y ambientales – así de cómo arbitrar equitativamente los derechos y responsabilidades de los principales beneficiarios y damnificados de los mismos. Las comunidades tampoco son consultadas previamente, según lo establece el Convenio 169 de la OIT, sin bien algunos cambios en esta dirección comienzan a promoverse en Bolivia, Perú y Ecuador.

Las resistencias sociales a la minería a cielo abierto, y especialmente en zonas de frontera, se traducen crecientemente en la búsqueda de estrategias de incidencia mediante la movilización transnacional. Ejemplo de ello es la realización de tribunales de opinión, en donde comunidades afectadas por la minería pueden denunciar simbólicamente los estragos de la minería en el ambiente y su impacto sobre los derechos de las poblaciones. Se realizó el primer “Tribunal Ético de Minería de Frontera” organizado por el Observatorio de Conflictos Minero de América Latina en Chile en el 2010. También el “Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos sobre Empresas Transnacionales” sesionó en Austria 2006, Perú/Colombia 2008 y España 2010 para denunciar la complicidad de empresas transnacionales en casos de violación de derechos humanos en Latinoamérica. Muchos de los casos denunciados están relacionados con la minería, además de la explotación de hidrocarburos, agronegocios, etc. Asimismo, se han creado redes de acción global para el intercambio de información y coordinación de campañas conjuntas. Estas son algunas de las formas que adquiere el activismo transnacional en respuesta a la minería y demás instancias de violaciones de derechos humanos en los que estados y empresas se ven acusados. En este sentido, la minería de frontera actúa como catalizador tanto de nuevos relacionamientos entre empresas y gobiernos, así como también de nuevas formas de resistencias sociales que intervienen en la redefinición del debate regional sobre los vínculos entre desarrollo sustentable y derechos humanos.

Además de la minería de frontera, las dinámicas de la integración regional en Sudamérica están regidas también por una serie de proyectos de infraestructura para la generación y transporte de energía hidroeléctrica. La abundancia de agua en la cuenca del Amazonas hace de esta zona el epicentro de una serie de redes interconectadas de represas y líneas de transmisión que se proyecta vincularán lugares de producción y consumo. La creciente demanda de energía esta dada por el crecimiento económico en las economías de los países sudamericanos, y especialmente del sector industrial brasileño y minero (esta actividad es gran demandante de agua para sus procesos de extracción del mineral). Estos cambios están dando lugar a nuevos patrones de la cooperación regional internacional en el que las empresas brasileñas juegan un papel clave como las concesionarias principales de los proyectos de infraestructura de energía hidroeléctrica.

La Iniciativa para la Infraestructura Regional Suramericana (IIRSA), establece la financiación para estos proyectos. IIRSA es un mecanismo institucional creado en 2000 para la coordinación de las organizaciones intergubernamentales acciones con el objetivo de “promover el proceso de integración política, social y económica de América del Sur, incluyendo la modernización de la infraestructura regional y acciones específicas para estimular la integración y el desarrollo de las regiones aisladas de los subsistemas. IIRSA cuenta una cartera 524 proyectos de infraestructura en las áreas de transporte, energía y las comunicaciones, que se agrupan en 47 grupos de proyectos que representan una inversión estimada de dólares EE.UU. 96,119.2 millones de dólares. El Banco Nacional de Desarrollo de Brasil (BNDES) es también un actor regional clave en la movilización de recursos para los proyectos patrocinados por la IIRSA, tanto en territorio brasileño como también en países vecinos.

El Complejo Hidroeléctrico rio Madeira es uno de los proyectos más emblemáticos y la principal iniciativa hidroeléctrica del IIRSA. Una vez terminado, contará con cuatro represas interconectadas y será el de mayor tamaño de la cuenca del Amazonas. El BNDES provee parte del financiamiento para su construcción. Dos de las represas estarán emplazadas en Brasil mientras que una de ellas estará en territorio boliviano y la última en un río que demarca la frontera internacional entre Bolivia y Brasil.

Además, Brasil y Perú procuran la construcción de un mega-complejo hidroeléctrico en la Amazonía peruana financiado por Brasil. El objetivo de esta iniciativa es para generar electricidad en Perú para ser transportada sobre a Brasil para satisfacer su creciente demanda de energía. Para ello, ambos gobiernos negociaron un Acuerdo Energético que establece que Perú se compromete a exportar el 70% de la energía que produzcan sus centrales hidroeléctricas a Brasil durante un plazo de 50 años. Su construcción tendrá un costo de 4.000 millones de dólares e incluye también una línea de 357 kilómetros para tener la electricidad a la frontera brasileña. Una vez terminada la construcción del complejo, este será el mayor proyecto de energía hidroeléctrica en Perú y el quinto más grande en América Latina. Este proyecto y acuerdo energético ha sido objeto de grande críticas en Perú. El acuerdo fue firmado por los gobiernos de Alan García y de Ignácio Lula da Silva en 2010, pero actualmente está pendiente la ratificación del congreso peruano.

El acuerdo y proyecto ha sido objeto de serios cuestionamientos por los impactos ambientales y sociales de estas obras. En octubre de 2011 la principal concesionaria de este proyecto, la brasileña Odebrecht, decidió retirarse de la construcción de dos des las represas proyectadas como consecuencia de la oposición que este mega-proyecto genera en las poblaciones locales, sobre todo de pueblos originarios. El interés del gobierno brasileño por asegurar un acuerdo que le permita proveerse de energía a costos rentables se mantiene. Seguramente veremos nuevos intentos por reflotar el debate sobre este acuerdo, tal vez tomando en consideración las más recientes resistencias sociales que se han manifestado en repudio al mismo. Evidencia de ello es el proceso de revisión que emprenden los ocho países amazónicos de los mecanismos nacionales de consulta a grupos étnicos en el marco del Tratado de Cooperación Amazónica.

En la medida que avanzan las iniciativas de integración sudamericana se pone en evidencia la ausencia de consensos sobre ciertas áreas sensibles como es el caso de los recursos naturales. Muchos cuestionamientos comienzan a aflorar en el debate regional, como las tensiones entre visiones productivistas del desarrollo y de ecología política en las que se propician formas de desarrollo sustentable, vinculadas a los derechos humanos, la armonía ambiental y formas de producción y consumo más inclusivas. Asimismo, se manifiesta la necesidad de nuevos mecanismos de toma de decisión en materia de recursos naturales, no sólo a nivel nacional sino especialmente en lo relacionado a proyectos regionales que involucran acuerdos entre estados e instrumentos de financiamiento regionales. Es fundamental abordar en profundidad las nuevas asimetrías que genera este tipo de integración, no solo entre economías de mayor y menor tamaño, perfiles productivos especializados como industriales y proveerdores de materias primas, sino también en la necesidad de formular marcos regionales regulatorios y de políticas específicamente sobre recursos naturales (coordinación fiscales, normas de protección ambiental, derecho a de consulta a las poblaciones, eficiencia energética, entre otras).

En un contexto de creación de una comunidad política sudamericana, los conflictos y desafíos del desarrollo sustentable se vuelven invariablemente preocupaciones de todo el bloque regional. Mientras antes podamos avanzar sobre nuevos consensos en materia de recursos naturales, mejor estaremos preparados para avanzar en la profundización de nuevas bases de soberanía.

Nota: Las ideas que aquí se exponen están desarrolladas en un artículo recientemente publicado como: Saguier, Marcelo (2012) ‘Socio-environmental regionalism in South America: tensions in the new development models’, The Rise of Post-Hegemonic Regionalism: The Case of Latin America, Pia Riggirozzi and Diana Tussie, eds., Series United Nations University Series on Regionalism, Springer.

– Dr. Marcelo Saguier es profesor de estudios internacionales e investigador CONICET/FLACSO

Fuente: http://alainet.org/active/56815

by Kintto Lucas

ALAI AMLAT-en, sildenafil 17/07/2013.- In the past few years, case South America has taken some decisive steps toward regional integration. Aware of the challenges of globalization, which have surfaced in international political and economic crises, as well as in the proliferation of transnational illicit activities that are beyond the capacities of individual states to control, some countries have begun to understand that the advantages of greater cooperation and commercial interchange are not the final goal. Rather it is necessary to coordinate responses not only in economic and fiscal policy, but also in social policy, the control of natural resources, environmental issues, defence and other areas, in order to face the threats that impinge on them. Above all, in the world as it is now developing, it is impossible to walk alone. It is essential to walk together.

To reinforce integration we need to increase levels of economic and commercial interdependence in the region. It is a complex but not impossible course. We need to develop a collective vision and cease to contemplate our own navels. The bigger economies must show greater solidarity with the smaller ones, but it is fundamental that the latter look to their own development, stop being parasites and stop hiding behind the farce of re-selling products brought in from other places without any local value-added, but simply adding labels that proclaim the product to be of national industry.

Little by little South America is moving away from a theory of regional integration that supposes a divorce between economics and politics, and which ended up imposing on many countries the fallacy of a “self-regulating market” as a force for development. Nevertheless, it is worrying to see that after the disastrous experiences with the application of market shock theories — in the words of Naomi Klein – these political measures are still being pushed by some OECD countries, multinational financial organizations, rightwing politicians and some businessmen, as a panacea for the economic protection of our countries.

From the North, we are plied with free trade treaties and liberalization and deregulation of financial structures, along with privatization and flexible labour markets as basic mechanisms for international economic integration. In South America there are people who hear these siren songs and defend the urgent need to create a free trade area along the lines of the FTAA/ALCA. With this they propose to cure the failures of the neoliberal model.

The regional integration of South America must retrieve the role of the State over the market, of society over the State and the market. The integrated South American states should take control of an integrated South American market. And Latin American society should play a fundamental role in participating to control States and integrated markets. This integration should open the way for a development model that allows for the advancement of each country as well as common advancement. The efficacy and the ability for channeling regional synergies depend on the ability to understand that this is a collective project, not an individual one, and to understand that this is an institutional fabric that is created through the process of integration.

To expand and strengthen South American integration, Unasur must be strengthened and extended. It is fundamental to move Mercosur towards a South American Mercosur(1). This depends on the capacity of our States to reconfigure their productive structures.

This will be possible if governments can transcend the limits of mere economic rationality and commit themselves to work towards a Common and Inclusive Economic Policy, which can take advantage of the region’s assets in food and hydraulic resources, raw materials and energy resources, generating a productive integration of a complementary character between countries.

In the new world order, the importance of South America for the international economy is undeniable. It is one of the most dynamic economic poles. At the present time, the GDP of the countries of South America represents 73 per cent of that of Latin America and the Caribbean, which in turn represents 8 per cent of world trade. In spite of its economic weight, the productive and export matrix of our countries continues to be centred on the primary sector and on intensive manufactures in primary resources and natural resources. This phenomenon responds to the high prices of commodities in the international market, but also to the concentration of investment, both national and foreign, in the exploitation of primary resources. In consequence, South American countries face the threat of deindustrialization and of economies centred on the primary sector. These processes lead to the emergence of productive enclaves whose wealth creation does not reach the whole economy, given the few productive networks they generate, as well as capital flight in the form of the repatriation of profits and benefits and the unlimited increase in imports. These enclaves in many cases are part of parasitical foreign investment that does not pay taxes and brings very little to our countries.

The way that Latin American countries have conceived their economic development has given rise to productive structures that are engineered to satisfy extra-regional needs. Because of this, the economic dynamics of the countries of the region contribute little or nothing to the collective economic dynamics of the region. Due to this individualist way of thinking of economic growth and the application of commercial policies based on indiscriminate opening to foreign economies, the greater part of South American economies have undergone processes of productive dismantling or the loss of economic dynamism in industrial sectors. At the same time large segments of our populations have experienced a fall in unemployment but growth in precarious employment. Here, if there is a diminishing amount of poverty, inequality is maintained and is at times even more evident.

It is necessary for South American economic integration to move towards the articulation of national economies, and for productive structures to look to satisfying the needs of the people of the region, in a way that allows us to develop our manufacturing sectors and services. In this sense it is important to establish legal and technical conditions to promote regional productive investment. Finally, it is necessary to set up productive conditions that make it possible for each and every one of the economies of the region to reach high levels of competitiveness in order, at a later moment, to be able to compete in the international markets of manufacturing and service sectors of medium and high added value.

In the difficult path towards a South American Mercosur, Mercosur should become the bridgehead to establish a South American commercial bloc, animated by principles of solidarity, complementarity and the consideration of the asymmetries in the levels of social and economic development of different members, that prioritizes the role of the State, and has as its goal the well-being of the population rather than the profits of big capital, and which can serve as an example of a different regionalist model, in the face of traditional schemes that are based on market fundamentalism.
(Translation: Jordan Bishop, for ALAI)

– Kintto Lucas is the Roaming Ambassador of Uruguay for Unasur, Celac, and Alba. Former vice foreign minister of Ecuador.

(1) Unasur: Union of South American Nations. Mercosur: Southern Common Market.

 

Source: http://www.alainet.org/active/65768

The EU has never been a European solidarity organisation. The European peoples must create their own unity

Lorenzo Fioramonti

Crises, sale like those gripping Europe, tend to expose the process and practice of regional governance as technocratic and elite-driven. But citizens and civil society may well demand more voice and power, in a ‘politicisation’ of regions.

In a globalizing world, where old and new evolutions challenge traditional decision making and (nation) states find it increasingly difficult to govern political processes and economic transactions that are ever more cross-boundary in nature, supranational regional governance has proven a powerful tool to address such growing complexity.

As a meso-level between the state and a hypothetical global government, regional organizations have been purposefully created with a view to providing more effective management structures to deal with phenomena and processes transcending the borders of national communities. Traditionally, trans-frontier natural resources were the first common goods to be placed under the administration of regional organizations. For instance, the oldest existing regional organization in the world is the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, an authority established in Europe during the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Its purpose was to manage cross-boundary transports along the river Rhine, which cuts across France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and – in spite of its limited political clout – it set an important precedent for the future evolutions of European integration. The forerunner of the European Economic Community, which then transformed into the European Union, was the European Coal and Steal Community, a supranational authority created to provide common jurisdiction over the most fundamental natural resources of the continent, whose direct control had historically been the main source of conflict in the region.

Nowadays, there is a virtually endless list of regional organizations operating in divers sectors, entrusted with varying degrees of power and decision-making authority. Although most of them only perform specific functions (e.g. natural resources management, conflict prevention, legal advice, customs control, policing, etc.), there has been an increase in the establishment of ‘general purpose’ regional organizations, of which the EU is the most well-known and developed example. Some of them have evolved out of specific trade agreements (e.g. free trade areas), such as the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), while others have been created with a view to guaranteeing security and development, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the African Union (AU). As famously remarked by P. Katzenstein, the contemporary international arena may very well develop into a ‘world of regions’, where openness and cooperation are reinforced by growth in cross-border exchanges and global transformations in interstate relations.

Regions and crises

According to Karl Deutsch, one of the forefathers of regional studies, the most fundamental example of region-building is constituted by so-called ‘security communities’, groupings of countries that share institutional systems to avoid internal conflicts and address common external threats. In this vein, the existence of certain threats (often in the form of fully-fledged conflicts) has been instrumental to the creation of regional organizations. The European integration project emerged out of the ashes of World War II. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was created after the end of colonialism while its successor, the AU, was established to guarantee peace and development in a traditionally troubled continent. Similarly, ASEAN was founded to oppose the advancement of communism in South East Asia and strengthen the small countries of the region vis-à-vis their strong and powerful neighbours.

Supranational regionalism and crises have always been intimately connected, both empirically and theoretically. Yet, although most theoretical approaches appear to discuss crises as potential springboards for more and better regional cooperation/integration, the opposite is equally true. For instance, De Gaulle’s critical stance vis-à-vis the process of European integration (which led to a prolonged institutional crisis in the 1960s) prompted Ernst Haas, the founder of the neo-functionalist approach, to conclude that regional integration theory was ‘obsolete’. The current sovereign-debt crisis (often dubbed as the Euro-crisis) is raising a lot of doubts about the capacity of the EU to weather the storm and re-launch integration of the European continent. Public discourse not only in Europe, but also in the rest of the world, hints at the fact that regional cooperation/ integration does not deal well with ‘rainy days’, when member states tend to become more inward looking and seek refuge in short-sighted nationalism.

The word ‘crisis’ derives from the ancient Greek verb krinein, which means to ‘separate, decide and judge’. As such, it therefore describes events or phenomena that produce change and lead to decisions. Looking at most current events, it is not easy to gauge the extent to which these crises may lead to more regional cooperation/integration or, conversely, to gradual/abrupt disintegration. However, there is little doubt that they present fundamental turning points in the evolution of regional cooperation/integration and pose significant challenges to all stakeholders involved. At the same time, they may very well become opportunities to reassess the usefulness of supranational regions and prospectively re-design a world of new regions.

Euro-crisis and the weakening of the European model

Crises are revelatory moments. They break the repetitive continuity of ordinary processes and present us with unexpected threats and opportunities. As disruptive events, they force us to rethink conventional wisdom and become imaginative. In the evolution of political institutions, crises have been fundamental turning points opening up new space for governance innovations or, by contrast, reducing the spectrum of available options. They have ushered in phases of progress and prosperity or plummeted our societies into the darkness of parochialism and backwardness.

The current Euro-crisis may have a significant long-term impact on the ‘acceptability’ of regional integration as an end-goal for regionalism not only in Europe, but also in other regions. If the European project fails to deliver the expected outcomes of stability, well-being and solidarity, then it is likely that other regions will refrain from pushing for full-blown integration, perhaps privileging less demanding forms of cooperation. It also appears as if the EU ‘model’ of integration has been severely eroded by the global financial crisis and the turmoil in the Eurozone. There is indeed growing criticism of Eurocentric approaches to regionalism, not only among scholars, but also among leading policy makers. Especially, emerging powers in Africa, Asia and South America are becoming more assertive about the need to find different ways to promote regional governance in a world in which traditional power distributions are being fundamentally called into question. Moreover, the recent popular revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East are likely to reshape geostrategic equilibria in the Mediterranean and possibly usher in a new phase of regional cooperation within the Arab world and also with Europe.  

Citizens and regional governance

Citizens have been the underdogs of regionalism. From Europe, to Africa, Asia and Latin America, civil society has largely been on the receiving end of region-building processes. More often than not, civil society has been intentionally sidelined, while some sympathetic non-governmental organisations have been given the instrumental task of supporting institutions in their efforts at building a regional ‘identity’. In spite of rhetorical references to the importance of civic participation, regionalism has largely developed ‘without the citizens’.

Yet contemporary crises seem to bring ‘the people’ back into the picture, at least insofar as various attempts at regional cooperation and integration stumble upon the ideas, values and expectations of the citizens. The Euro-crisis is not just a matter of scarce liquidity and overexposure of a few national governments and most private banks. It is first and foremost a legitimacy crisis, which is revealing the fundamental limitations of an elite-driven regionalism model. Not disputing the pivotal role that European political elites played in setting the integration process in motion, there is little doubt that ‘deep integration’ will only be achieved when European citizens will have a say over the type of developmental trajectory that the EU should adopt as well as its ultimate goals. Looking at the astonishing amount of public resources channelled to rescue private banks in comparison to the harsh austerity plans enforced on allegedly profligate Member States, one cannot help but ask the question: what actual interests drive regionalism in the world?

Most observers have been traditionally looking at regionalization processes as politically neutral phenomena in international affairs. Research in this field has been generally restricted to the ‘quantity’ of regionalism, rather than its ‘quality’. Whether it is to explain the gradual devolution of authority from nation states to supranational institutions (as is the case with neo-functionalism) or whether it is to demonstrate the continuous bargaining process involving national governments (as is the case with intergovernmentalism), mainstream approaches to regional cooperation and integration have refrained from looking at the quality of regionalization processes. Will there be more or fewer regions in the world? Will regional institutions replace the nation state? Will regional governance become predominant in the years to come? Granted, these are very important questions and deserve to be examined in depth, especially in academic circles. Yet, the current crises force us to assess the state of regionalism in the world not only in terms of its predominance and diffusion, but also – and more importantly – in terms of how it contributes, if any, towards the well-being of our societies.  

Most ‘models’ and ‘practices’ of regionalism have tended to exclude the diversity of voices and roles in society. They have often served the specific interests of ruling elites (as in Latin America and Africa), the ambitions of hegemonic actors (as in Europe and Asia) or the agendas of industrial and financial powers. Moreover, through their apparently neutral technocratic character, most attempts at regional cooperation and integration have aimed to obscure the fact that there are always winners and losers in regionalism processes. 

This top-down model is being increasingly challenged. Overlapping crises and the redistribution of power at the global level call into question the capacity of regions to deliver on their promises, thus unveiling the unavoidable political character of any model of regionalism. In response to the growing cost of regionalism, citizens want to have more say over future regional trajectories and exercise their democratic powers. As a consequence, regionalism is evolving from a ‘closed’ process, designed and packaged by a small circle of political and economic elites, to an ‘open’ process, in which democratic participation and accountability are playing an ever more important role. Borrowing from the jargon of Internet users, one may say that regions are transitioning from a 1.0 phase dominated by technocrats to a 2.0 stage characterised by horizontal networks, alternative models and citizens’ contestations.

The EU, undoubtedly the most advanced and successful example of regionalism in the world, is now experiencing the direst consequences of such a transition. Amid rising unemployment, social malaise and growing discontent for the lack of accountability of national and regional politics, millions of citizens have been protesting against the Union and its political and economic agenda. Contrary to what eurosceptics would have us believe, these citizens do not call for less Europe: they want a different Europe. They would like regional integration to be more about connecting cultures and individuals and less about supporting capital. They would like their regional institutions to focus on helping the unemployed rather than bailing out bankrupt banks. They would like to see more solidarity across classes and generations, rather than less. They would like cooperation to be about building a different future instead of reshuffling old ideas. The future of regionalism may very well entail a growing ‘politicisation’ of regions, whereby citizens and civil society demand more voice and power in influencing not just general principles and values, but also the long-term political trajectories of their regions.

 

Source: Open Democracy

por Kintto Lucas

ALAI AMLATINA, treat 16/07/2013.- En los últimos años, pharm América del Sur ha dado pasos decisivos en su camino hacia la integración regional. Conscientes de los desafíos que ha generado la globalización y que se han evidenciado en las crisis económicas y políticas internacionales, buy así como en la proliferación de actividades ilícitas transnacionales que traspasan las capacidades individuales de los Estados, algunos países han comenzado a entender que las ventajas de una mayor cooperación e intercambio comercial no son el objetivo final, sino que es necesario coordinar respuestas en políticas económicas y fiscales, pero también sociales, en manejo de recursos naturales, temas ambientales, de defensa y en otros ámbitos, para enfrentar las amenazas. Pero sobre todo, que en el mundo que se va configurando es imposible caminar solos, y es fundamental caminar en colectivo

Para reforzar la integración es necesario incrementar los niveles de interdependencia económica y comercial en la región. Es un camino complejo pero no imposible. Falta todavía profundizar en una mirada colectiva y dejar de mirarse cada uno al ombligo. Es necesario que las economías más grandes sean más solidarias con las economías pequeñas, pero también es fundamental que éstas busquen un desarrollo propio, dejen de ser parasitarias y no se escondan detrás la farsa de revender productos traídos de otros países sin incorporar agregado nacional o solo colocando una etiqueta de industria nacional.

De a poco América del Sur se va alejando de la teoría de integración regional que promueve el divorcio entre Economía y Política, y que terminó por arrastrar a muchos países a la falacia del “mercado auto regulador” como promotor del desarrollo. Sin embargo, es preocupante observar que después de las nefastas experiencias con la aplicación de la terapias de shock de mercado –en palabras de Naomi Klein-, este tipo de medidas políticas se siguen vendiendo desde algunos países de la OCDE, organizaciones financieras multilaterales, sectores políticos de derecha y ciertos empresarios, como la panacea para la proyección económica de nuestros países.

Desde el Norte se promueven los tratados de libre comercio y la liberalización y desregulación financiera, así como la privatización y la flexibilización del mercado de trabajo como los mecanismos fundamentales para la integración a la economía internacional. En América del Sur hay quienes escuchan esos cantos de sirena y defienden la necesidad urgente de crear un área de libre comercio estilo ALCA. Pretenden así reponer los fracasos del modelo neoliberal.

La integración regional de Suramérica debe recuperar el rol del Estado sobre el mercado, y de la sociedad sobre el Estado y el mercado. Los Estados Suramericanos integrados deben controlar el mercado suramericano integrado. Y la sociedad suramericana debe jugar un papel fundamental con su participación para controlar los Estados y los mercados integrados. Esa integración debe generar vías para un modelo de desarrollo que permita la proyección de cada país y la proyección conjunta. La eficacia y el aprovechamiento de las sinergias regionales dependen de la capacidad de entender que es un proyecto colectivo, no individual, y del tejido institucional que se consolide en el proceso de integración.

Fortalecer y profundizar la integración en América del Sur, pasa por fortalecer y profundizar Unasur, y en ese camino es fundamental fortalecer y profundizar el Mercosur caminando hacia un Mercosur Suramericano. Pero eso depende de la capacidad que muestren nuestros Estados para reconfigurar sus estructuras productivas. Esto será posible si los gobiernos van de a poco trascendiendo el ámbito de la mera racionalidad económica y se comprometen en la construcción de una Política Económica Común e Inclusiva, que aproveche las ventajas de la región en recursos alimenticios, hídricos, materias primas industriales y energéticas, generando una integración productiva y la complementariedad entre los países.

En el nuevo orden mundial, la importancia de América del Sur en la economía internacional es innegable. Es uno de los polos económicos más dinámicos. Actualmente, el PIB de los países de la Suramérica representa el 73 por ciento del de América Latina y el Caribe, que a su vez representa el 8 por ciento del comercio mundial. A pesar del peso económico, la matriz productiva y exportadora de nuestros países continúa centrada en el sector primario y en las manufacturas intensivas en materias primas y recursos naturales. Este fenómeno responde a los altos precios de los commodities en el mercado internacional, pero también a la concentración de la inversión, tanto nacional como extranjera, en la explotación de materias primas. Como consecuencia, los países suramericanos enfrentan la amenaza de la desindustrialización y reprimariziación de sus economías. Estos procesos conllevan el aparecimiento de enclaves productivos cuya generación de riqueza no se transmite al total de la economía, dadas las escasas concatenaciones productivas que generan y la fuga de capitales en forma de repatriación de ganancias y beneficios y de incremento desmedido de las importaciones. Esos enclaves, muchas veces son parte de la parasitaria inversión extranjera que no paga impuestos y aporta muy poco a nuestros países.

La forma independiente que los países suramericanos han concebido su desarrollo económico, ha dado origen al establecimiento de estructuras productivas orientadas a satisfacer solamente necesidades extra regionales, llevando a que la dinámica económica de los países de la región contribuya en poco o nada a la dinámica económica colectiva de la región. Debido a este modo individualista de concebir el crecimiento económico y de aplicar políticas comerciales fundamentadas en aperturismos indiscriminados, la mayor parte de las economías suramericanas han experimentado procesos de desmantelamiento productivo o pérdida de dinamismo económico en los sectores industriales. Paralelamente grandes segmentos de nuestras poblaciones ven disminuir el desempleo pero crecer el empleo precario. Y observan que, si bien se nota una clara disminución de la pobreza, la desigualdad se mantiene y a veces es más evidente.

Es necesario que la integración económica suramericana gire en torno a la articulación de las economías nacionales, que las estructuras productivas busquen satisfacer las necesidades de los habitantes de la región, de modo que podamos desarrollar nuestros sectores manufactureros y de servicios. En ese sentido se debe asegurar las condiciones jurídicas y técnicas para promover inversiones productivas regionales. Y finalmente hay que configurar ordenamientos productivos que contribuyan a que todas y cada una de las economías de la región alcancen niveles altos de competitividad para poder, en otra fase, competir en los mercados de servicios y manufacturas de mediano y alto valor agregado internacionales.

En el difícil camino hacia un Mercosur Suramericano, Mercosur debe transformarse en la cabeza de puente para formar un bloque comercial suramericano, que se rija por los principios de solidaridad, complementariedad y consideración de las asimetrías en los niveles de desarrollo económico y social de los diferentes miembros, que priorice el papel del Estado, que tenga como finalidad el bienestar de la población en lugar de las ganancias del gran capital, y que sirva como ejemplo de un modelo de regionalismo diferente, frente a los esquemas tradicionales que se basan en el fundamentalismo de mercado.

– Kintto Lucas es Embajador Itinerante de Uruguay para Unasur, Celac y Alba. Ex Vicecanciller de Ecuador.

Fuente: http://alainet.org/active/65704&lang=es

por Kintto Lucas

ALAI AMLATINA, 16/07/2013.- En los últimos años,
América del Sur ha dado pasos decisivos en su camino hacia la integración regional. Conscientes de los desafíos que ha generado la globalización y que se han evidenciado en las crisis económicas y políticas internacionales, check así como en la proliferación de actividades ilícitas transnacionales que traspasan las capacidades individuales de los Estados, algunos países han comenzado a entender que las ventajas de una mayor cooperación e intercambio comercial no son el objetivo final, sino que es necesario coordinar respuestas en políticas económicas y fiscales, pero también sociales, en manejo de recursos naturales, temas ambientales, de defensa y en otros ámbitos, para enfrentar las amenazas. Pero sobre todo, que en el mundo que se va configurando es imposible caminar solos, y es fundamental caminar en colectivo

Para reforzar la integración es necesario incrementar los niveles de interdependencia económica y comercial en la región. Es un camino complejo pero no imposible. Falta todavía profundizar en una mirada colectiva y dejar de mirarse cada uno al ombligo. Es necesario que las economías más grandes sean más solidarias con las economías pequeñas, pero también es fundamental que éstas busquen un desarrollo propio, dejen de ser parasitarias y no se escondan detrás la farsa de revender productos traídos de otros países sin incorporar agregado nacional o solo colocando una etiqueta de industria nacional.

De a poco América del Sur se va alejando de la teoría de integración regional que promueve el divorcio entre Economía y Política, y que terminó por arrastrar a muchos países a la falacia del “mercado auto regulador” como promotor del desarrollo. Sin embargo, es preocupante observar que después de las nefastas experiencias con la aplicación de la terapias de shock de mercado –en palabras de Naomi Klein-, este tipo de medidas políticas se siguen vendiendo desde algunos países de la OCDE, organizaciones financieras multilaterales, sectores políticos de derecha y ciertos empresarios, como la panacea para la proyección económica de nuestros países.

Desde el Norte se promueven los tratados de libre comercio y la liberalización y desregulación financiera, así como la privatización y la flexibilización del mercado de trabajo como los mecanismos fundamentales para la integración a la economía internacional. En América del Sur hay quienes escuchan esos cantos de sirena y defienden la necesidad urgente de crear un área de libre comercio estilo ALCA. Pretenden así reponer los fracasos del modelo neoliberal.

La integración regional de Suramérica debe recuperar el rol del Estado sobre el mercado, y de la sociedad sobre el Estado y el mercado. Los Estados Suramericanos integrados deben controlar el mercado suramericano integrado. Y la sociedad suramericana debe jugar un papel fundamental con su participación para controlar los Estados y los mercados integrados. Esa integración debe generar vías para un modelo de desarrollo que permita la proyección de cada país y la proyección conjunta. La eficacia y el aprovechamiento de las sinergias regionales dependen de la capacidad de entender que es un proyecto colectivo, no individual, y del tejido institucional que se consolide en el proceso de integración.

Fortalecer y profundizar la integración en América del Sur, pasa por fortalecer y profundizar Unasur, y en ese camino es fundamental fortalecer y profundizar el Mercosur caminando hacia un Mercosur Suramericano. Pero eso depende de la capacidad que muestren nuestros Estados para reconfigurar sus estructuras productivas. Esto será posible si los gobiernos van de a poco trascendiendo el ámbito de la mera racionalidad económica y se comprometen en la construcción de una Política Económica Común e Inclusiva, que aproveche las ventajas de la región en recursos alimenticios, hídricos, materias primas industriales y energéticas, generando una integración productiva y la complementariedad entre los países.

En el nuevo orden mundial, la importancia de América del Sur en la economía internacional es innegable. Es uno de los polos económicos más dinámicos. Actualmente, el PIB de los países de la Suramérica representa el 73 por ciento del de América Latina y el Caribe, que a su vez representa el 8 por ciento del comercio mundial. A pesar del peso económico, la matriz productiva y exportadora de nuestros países continúa centrada en el sector primario y en las manufacturas intensivas en materias primas y recursos naturales. Este fenómeno responde a los altos precios de los commodities en el mercado internacional, pero también a la concentración de la inversión, tanto nacional como extranjera, en la explotación de materias primas. Como consecuencia, los países suramericanos enfrentan la amenaza de la desindustrialización y reprimariziación de sus economías. Estos procesos conllevan el aparecimiento de enclaves productivos cuya generación de riqueza no se transmite al total de la economía, dadas las escasas concatenaciones productivas que generan y la fuga de capitales en forma de repatriación de ganancias y beneficios y de incremento desmedido de las importaciones. Esos enclaves, muchas veces son parte de la parasitaria inversión extranjera que no paga impuestos y aporta muy poco a nuestros países.

La forma independiente que los países suramericanos han concebido su desarrollo económico, ha dado origen al establecimiento de estructuras productivas orientadas a satisfacer solamente necesidades extra regionales, llevando a que la dinámica económica de los países de la región contribuya en poco o nada a la dinámica económica colectiva de la región. Debido a este modo individualista de concebir el crecimiento económico y de aplicar políticas comerciales fundamentadas en aperturismos indiscriminados, la mayor parte de las economías suramericanas han experimentado procesos de desmantelamiento productivo o pérdida de dinamismo económico en los sectores industriales. Paralelamente grandes segmentos de nuestras poblaciones ven disminuir el desempleo pero crecer el empleo precario. Y observan que, si bien se nota una clara disminución de la pobreza, la desigualdad se mantiene y a veces es más evidente.

Es necesario que la integración económica suramericana gire en torno a la articulación de las economías nacionales, que las estructuras productivas busquen satisfacer las necesidades de los habitantes de la región, de modo que podamos desarrollar nuestros sectores manufactureros y de servicios. En ese sentido se debe asegurar las condiciones jurídicas y técnicas para promover inversiones productivas regionales. Y finalmente hay que configurar ordenamientos productivos que contribuyan a que todas y cada una de las economías de la región alcancen niveles altos de competitividad para poder, en otra fase, competir en los mercados de servicios y manufacturas de mediano y alto valor agregado internacionales.

En el difícil camino hacia un Mercosur Suramericano, Mercosur debe transformarse en la cabeza de puente para formar un bloque comercial suramericano, que se rija por los principios de solidaridad, complementariedad y consideración de las asimetrías en los niveles de desarrollo económico y social de los diferentes miembros, que priorice el papel del Estado, que tenga como finalidad el bienestar de la población en lugar de las ganancias del gran capital, y que sirva como ejemplo de un modelo de regionalismo diferente, frente a los esquemas tradicionales que se basan en el fundamentalismo de mercado.

– Kintto Lucas es Embajador Itinerante de Uruguay para Unasur, Celac y Alba. Ex Vicecanciller de Ecuador.

Fuente: http://alainet.org/active/65704&lang=es

16 July by Eric Toussaint

 

Interview by Monique Van Dieren and Claudia Benedetto for Contrastes magazine |1|.

The EU and the Eurozone were created solely to favour capital and apply its principles: total liberty of movement for capital,
free circulation of goods and services, unrestricted commercial competition and the undermining of the very principle of public services, among others.

Capital is given a free rein to maximise its profits, wrongly supposing that if private initiative is favoured all will be well. In following this principle and in reducing state intervention to a minimum in terms of regulations and budgets, we now have a Europe which costs only 1% of its GDP whereas the budgets of the most industrialised countries are at about 40% to 50% of their GDP! This 1% is scrawny and nearly half of it goes to the Common Agricultural Policy. In consequence Europe has not developed the means to reduce the differences between its strongest economies and the others. When these economies are put onto the same playing field their differences are aggravated.

Are there other points of division?

Not only do we have opposition between, on the one hand, countries like Greece, Ireland , Portugal, Spain and the East European countries, and on the other hand, the strongest EU countries, but also inside each of these countries, where income disparities have increased following reforms of the labour markets.
The policies that have been applied by the EU member states have contributed to these inequalities. A prime example is Germany, where counter-reforms, that aim to create a greater variety of employment models, have been put into place. There are currently 7 million full time employees earning less than 400 euros a month!

Tax policy is known to be at the heart of the European problem and of the indebtedness of member states. How can the fact that most European countries are maintaining internal competition be explained?

Europe has refused fiscal harmonisation. The result is that there is enormous disparity between systems of taxation. In Cyprus, corporation tax is 10%. That should change with the present crisis. In Ireland corporation tax is 12.5% and in Belgium, 33.99%. These differences allow companies to declare their revenues where the tax bite is the least. Current European fiscal policy protects tax evasion. Tax havens exist within the European Union – notably the City of London – and the Eurozone, with the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.

It is quite possible to implement measures of fiscal justice at a national level. The common belief that “being in the Eurozone it is impossible to apply major fiscal measures” is false. We are told there are no alternatives. Those who invoke these arguments are protecting the fraudsters. We can see that solutions previously considered impossible are being imagined in the “case” of Cyprus: bank deposits of over 100,000 euros are to be taxed; controls of capital movements are being put into place. I am against the plan imposed on Cyprus by the Troika because the goals are to impose global antisocial policies; but certain measures show the clear possibility of controlling capital flows and of greatly increasing tax-rates above a given level of wealth.
In spite of EU regulations, it is perfectly possible for countries to refuse the policies of the commission and impose renegotiations at the European level. Europe must be reconstructed democratically. In the meantime the left-wing governments must break ranks. If François Hollande really represented the will of the French people that elected him he would have insisted on renegotiating the European Fiscal Compact with Angela Merkel and if she refused he could have refused to vote it in. This would have prevented its adoption.

The euro crisis is clearly the result of an absence of sound political governance (lack of coherent economic, financial, fiscal and social policies). The lack of real European support for Greece in the face of its debt problems shows the fragility of a union that is not based on solidarity. Does this euro crisis toll the bell for European solidarity? Is the dream of European federalism dead and buried?

The EU as it exists has never hinged on solidarity, unless it be in favour of the big European companies. The European governments have continually applied measures that favour them and the European banks. When it comes to helping the weaker people and the weaker economies, there is no solidarity. One could say that there is one kind of solidarity: a class solidarity, a solidarity between capitalists.
Federalism is possible but it must be constituted by the peoples. Guy Verhofstadt and Daniel Cohn-Bendit advocate a federalism imposed from above. We need a federalism that arises from the will of the people.
Federation is possible and necessary, but that implies that the solution to the European crisis should come from the base. That does not mean a withdrawal behind national frontiers, but solidarity between European peoples and a European constitution decided by the people themselves.

What must be done to make the European institutions more democratic?

The existing non democratic institutions must be taken apart and replaced by new ones, created by a peoples’ constituent assembly! The legislative power (the European Parliament) is extremely weak, too much in the thrall of the Executive.

Awaiting this miracle remedy, do you have a concrete idea of how to reconcile Europe’s citizens with Europe?

Within national frontiers, initiatives must be taken by the social movements and corresponding left-wing organisations towards defining common objectives. At the European level, through the Alter Summit movement, we are trying to create a maximum of convergence between citizens’ movements, social movements and European trade unions |2|. It is not easy, up to now it has been too slow, but a coalition of European social movements must nevertheless be created. Relaunching the “Indignés” movement must be encouraged if it is possible, supporting Blockupy in Frankfurt against the ECB. |3| Also, feminist movements and actions against austerity programmes in Europe must be given all possible support
 |4|. Along with this, other European initiatives must be reinforced, such as the the European and Mediterranean citizens’ audits networks (ICAN) |5|, the European network against the privatisation of health services |6| and the efforts to create a European anti-fascist movement |7|, the ” European peoples against the Troika”, which organised actions in dozens of towns and cities across Europe on 1st June 2013 |8|.

Europe has a purpose because…
Solidarity between the peoples is necessary and undoubtedly possible.

Europe has a purpose on condition that…
The process comes from the people. A constituent assembly of the European peoples must found a completely new Europe!
It is time to abandon the dominant ideology that has reigned for so long. There are several possible ways to resolve the crisis. The austerity measures currently applied can only make it worse. We are facing 10 to 15 years of crisis and very limited growth. Unless, that is, the social movements manage to put structural reforms into place, such as the socialisation of the banks; the consolidation of public services; the reconstruction of a Europe based on a peoples’constituent assembly; a Europe in solidarity with the rest of the World. Illegitimate public debt must also be abolished by developing initiatives of citizens’ audits as is the case in Belgium today |9|. This solution presupposes that the social movements and the radical left are capable of proposing real alternatives, with a coherent programme that goes beyond neo-Keynesianism. I would be disappointed if this capitalist crisis were to achieve no more than slightly better discipline. Regulated green capitalism is not a solution to the fundamental problem of climate change. We must abolish the capitalist system.

Translated by Vickie Briault and Mike Krolikowski

Footnotes

|1| The original version of this interview (in French only) is available on the Equipes populaires website which publishes Contrastes magazine: http://www.equipespopulaires.be/sit…

This version has been especially adapted for the CADTM website www.cadtm.org

|2| See http://www.altersummit.eu/

|3| See (in French only) http://cadtm.org/Francfort-ein-zwei…

|4| See (in French only) http://cadtm.org/Femmes-d-Europe-en… and http://cadtm.org/Une-tres-prometteu…

|5| See http://www.citizen-audit.net/ and http://cadtm.org/Coordinated-effort… and cadtm.org/ICAN

|6| See (in French only) http://reseau-europeen-droit-sante…. and http://www.sante-solidarite.be/acti…

|7| See http://cadtm.org/For-a-European-ant…

|8| See http://cadtm.org/From-the-crisis-ed…

|9| See (in French only) http://cadtm.org/Declaration-pour-l…

 

Source: http://cadtm.org/Eric-Toussaint-The-EU-has-never

The EU as a template for ASEAN?

Por Kintto Lucas

En su genial novela El año de la muerte de Ricardo Reis, José Saramago señala “A esta ciudad le basta saber que la rosa de los vientos existe, este no es el lugar donde los rumbos se abren, tampoco es el punto magnífico donde los rumbos convergen, aquí precisamente cambian los rumbos”.

Trasladando las palabras de Saramago al sistema mundo, como diría Immanuel Wallerstein, podríamos decir que cambiarán los rumbos el día que construyamos un sistema mundial multipolar que contribuya a crear un mundo democrático, justo y equitativo.

En ese necesario cambio de rumbos, la integración es un objetivo estratégico para lograr la independencia de América Latina. En ese sentido, es importante fortalecer los distintos niveles de integración y consolidar un bloque suramericano y latinoamericano.

América del Sur vive un momento importante en términos de integración regional, capitalizada más claramente en la Unasur (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas). Un bloque que más allá de las diferencias políticas o económicas de los países que lo integran, ha logrado levantarse como espacio de acuerdos y entendimientos desde la diversidad y ha generado un proceso integrador diferente.

Unasur es la propuesta más importante de integración desde toda América del Sur. Las que surgieron antes, además de ser regionales fueron condicionadas por el libre comercio, porque apostaban a eso, no a la integración.

El Mercosur (Mercado Común del Sur), por ejemplo, fue una propuesta surgida desde el libre comercio desde el neoliberalismo. Si bien luego fue procesando cambios positivos con la irrupción de gobiernos progresistas y es una confluencia fundamental, todavía le falta mucho para consolidarse como Mercosur Suramericano, que sea eje de un modelo de integración productiva de Américas del Sur dentro de Unasur.
La CAN (Comunidad Andina de Naciones), en cambio, surgió como una propuesta integradora distinta, pero finalmente terminó absorbida por la hegemonía neoliberal en los años 90.

Unasur surgió de una forma diferente, y se posicionó como una propuesta de integración desde lo político, llevando adelante acciones trascendentes para solucionar conflictos, consolidar una mirada de defensa de la democracia en común, fortalecer políticas de defensa y sociales integradoras, e inclusive posicionándose como un bloque a tener en cuenta a nivel mundial en el desarrollo de un mundo multipolar.

Unasur ha demostrado que, dentro de las diferencias, se puede llegar a ciertos acuerdos que parten de un punto central: para competir, para ser escuchados en un mundo que va a ser de bloques, tenemos que participar como un todo más compacto, que en este caso es el bloque de América del Sur.

Por ejemplo, el acuerdo del Consejo de Defensa en Unasur, de transparentar gastos militares, de parar la instalación de bases militares estadounidenses, son temas que se han resuelto, con discrepancias pero finalmente llegando a ciertos consensos. También a nivel económico, hubo algunos acuerdos, desde los presidentes, quienes creían que Unasur debía jugar un papel importante para enfrentar la crisis económica internacional en conjunto. Lamentablemente los ministros de Economía han desentonado.

Ahora es necesario consolidar Unasur como bloque de poder e interlocución mundial. Y dentro de ese proceso es fundamental consolidar la institucionalidad de Unasur en sus diferentes instancias, y particularmente la Secretaría General.

Néstor Kirchner, cuando fue secretario general, puso las bases políticas de la Secretaría. Ecuador, cuando fue Presidencia Pro Tempore puso las bases materiales y constitutivas, y le dio institucionalidad. Ema Mejía y Alí Rodríguez consolidaron la institucionalidad. Rodríguez, además, aportó una base teórico-práctica a Unasur con su propuesta sobre los recursos naturales como eje integrador. Es necesario consolidar la gestión de Unasur desde la Secretaría, para fortalecer las acciones del bloque a nivel regional y mundial.

Por su parte la Celac (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños), surgió con la necesidad de consolidar un espacio amplio que promueva un proceso integrador desde la pluralidad latinoamericana, desde procesos más diversos y complejos, pero sin la tutela de Estados Unidos.

Mientras la OEA (Organización de Estados Americanos) surgió como la opción de un determinado momento histórico en que los países vivían sometidos al “liderazgo” de Estados Unidos, que en realidad era una imposición desde ese país, Celac y Unasur surgieron desde los propios países latinoamericanos y suramericanos. La OEA fue un proceso de imposición, Unasur y Celac son, con todas sus dificultades, procesos de integración.

El Alba (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América), que surgió como una propuesta frente a otro intento de imposición estadounidense como el Alca (Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas), ha implementado procesos de complementariedad y solidaridad creando propuestas de integración productiva interesantes. Es necesario establecer un puente entre el Mercosur y el Alba, buscando instancias de cooperación y complementación. Uruguay podría ser un país puente entre el Mercosur y el Alba promoviendo la cooperación y complementación. Uruguay debe fortalecer el Mercosur y fortalecerse en el Mercosur, y paralelamente consolidar su presencia en el Alba y actuar como puente Alba-Mercosur.

Un gran reto en Unasur y en todos los niveles de integración, es involucrar a las organizaciones sociales y a los movimientos sociales en una confluencia desde abajo, desde los pueblos. Obviamente no todas las organizaciones sociales representan al pueblo en general pero sí son instancias importantes que dan base social a los procesos integradores. Si no se produce una integración desde los pueblos, si no hay una integración cultural y de procesos culturales conjuntos de los países, es muy difícil consolidar un proceso integrador de largo plazo.

El mayor enemigo de la integración es el modelo de desarrollo. En este momento los procesos de integración están en medio de dos modelos de desarrollo que se encuentran en disputa. Un modelo de desarrollo que es más soberano, vinculado a la producción nacional, con la idea de cambiar la matriz productiva y dejar de ser solo países primarios exportadores, con una visión desde el sur, desde nuestros países. El otro modelo, por ahora hegemónico, apuesta al libre comercio mal entendido, donde quienes dirigen el mercado terminan siendo las grandes corporaciones, la política comercial se basa en los tratados de libre comercio con las grandes potencias, tratados neocoloniales que van contra la integración y la política económica favorecen la especulación financiera, las importaciones y el consumismo. Ese modelo de desarrollo a veces disfrazado de progresista es el mayor enemigo de la integración. Si no es derrotado a nivel regional y dentro de cada uno de nuestros países no habrá integración y seremos cada día más dependientes. Ahí seguramente recordemos aquella frase del final de Ensayo sobre la ceguera de Saramago cuando dice “Creo que no nos quedamos ciegos, creo que estamos ciegos, Ciegos que ven, Ciegos que, viendo, no ven”.

 

Lee el articulo completo aqui.

Marcelo Saguier

ALAI AMLATINA, 27/07/2012.- Los procesos de integración regional en Sudamérica han dado importantes pasos en la construcción de una comunidad política en base a valores y expectativas comunes. La defensa de la democracia, la resolución de conflictos mediante la diplomacia, el resguardo de la paz y la reivindicación conjunta de la soberanía argentina sobre las islas Malvinas ante los diferendos con el Reino Unido han sido algunos de campos en donde se logró alcanzar un inédito dinamismo y convergencia regional. Muchos de estos consensos acompañaron el surgimiento de nuevas formas institucionales como la UNASUR, ALBA y la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericana y Caribeños (CELAC).

No obstante tales avances, existe otra dimensión del proceso regional en la que es menos evidente que consensos se expresan. Las dinámicas de la región, como espacio socio-político en construcción, actualmente está regida por los patrones de conflictos y cooperación entre gobiernos, empresas y actores sociales en torno a la utilización de los recursos naturales para fines de exportación y de insumos para la industria. Este es el caso de los recursos minerales y del agua de ríos para la generación de energía hidroeléctrica. A diferencia de las avances alcanzados en materia de construcción política regional en otros campos, el lugar que hoy ocupan los recursos naturales en la integración es más inquietante y potencialmente una fuente de tensiones.

Las políticas de utilización de tales recursos, y los conflictos socio-ambientales que se producen por las mismas, en su mayoría son de carácter nacional o sub-nacional. Sin embargo, al mismo tiempo se despliegan algunas iniciativas de carácter regional impulsadas por gobiernos o por actores sociales que regionalizan sus disputas como estrategias de acción frente a la orientación extractivista de algunos proyectos. Es decir que las dinámicas socio-políticas de construcción de un espacio político regional en Sudamérica van más allá de las distintas iniciativas intergubernamentales que se puedan emprender desde los estados. Los recursos naturales constituyen un eje de articulación tanto para iniciativas de cooperación interestatal como también para la movilización social transfronteriza.

La propuesta de este articulo es la de pensar las dinámicas de la construcción política regional desde ésta perspectiva, en la que las interacciones de cooperación y conflicto entre actores públicos, empresariales y sociales moldean el escenario regional, sus posibilidades y limitaciones.

La minería en zonas de frontera es una de las formas que se redefine el escenario social y político regional. El caso más paradigmático de ello es la frontera entre Argentina y Chile. Tradicionalmente, las fronteras internacionales eran zonas en donde no se permitía emprendimientos productivos (o extractivos) dado que constituían lugares sensibles a la defensa del territorio nacional. Los procesos de democratización e integración económica llevados a cabo en la región permitieron desactivar las hipótesis de conflicto que fundamentaron el imaginario geopolítico de gobiernos y sociedades nacionales durante gran parte del siglo veinte. Sin embargo, estos cambios estuvieron asimismo signados por la orientación neoliberal que marcó las políticas de integración durante la década del 90. Una de las características de ello fue el establecimiento de nuevas mecanismos institucionales para atraer y resguardar inversiones. La minería de frontera entre Argentina y Chile es producto de ello, y su expresión más acabada es el acuerdo binacional minero que fuera firmado en 1997 y ratificado en los parlamentos en el 2000.

El territorio comprendido por el acuerdo binacional cubre un área sobre la cordillera de los Andes de más de 200.000 kilómetros cuadrados, lo que equivale al 95% de la frontera internacional de ambos países. El acuerdo concede a las empresas la disponibilidad de minerales y agua para sus procesos de extracción, así como poder de control fronterizo. Pascua Lama es el proyecto binacional de megaminería que fue posible con este acuerdo. Las empresas que desarrollan el proyecto son: Barrick Exploraciones Argentina y Exploraciones Mineras Argentinas, en la Republica Argentina, y Compañía Minera Nevada en Chile. Otros proyectos mineros ya han sido aprobados, amparados en el tratado binacional, se encuentran actualmente en diferentes etapas de desarrollo. Entre ellos, está el proyecto El Pachón en la provincia de San Juan.

El acuerdo minero binacional consiste en un modelo de integración territorial y representa un hito internacional, considerando la extensión del área cubierta, los volúmenes de minerales e inversiones que potencialmente se verían implicados y la posible replicabilidad de este modelo en otras zonas de frontera con comparables condiciones geológicas. Evidentemente, la replicabilidad de este enfoque para la explotación conjunta de depósitos minerales en zonas de jurisdicción nacional compartida está expuesta también a los vaivenes de las presiones sociales frente al extractivismo y al creciente grado de concientización sobre la necesidad de fundar nuevos paradigmas del desarrollo con criterios de sostenibilidad.

La tendencia de minería de frontera se confirma asimismo en otros países latinoamericanos sin que exista necesariamente ningún acuerdo entre los países. Este es caso de los proyectos de exploración minera que actualmente tienen lugar en la frontera de Costa Rica y Nicaragua, de El Salvador y Guatemala y de Perú y Ecuador en la llamada Cordillera del Cóndor – región que en 1995 fue epicentro de un conflicto bélico entre ambos países. En este ultimo caso, desde la resolución del conflicto bélico han habido grandes inversiones mineras atraídas por la riqueza de de yacimientos de oro de este lugar. Incluso sin un acuerdo minero entre ambos países, entre 2005 y 2010 se han triplicado el número de concesiones de exploración a empresas interesadas, en su mayoría del lado peruano de la frontera. Las empresas transnacionales mineras sin duda constituyen actores de creciente influencia en la redefinición del espacio regional y es de suponer que asimismo constituyen factores de influencia en los gobiernos para promover acuerdos mineros internacionales (los gobiernos de Alan García en Perú y Correa en Ecuador habían comenzado a explorar esta posibilidad).

La minería en zonas de frontera contribuye a regionalizar conflictos que se suscitan desde hace años en toda América Latina. Son conocidas las expresiones de resistencia a proyectos mineros llevados a por comunidades rurales en distintas provincias argentinas como Chubut, San Juan, Catamarca, La Rioja y Tucumán. Sin embargo, éstos no son casos aislados sino que se enmarcan en una tendencia generalizada de creciente conflictividad en zonas de exploración minera. Evidencia de ello es que actualmente existen 155 conflictos relacionados a esta actividad en todo Latinoamérica y el Caribe, en las que se ven implicadas 205 comunidades en relación a 168 proyectos mineros. Asimismo, según un informe a cargo del ex Representante Especial del Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas, John Ruggie, las industrias extractivas representan el 28 % de los casos de los casos de violaciones a los Derechos Humanos con complicidad de las empresas. Esta tendencia global se profundiza en América Latina. Un elemento común a tales conflictos es la ausencia de debate público sobre los cuáles son los beneficios y costos de estos proyectos – definidos en términos económicos, sociales y ambientales – así de cómo arbitrar equitativamente los derechos y responsabilidades de los principales beneficiarios y damnificados de los mismos. Las comunidades tampoco son consultadas previamente, según lo establece el Convenio 169 de la OIT, sin bien algunos cambios en esta dirección comienzan a promoverse en Bolivia, Perú y Ecuador.

Las resistencias sociales a la minería a cielo abierto, y especialmente en zonas de frontera, se traducen crecientemente en la búsqueda de estrategias de incidencia mediante la movilización transnacional. Ejemplo de ello es la realización de tribunales de opinión, en donde comunidades afectadas por la minería pueden denunciar simbólicamente los estragos de la minería en el ambiente y su impacto sobre los derechos de las poblaciones. Se realizó el primer “Tribunal Ético de Minería de Frontera” organizado por el Observatorio de Conflictos Minero de América Latina en Chile en el 2010. También el “Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos sobre Empresas Transnacionales” sesionó en Austria 2006, Perú/Colombia 2008 y España 2010 para denunciar la complicidad de empresas transnacionales en casos de violación de derechos humanos en Latinoamérica. Muchos de los casos denunciados están relacionados con la minería, además de la explotación de hidrocarburos, agronegocios, etc. Asimismo, se han creado redes de acción global para el intercambio de información y coordinación de campañas conjuntas. Estas son algunas de las formas que adquiere el activismo transnacional en respuesta a la minería y demás instancias de violaciones de derechos humanos en los que estados y empresas se ven acusados. En este sentido, la minería de frontera actúa como catalizador tanto de nuevos relacionamientos entre empresas y gobiernos, así como también de nuevas formas de resistencias sociales que intervienen en la redefinición del debate regional sobre los vínculos entre desarrollo sustentable y derechos humanos.

Además de la minería de frontera, las dinámicas de la integración regional en Sudamérica están regidas también por una serie de proyectos de infraestructura para la generación y transporte de energía hidroeléctrica. La abundancia de agua en la cuenca del Amazonas hace de esta zona el epicentro de una serie de redes interconectadas de represas y líneas de transmisión que se proyecta vincularán lugares de producción y consumo. La creciente demanda de energía esta dada por el crecimiento económico en las economías de los países sudamericanos, y especialmente del sector industrial brasileño y minero (esta actividad es gran demandante de agua para sus procesos de extracción del mineral). Estos cambios están dando lugar a nuevos patrones de la cooperación regional internacional en el que las empresas brasileñas juegan un papel clave como las concesionarias principales de los proyectos de infraestructura de energía hidroeléctrica.

La Iniciativa para la Infraestructura Regional Suramericana (IIRSA), establece la financiación para estos proyectos. IIRSA es un mecanismo institucional creado en 2000 para la coordinación de las organizaciones intergubernamentales acciones con el objetivo de “promover el proceso de integración política, social y económica de América del Sur, incluyendo la modernización de la infraestructura regional y acciones específicas para estimular la integración y el desarrollo de las regiones aisladas de los subsistemas. IIRSA cuenta una cartera 524 proyectos de infraestructura en las áreas de transporte, energía y las comunicaciones, que se agrupan en 47 grupos de proyectos que representan una inversión estimada de dólares EE.UU. 96,119.2 millones de dólares. El Banco Nacional de Desarrollo de Brasil (BNDES) es también un actor regional clave en la movilización de recursos para los proyectos patrocinados por la IIRSA, tanto en territorio brasileño como también en países vecinos.

El Complejo Hidroeléctrico rio Madeira es uno de los proyectos más emblemáticos y la principal iniciativa hidroeléctrica del IIRSA. Una vez terminado, contará con cuatro represas interconectadas y será el de mayor tamaño de la cuenca del Amazonas. El BNDES provee parte del financiamiento para su construcción. Dos de las represas estarán emplazadas en Brasil mientras que una de ellas estará en territorio boliviano y la última en un río que demarca la frontera internacional entre Bolivia y Brasil.

Además, Brasil y Perú procuran la construcción de un mega-complejo hidroeléctrico en la Amazonía peruana financiado por Brasil. El objetivo de esta iniciativa es para generar electricidad en Perú para ser transportada sobre a Brasil para satisfacer su creciente demanda de energía. Para ello, ambos gobiernos negociaron un Acuerdo Energético que establece que Perú se compromete a exportar el 70% de la energía que produzcan sus centrales hidroeléctricas a Brasil durante un plazo de 50 años. Su construcción tendrá un costo de 4.000 millones de dólares e incluye también una línea de 357 kilómetros para tener la electricidad a la frontera brasileña. Una vez terminada la construcción del complejo, este será el mayor proyecto de energía hidroeléctrica en Perú y el quinto más grande en América Latina. Este proyecto y acuerdo energético ha sido objeto de grande críticas en Perú. El acuerdo fue firmado por los gobiernos de Alan García y de Ignácio Lula da Silva en 2010, pero actualmente está pendiente la ratificación del congreso peruano.

El acuerdo y proyecto ha sido objeto de serios cuestionamientos por los impactos ambientales y sociales de estas obras. En octubre de 2011 la principal concesionaria de este proyecto, la brasileña Odebrecht, decidió retirarse de la construcción de dos des las represas proyectadas como consecuencia de la oposición que este mega-proyecto genera en las poblaciones locales, sobre todo de pueblos originarios. El interés del gobierno brasileño por asegurar un acuerdo que le permita proveerse de energía a costos rentables se mantiene. Seguramente veremos nuevos intentos por reflotar el debate sobre este acuerdo, tal vez tomando en consideración las más recientes resistencias sociales que se han manifestado en repudio al mismo. Evidencia de ello es el proceso de revisión que emprenden los ocho países amazónicos de los mecanismos nacionales de consulta a grupos étnicos en el marco del Tratado de Cooperación Amazónica.

En la medida que avanzan las iniciativas de integración sudamericana se pone en evidencia la ausencia de consensos sobre ciertas áreas sensibles como es el caso de los recursos naturales. Muchos cuestionamientos comienzan a aflorar en el debate regional, como las tensiones entre visiones productivistas del desarrollo y de ecología política en las que se propician formas de desarrollo sustentable, vinculadas a los derechos humanos, la armonía ambiental y formas de producción y consumo más inclusivas. Asimismo, se manifiesta la necesidad de nuevos mecanismos de toma de decisión en materia de recursos naturales, no sólo a nivel nacional sino especialmente en lo relacionado a proyectos regionales que involucran acuerdos entre estados e instrumentos de financiamiento regionales. Es fundamental abordar en profundidad las nuevas asimetrías que genera este tipo de integración, no solo entre economías de mayor y menor tamaño, perfiles productivos especializados como industriales y proveerdores de materias primas, sino también en la necesidad de formular marcos regionales regulatorios y de políticas específicamente sobre recursos naturales (coordinación fiscales, normas de protección ambiental, derecho a de consulta a las poblaciones, eficiencia energética, entre otras).

En un contexto de creación de una comunidad política sudamericana, los conflictos y desafíos del desarrollo sustentable se vuelven invariablemente preocupaciones de todo el bloque regional. Mientras antes podamos avanzar sobre nuevos consensos en materia de recursos naturales, mejor estaremos preparados para avanzar en la profundización de nuevas bases de soberanía.

Nota: Las ideas que aquí se exponen están desarrolladas en un artículo recientemente publicado como: Saguier, Marcelo (2012) ‘Socio-environmental regionalism in South America: tensions in the new development models’, The Rise of Post-Hegemonic Regionalism: The Case of Latin America, Pia Riggirozzi and Diana Tussie, eds., Series United Nations University Series on Regionalism, Springer.

– Dr. Marcelo Saguier es profesor de estudios internacionales e investigador CONICET/FLACSO

Fuente: http://alainet.org/active/56815

by Kintto Lucas

ALAI AMLAT-en, sildenafil 17/07/2013.- In the past few years, case South America has taken some decisive steps toward regional integration. Aware of the challenges of globalization, which have surfaced in international political and economic crises, as well as in the proliferation of transnational illicit activities that are beyond the capacities of individual states to control, some countries have begun to understand that the advantages of greater cooperation and commercial interchange are not the final goal. Rather it is necessary to coordinate responses not only in economic and fiscal policy, but also in social policy, the control of natural resources, environmental issues, defence and other areas, in order to face the threats that impinge on them. Above all, in the world as it is now developing, it is impossible to walk alone. It is essential to walk together.

To reinforce integration we need to increase levels of economic and commercial interdependence in the region. It is a complex but not impossible course. We need to develop a collective vision and cease to contemplate our own navels. The bigger economies must show greater solidarity with the smaller ones, but it is fundamental that the latter look to their own development, stop being parasites and stop hiding behind the farce of re-selling products brought in from other places without any local value-added, but simply adding labels that proclaim the product to be of national industry.

Little by little South America is moving away from a theory of regional integration that supposes a divorce between economics and politics, and which ended up imposing on many countries the fallacy of a “self-regulating market” as a force for development. Nevertheless, it is worrying to see that after the disastrous experiences with the application of market shock theories — in the words of Naomi Klein – these political measures are still being pushed by some OECD countries, multinational financial organizations, rightwing politicians and some businessmen, as a panacea for the economic protection of our countries.

From the North, we are plied with free trade treaties and liberalization and deregulation of financial structures, along with privatization and flexible labour markets as basic mechanisms for international economic integration. In South America there are people who hear these siren songs and defend the urgent need to create a free trade area along the lines of the FTAA/ALCA. With this they propose to cure the failures of the neoliberal model.

The regional integration of South America must retrieve the role of the State over the market, of society over the State and the market. The integrated South American states should take control of an integrated South American market. And Latin American society should play a fundamental role in participating to control States and integrated markets. This integration should open the way for a development model that allows for the advancement of each country as well as common advancement. The efficacy and the ability for channeling regional synergies depend on the ability to understand that this is a collective project, not an individual one, and to understand that this is an institutional fabric that is created through the process of integration.

To expand and strengthen South American integration, Unasur must be strengthened and extended. It is fundamental to move Mercosur towards a South American Mercosur(1). This depends on the capacity of our States to reconfigure their productive structures.

This will be possible if governments can transcend the limits of mere economic rationality and commit themselves to work towards a Common and Inclusive Economic Policy, which can take advantage of the region’s assets in food and hydraulic resources, raw materials and energy resources, generating a productive integration of a complementary character between countries.

In the new world order, the importance of South America for the international economy is undeniable. It is one of the most dynamic economic poles. At the present time, the GDP of the countries of South America represents 73 per cent of that of Latin America and the Caribbean, which in turn represents 8 per cent of world trade. In spite of its economic weight, the productive and export matrix of our countries continues to be centred on the primary sector and on intensive manufactures in primary resources and natural resources. This phenomenon responds to the high prices of commodities in the international market, but also to the concentration of investment, both national and foreign, in the exploitation of primary resources. In consequence, South American countries face the threat of deindustrialization and of economies centred on the primary sector. These processes lead to the emergence of productive enclaves whose wealth creation does not reach the whole economy, given the few productive networks they generate, as well as capital flight in the form of the repatriation of profits and benefits and the unlimited increase in imports. These enclaves in many cases are part of parasitical foreign investment that does not pay taxes and brings very little to our countries.

The way that Latin American countries have conceived their economic development has given rise to productive structures that are engineered to satisfy extra-regional needs. Because of this, the economic dynamics of the countries of the region contribute little or nothing to the collective economic dynamics of the region. Due to this individualist way of thinking of economic growth and the application of commercial policies based on indiscriminate opening to foreign economies, the greater part of South American economies have undergone processes of productive dismantling or the loss of economic dynamism in industrial sectors. At the same time large segments of our populations have experienced a fall in unemployment but growth in precarious employment. Here, if there is a diminishing amount of poverty, inequality is maintained and is at times even more evident.

It is necessary for South American economic integration to move towards the articulation of national economies, and for productive structures to look to satisfying the needs of the people of the region, in a way that allows us to develop our manufacturing sectors and services. In this sense it is important to establish legal and technical conditions to promote regional productive investment. Finally, it is necessary to set up productive conditions that make it possible for each and every one of the economies of the region to reach high levels of competitiveness in order, at a later moment, to be able to compete in the international markets of manufacturing and service sectors of medium and high added value.

In the difficult path towards a South American Mercosur, Mercosur should become the bridgehead to establish a South American commercial bloc, animated by principles of solidarity, complementarity and the consideration of the asymmetries in the levels of social and economic development of different members, that prioritizes the role of the State, and has as its goal the well-being of the population rather than the profits of big capital, and which can serve as an example of a different regionalist model, in the face of traditional schemes that are based on market fundamentalism.
(Translation: Jordan Bishop, for ALAI)

– Kintto Lucas is the Roaming Ambassador of Uruguay for Unasur, Celac, and Alba. Former vice foreign minister of Ecuador.

(1) Unasur: Union of South American Nations. Mercosur: Southern Common Market.

 

Source: http://www.alainet.org/active/65768

Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

Whether a euro area banking union would have saved Cyprus from its recent TROIKA (of European Commission, pharm European Central Bank and IMF) tragic treatment is a very interesting question. If it would, find then clearly a move towards a banking union, help as part of the construction of a political union should be a major component of the reconstruction of the euro area. As we argued in our March 2013 blog, the European Union (EU) summit meeting, 28th/29th June 2012, took a number of decisions in terms of a possible euro area banking union. The most relevant decision was the creation of banking supervision by the European Central Bank (ECB), banking licence for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), and financial assistance by the ESM to governments, members of the euro area, when in financial difficulty. The banking supervision, however, will not come into full operation before 2014. ESM member states would then be able to apply for an ESM bailout when they are in financial difficulty or their financial sector is a threat to stability and in need of recapitalization. This is exactly the problem with the recent Cyprus problem, as we now elaborate.

Essentially the major problem in Cyprus has been the size and insolvency of its banking sector. It is far too big in relation to the total economy (ten times its annual GDP is often quoted by the TROIKA; being big relative to economy means its assets and liabilities relative to GDP are large); it is also the case that as an off-shore financial and business centre, the Cypriot banking attracted a significant amount of foreign deposits. The first feature poses the danger of a ‘systemic risk’ for the entire economy when one or more banks fail. The second feature exposes Cyprus to accusations, such as those from politicians in Germany and elsewhere that Cyprus has become a ‘money-laundering’ centre within the European Union. By the summer of 2012 it became clear that the two biggest domestic banks in Cyprus were in trouble because of huge losses from the exposure of their branches in Greece, in view of the depressed macroeconomic conditions there, promoted by TROIKA; also in view of the ‘haircut’ of the Greek sovereign debt, of which Cypriot banks had acquired a great deal by 2010. This mixture of wrong decision-making by Cypriot bankers and bad luck created the need for bank re-capitalisations. As a result, Cyprus applied for financial help from its partners in the euro area in the summer of 2012.

The request by Cyprus for a bail-out has certain unique features. The tiny economy of Cyprus requested 17.5 billion euros which, by contrast to the previous Southern European bail-outs, was a comparatively trivial sum in absolute terms. It was, nonetheless, quite large, nearly 100%, when expressed as a percentage of Cyprus GDP. The initial negotiations between the TROIKA and the outgoing government of Cyprus were accompanied by political noises from Germany implying that the German electorate was fed up with having to hand over money to the Southern European periphery yet again. The reason as to why the heavily indebted southern periphery of Europe was morally ‘undeserving’ of financial help was simply undesirable money-laundering. The argument produced is that hard working and prudent German tax payers should not be expected to rescue an overblown banking sector in Cyprus, which became a ‘tax haven’ for wealthy non-Europeans. These are especially Russians, whose deposits in Cyprus are thought to be of the order of 25bn euros, an amount that is almost one-third of the total deposits in the Cyprus banks. The depositors in the Cyprus banking system should be partly expected to rescue their economy, a proposal that was apparently initiated and promoted by the IMF part of TROIKA. The European Commission was reluctant on this score, fearing a bank run in Cyprus and potentially elsewhere in the euro area. Such a plan, it is argued by TROIKA, helps to reduce the unsustainable large banking and financial sectors of Cyprus. It is also the case that to the extent the ‘bail-in’ of the banks in Cyprus is successful it will introduce some market discipline in banking. By sending the message to all depositors in all banks that if a bank needs re-capitalisation they may be asked to bear some of the cost, the depositors will be forced to take more care where they ‘park’ their savings. Unfortunately the world is a much more complicated place to rely for such arguments to be uncontroversial. This is particularly so in the world of money and finance. In any case, and as the editorial of the Financial Times (18 March 2013) rightly commented “instead of throwing Cyprus a life-buoy, leaders put a millstone around its neck”.

 

When confidence in the banking system weakens then the safety of bank deposits is substantially in peril. This is exactly what happened in Cyprus. A long-term solution would be a move towards a banking union and a single euro area bank deposit guarantee scheme, along with a fully fledged ‘lender-of-last-resort’ function including ability to intervene in the sovereign debt market as well as the secondary markets. Germany has resisted this solution, arguing that it would only contemplate such action only under a full-blown fiscal union. Such a suggestion is pertinent not merely in terms of the introduction of the proposed solution but also for the long-term survival of the euro area. This is desperately and immediately needed, though. We may conclude that both a European Banking Supervision and a European Banking Resolution Authorities are needed but for them to be successful they would have to come under a political integration arrangement, which would provide the necessary fiscal capacity desperately and urgently required at the euro-area level. The Cyprus crisis has vividly demonstrated the need for such a move. The euro-group policymakers should concentrate their efforts on correcting the various serious ‘design faults’ of the monetary union in Europe, especially the absence of a banking union. They must avoid imposing more austerity and misery and creating conditions for bank runs. Clearly such solutions amount to a nail in the coffin of a banking union and a setback to any serious effort to reform the single currency in Europe.

– See more at: http://triplecrisis.com/would-a-euro-area-banking-union-have-saved-cyprus/

 

Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

Whether a euro area banking union would have saved Cyprus from its recent TROIKA (of European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF) tragic treatment is a very interesting question. If it would, check then clearly a move towards a banking union, illness as part of the construction of a political union should be a major component of the reconstruction of the euro area. As we argued in our March 2013 blog, the European Union (EU) summit meeting, 28th/29th June 2012, took a number of decisions in terms of a possible euro area banking union. The most relevant decision was the creation of banking supervision by the European Central Bank (ECB), banking licence for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), and financial assistance by the ESM to governments, members of the euro area, when in financial difficulty. The banking supervision, however, will not come into full operation before 2014. ESM member states would then be able to apply for an ESM bailout when they are in financial difficulty or their financial sector is a threat to stability and in need of recapitalization. This is exactly the problem with the recent Cyprus problem, as we now elaborate.

Essentially the major problem in Cyprus has been the size and insolvency of its banking sector. It is far too big in relation to the total economy (ten times its annual GDP is often quoted by the TROIKA; being big relative to economy means its assets and liabilities relative to GDP are large); it is also the case that as an off-shore financial and business centre, the Cypriot banking attracted a significant amount of foreign deposits. The first feature poses the danger of a ‘systemic risk’ for the entire economy when one or more banks fail. The second feature exposes Cyprus to accusations, such as those from politicians in Germany and elsewhere that Cyprus has become a ‘money-laundering’ centre within the European Union. By the summer of 2012 it became clear that the two biggest domestic banks in Cyprus were in trouble because of huge losses from the exposure of their branches in Greece, in view of the depressed macroeconomic conditions there, promoted by TROIKA; also in view of the ‘haircut’ of the Greek sovereign debt, of which Cypriot banks had acquired a great deal by 2010. This mixture of wrong decision-making by Cypriot bankers and bad luck created the need for bank re-capitalisations. As a result, Cyprus applied for financial help from its partners in the euro area in the summer of 2012.

The request by Cyprus for a bail-out has certain unique features. The tiny economy of Cyprus requested 17.5 billion euros which, by contrast to the previous Southern European bail-outs, was a comparatively trivial sum in absolute terms. It was, nonetheless, quite large, nearly 100%, when expressed as a percentage of Cyprus GDP. The initial negotiations between the TROIKA and the outgoing government of Cyprus were accompanied by political noises from Germany implying that the German electorate was fed up with having to hand over money to the Southern European periphery yet again. The reason as to why the heavily indebted southern periphery of Europe was morally ‘undeserving’ of financial help was simply undesirable money-laundering. The argument produced is that hard working and prudent German tax payers should not be expected to rescue an overblown banking sector in Cyprus, which became a ‘tax haven’ for wealthy non-Europeans. These are especially Russians, whose deposits in Cyprus are thought to be of the order of 25bn euros, an amount that is almost one-third of the total deposits in the Cyprus banks. The depositors in the Cyprus banking system should be partly expected to rescue their economy, a proposal that was apparently initiated and promoted by the IMF part of TROIKA. The European Commission was reluctant on this score, fearing a bank run in Cyprus and potentially elsewhere in the euro area. Such a plan, it is argued by TROIKA, helps to reduce the unsustainable large banking and financial sectors of Cyprus. It is also the case that to the extent the ‘bail-in’ of the banks in Cyprus is successful it will introduce some market discipline in banking. By sending the message to all depositors in all banks that if a bank needs re-capitalisation they may be asked to bear some of the cost, the depositors will be forced to take more care where they ‘park’ their savings. Unfortunately the world is a much more complicated place to rely for such arguments to be uncontroversial. This is particularly so in the world of money and finance. In any case, and as the editorial of the Financial Times (18 March 2013) rightly commented “instead of throwing Cyprus a life-buoy, leaders put a millstone around its neck”.

 

When confidence in the banking system weakens then the safety of bank deposits is substantially in peril. This is exactly what happened in Cyprus. A long-term solution would be a move towards a banking union and a single euro area bank deposit guarantee scheme, along with a fully fledged ‘lender-of-last-resort’ function including ability to intervene in the sovereign debt market as well as the secondary markets. Germany has resisted this solution, arguing that it would only contemplate such action only under a full-blown fiscal union. Such a suggestion is pertinent not merely in terms of the introduction of the proposed solution but also for the long-term survival of the euro area. This is desperately and immediately needed, though. We may conclude that both a European Banking Supervision and a European Banking Resolution Authorities are needed but for them to be successful they would have to come under a political integration arrangement, which would provide the necessary fiscal capacity desperately and urgently required at the euro-area level. The Cyprus crisis has vividly demonstrated the need for such a move. The euro-group policymakers should concentrate their efforts on correcting the various serious ‘design faults’ of the monetary union in Europe, especially the absence of a banking union. They must avoid imposing more austerity and misery and creating conditions for bank runs. Clearly such solutions amount to a nail in the coffin of a banking union and a setback to any serious effort to reform the single currency in Europe.

– See more at: http://triplecrisis.com/would-a-euro-area-banking-union-have-saved-cyprus

En su genial novela El año de la muerte de Ricardo Reis, ed José Saramago señala “A esta ciudad le basta saber que la rosa de los vientos existe, salve este no es el lugar donde los rumbos se abren, tampoco es el punto magnífico donde los rumbos convergen, aquí precisamente cambian los rumbos”.

 

Trasladando las palabras de Saramago al sistema mundo, como diría Immanuel Wallerstein, podríamos decir que cambiarán los rumbos el día que construyamos un sistema mundial multipolar que contribuya a crear un mundo democrático, justo y equitativo.

 

En ese necesario cambio de rumbos, la integración es un objetivo estratégico para lograr la independencia de América Latina. En ese sentido, es importante fortalecer los distintos niveles de integración y consolidar un bloque suramericano y latinoamericano.

 

América del Sur vive un momento importante en términos de integración regional, capitalizada más claramente en la Unasur (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas). Un bloque que más allá de las diferencias políticas o económicas de los países que lo integran, ha logrado levantarse como espacio de acuerdos y entendimientos desde la diversidad y ha generado un proceso integrador diferente.

Unasur es la propuesta más importante de integración desde toda América del Sur. Las que surgieron antes, además de ser regionales fueron condicionadas por el libre comercio, porque apostaban a eso, no a la integración.

 

El Mercosur (Mercado Común del Sur), por ejemplo, fue una propuesta surgida desde el libre comercio desde el neoliberalismo. Si bien luego fue procesando cambios positivos con la irrupción de gobiernos progresistas y es una confluencia fundamental, todavía le falta mucho para consolidarse como Mercosur Suramericano, que sea eje de un modelo de integración productiva de Américas del Sur dentro de Unasur.
La CAN (Comunidad Andina de Naciones), en cambio, surgió como una propuesta integradora distinta, pero finalmente terminó absorbida por la hegemonía neoliberal en los años 90.

 

Unasur surgió de una forma diferente, y se posicionó como una propuesta de integración desde lo político, llevando adelante acciones trascendentes para solucionar conflictos, consolidar una mirada de defensa de la democracia en común, fortalecer políticas de defensa y sociales integradoras, e inclusive posicionándose como un bloque a tener en cuenta a nivel mundial en el desarrollo de un mundo multipolar.

 

Unasur ha demostrado que, dentro de las diferencias, se puede llegar a ciertos acuerdos que parten de un punto central: para competir, para ser escuchados en un mundo que va a ser de bloques, tenemos que participar como un todo más compacto, que en este caso es el bloque de América del Sur.

 

Por ejemplo, el acuerdo del Consejo de Defensa en Unasur, de transparentar gastos militares, de parar la instalación de bases militares estadounidenses, son temas que se han resuelto, con discrepancias pero finalmente llegando a ciertos consensos. También a nivel económico, hubo algunos acuerdos, desde los presidentes, quienes creían que Unasur debía jugar un papel importante para enfrentar la crisis económica internacional en conjunto. Lamentablemente los ministros de Economía han desentonado.

 

Ahora es necesario consolidar Unasur como bloque de poder e interlocución mundial. Y dentro de ese proceso es fundamental consolidar la institucionalidad de Unasur en sus diferentes instancias, y particularmente la Secretaría General.

Néstor Kirchner, cuando fue secretario general, puso las bases políticas de la Secretaría. Ecuador, cuando fue Presidencia Pro Tempore puso las bases materiales y constitutivas, y le dio institucionalidad. Ema Mejía y Alí Rodríguez consolidaron la institucionalidad. Rodríguez, además, aportó una base teórico-práctica a Unasur con su propuesta sobre los recursos naturales como eje integrador. Es necesario consolidar la gestión de Unasur desde la Secretaría, para fortalecer las acciones del bloque a nivel regional y mundial.

 

Por su parte la Celac (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños), surgió con la necesidad de consolidar un espacio amplio que promueva un proceso integrador desde la pluralidad latinoamericana, desde procesos más diversos y complejos, pero sin la tutela de Estados Unidos.

 

Mientras la OEA (Organización de Estados Americanos) surgió como la opción de un determinado momento histórico en que los países vivían sometidos al “liderazgo” de Estados Unidos, que en realidad era una imposición desde ese país, Celac y Unasur surgieron desde los propios países latinoamericanos y suramericanos. La OEA fue un proceso de imposición, Unasur y Celac son, con todas sus dificultades, procesos de integración.

 

El Alba (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América), que surgió como una propuesta frente a otro intento de imposición estadounidense como el Alca (Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas), ha implementado procesos de complementariedad y solidaridad creando propuestas de integración productiva interesantes. Es necesario establecer un puente entre el Mercosur y el Alba, buscando instancias de cooperación y complementación. Uruguay podría ser un país puente entre el Mercosur y el Alba promoviendo la cooperación y complementación. Uruguay debe fortalecer el Mercosur y fortalecerse en el Mercosur, y paralelamente consolidar su presencia en el Alba y actuar como puente Alba-Mercosur.

 

Un gran reto en Unasur y en todos los niveles de integración, es involucrar a las organizaciones sociales y a los movimientos sociales en una confluencia desde abajo, desde los pueblos. Obviamente no todas las organizaciones sociales representan al pueblo en general pero sí son instancias importantes que dan base social a los procesos integradores. Si no se produce una integración desde los pueblos, si no hay una integración cultural y de procesos culturales conjuntos de los países, es muy difícil consolidar un proceso integrador de largo plazo.

 

El mayor enemigo de la integración es el modelo de desarrollo. En este momento los procesos de integración están en medio de dos modelos de desarrollo que se encuentran en disputa. Un modelo de desarrollo que es más soberano, vinculado a la producción nacional, con la idea de cambiar la matriz productiva y dejar de ser solo países primarios exportadores, con una visión desde el sur, desde nuestros países. El otro modelo, por ahora hegemónico, apuesta al libre comercio mal entendido, donde quienes dirigen el mercado terminan siendo las grandes corporaciones, la política comercial se basa en los tratados de libre comercio con las grandes potencias, tratados neocoloniales que van contra la integración y la política económica favorecen la especulación financiera, las importaciones y el consumismo. Ese modelo de desarrollo a veces disfrazado de progresista es el mayor enemigo de la integración. Si no es derrotado a nivel regional y dentro de cada uno de nuestros países no habrá integración y seremos cada día más dependientes. Ahí seguramente recordemos aquella frase del final de Ensayo sobre la ceguera de Saramago cuando dice “Creo que no nos quedamos ciegos, creo que estamos ciegos, Ciegos que ven, Ciegos que, viendo, no ven”.

 

Lee el articulo completo aqui.

Authors: Edward Moxon-Browne, check University of Limerick, treat and Philomena Murray, pharmacy University of Melbourne

Is the EU a template for regional integration in Southeast Asia? Caution is required in seeking to propose a model.

Comparisons can be made between the decision-making structures in ASEAN and the EU, but, given the unique circumstances of each regional project, analogies between the two may be counter-productive. In particular, ASEAN has attempted to model its Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) on the EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). But can the consensual modus operandi in COREPER be replicated by ASEAN simply by institutional mimesis?

A basic, and familiar, question that has to be faced is whether the EU is sui generis. Two themes are pertinent here: the perceived ‘inadequacy’ of the state in post-war Europe and the relevance for European integration of factors specific to the European continent. In post-war Europe, demands for welfare internally, and security threats externally, were increasing. So governments were under pressure from public opinion to deliver on these two quintessential functions of the nation-state. European states looked to each other for support, and this led to alliances in the security and economic sectors. In effect, the European state was rescued from its own demise by the mechanisms of European integration.

At the same time, five factors specific to post-war Europe contributed to the impulse toward European integration. First, recent memories of conflict underpinned collective security arrangements. These varied from tight military alliances to more-fluid non-alignment. But all shared a common concern to optimise national security by reaching beyond the borders of the state. Second, Europe’s high population density, numerous national borders and notions of national sovereignty made functional cooperation imperative to overcome the challenge of geographic proximity. Third, liberal democracy became a badge of West European identity, separating it from the communist east. Fourth, notions of the ‘welfare state’ have provided a focal point for cross-border reciprocity as an increasingly mobile workforce sought common entitlements to welfare. Fifth, EU citizenship, a reflection of a value-laden consensus that does not exist in any other regional organisation, provides a transnational framework for the protection of numerous civic rights. Many of these are embedded in EU law and defended by the European Court of Justice.

What, then, of ASEAN? Its membership is extremely diverse in wealth, size and political orientation. And there is much less regional interdependence than in the EU. Modes of decision making are also based on a rejection of supranationalism, in contrast with the EU. This contrast is exemplified when comparing the EU’s COREPER with ASEAN’s CPR.

COREPER is based on a habit of negotiating consensus away from public scrutiny, although the committee is an integral part of the EU’s decision-making machinery. In ASEAN, the CPR could develop along the lines of COREPER in the sense that socialisation between its members in Jakarta could radiate back toward national capitals and act as a dynamic for greater integration. ASEAN’s CPR was modelled on the EU’s COREPER — both prepare meetings for their respective councils. However, the outputs from their meetings are quite different: COREPER deliberations result in binding legislation, unlike those of the CPR. It is possible that there could emerge a pattern of close linkages in the ASEAN case like that which exists between COREPER and the Council of the EU secretariat, and there is evidence that these meetings within ASEAN are proving fruitful. It is also possible that close relations could be developed between the ASEAN CPR and domestic ministries, as in the EU.

Well-established habits of cooperation among EU member states are echoed by the informal channels of ASEAN diplomacy. Both seek to work out common positions behind the scenes and minimise the necessity of cumbersome institutional procedures. Integration in the EU has been propelled by setting deadlines which galvanise elites toward greater commitment. By adopting EU nomenclature for new institutions and processes, ASEAN has set itself ambitious goals for a new dynamism. The risk is that frustration and disillusionment can set in if goals are not achieved. Moreover, public awareness of ASEAN as a regional body is minimal; and although the EU suffers from a ‘democratic deficit’ it is at least felt that the public ‘ought’ to be more involved: the only question is how.

In sum, the supranational assumptions underlying the decision-making processes of the EU, which ASEAN now partly reflects, may conflict with ASEAN’s carefully preserved intergovernmentalism. Yet ASEAN may well develop an enduring institutionalisation of its decision-making mechanisms and procedures. After all, the EU developed its own co-existence of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. The next few years will see the experiment of the CPR be tested and possibly measured against the EU — but we can expect an ASEAN style to be imprinted on this new coordinating body.

Edward Moxon-Browne is a professor at the Centre for European Studies, University of Limerick.

Philomena Murray is an associate professor at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne.

This is an abridged version of an article published here in the Journal of Common Market Studies.

Source: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/05/03/the-eu-as-a-template-for-asean/

Would a Euro Area Banking Union Have Saved Cyprus?

Por Kintto Lucas

En su genial novela El año de la muerte de Ricardo Reis, José Saramago señala “A esta ciudad le basta saber que la rosa de los vientos existe, este no es el lugar donde los rumbos se abren, tampoco es el punto magnífico donde los rumbos convergen, aquí precisamente cambian los rumbos”.

Trasladando las palabras de Saramago al sistema mundo, como diría Immanuel Wallerstein, podríamos decir que cambiarán los rumbos el día que construyamos un sistema mundial multipolar que contribuya a crear un mundo democrático, justo y equitativo.

En ese necesario cambio de rumbos, la integración es un objetivo estratégico para lograr la independencia de América Latina. En ese sentido, es importante fortalecer los distintos niveles de integración y consolidar un bloque suramericano y latinoamericano.

América del Sur vive un momento importante en términos de integración regional, capitalizada más claramente en la Unasur (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas). Un bloque que más allá de las diferencias políticas o económicas de los países que lo integran, ha logrado levantarse como espacio de acuerdos y entendimientos desde la diversidad y ha generado un proceso integrador diferente.

Unasur es la propuesta más importante de integración desde toda América del Sur. Las que surgieron antes, además de ser regionales fueron condicionadas por el libre comercio, porque apostaban a eso, no a la integración.

El Mercosur (Mercado Común del Sur), por ejemplo, fue una propuesta surgida desde el libre comercio desde el neoliberalismo. Si bien luego fue procesando cambios positivos con la irrupción de gobiernos progresistas y es una confluencia fundamental, todavía le falta mucho para consolidarse como Mercosur Suramericano, que sea eje de un modelo de integración productiva de Américas del Sur dentro de Unasur.
La CAN (Comunidad Andina de Naciones), en cambio, surgió como una propuesta integradora distinta, pero finalmente terminó absorbida por la hegemonía neoliberal en los años 90.

Unasur surgió de una forma diferente, y se posicionó como una propuesta de integración desde lo político, llevando adelante acciones trascendentes para solucionar conflictos, consolidar una mirada de defensa de la democracia en común, fortalecer políticas de defensa y sociales integradoras, e inclusive posicionándose como un bloque a tener en cuenta a nivel mundial en el desarrollo de un mundo multipolar.

Unasur ha demostrado que, dentro de las diferencias, se puede llegar a ciertos acuerdos que parten de un punto central: para competir, para ser escuchados en un mundo que va a ser de bloques, tenemos que participar como un todo más compacto, que en este caso es el bloque de América del Sur.

Por ejemplo, el acuerdo del Consejo de Defensa en Unasur, de transparentar gastos militares, de parar la instalación de bases militares estadounidenses, son temas que se han resuelto, con discrepancias pero finalmente llegando a ciertos consensos. También a nivel económico, hubo algunos acuerdos, desde los presidentes, quienes creían que Unasur debía jugar un papel importante para enfrentar la crisis económica internacional en conjunto. Lamentablemente los ministros de Economía han desentonado.

Ahora es necesario consolidar Unasur como bloque de poder e interlocución mundial. Y dentro de ese proceso es fundamental consolidar la institucionalidad de Unasur en sus diferentes instancias, y particularmente la Secretaría General.

Néstor Kirchner, cuando fue secretario general, puso las bases políticas de la Secretaría. Ecuador, cuando fue Presidencia Pro Tempore puso las bases materiales y constitutivas, y le dio institucionalidad. Ema Mejía y Alí Rodríguez consolidaron la institucionalidad. Rodríguez, además, aportó una base teórico-práctica a Unasur con su propuesta sobre los recursos naturales como eje integrador. Es necesario consolidar la gestión de Unasur desde la Secretaría, para fortalecer las acciones del bloque a nivel regional y mundial.

Por su parte la Celac (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños), surgió con la necesidad de consolidar un espacio amplio que promueva un proceso integrador desde la pluralidad latinoamericana, desde procesos más diversos y complejos, pero sin la tutela de Estados Unidos.

Mientras la OEA (Organización de Estados Americanos) surgió como la opción de un determinado momento histórico en que los países vivían sometidos al “liderazgo” de Estados Unidos, que en realidad era una imposición desde ese país, Celac y Unasur surgieron desde los propios países latinoamericanos y suramericanos. La OEA fue un proceso de imposición, Unasur y Celac son, con todas sus dificultades, procesos de integración.

El Alba (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América), que surgió como una propuesta frente a otro intento de imposición estadounidense como el Alca (Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas), ha implementado procesos de complementariedad y solidaridad creando propuestas de integración productiva interesantes. Es necesario establecer un puente entre el Mercosur y el Alba, buscando instancias de cooperación y complementación. Uruguay podría ser un país puente entre el Mercosur y el Alba promoviendo la cooperación y complementación. Uruguay debe fortalecer el Mercosur y fortalecerse en el Mercosur, y paralelamente consolidar su presencia en el Alba y actuar como puente Alba-Mercosur.

Un gran reto en Unasur y en todos los niveles de integración, es involucrar a las organizaciones sociales y a los movimientos sociales en una confluencia desde abajo, desde los pueblos. Obviamente no todas las organizaciones sociales representan al pueblo en general pero sí son instancias importantes que dan base social a los procesos integradores. Si no se produce una integración desde los pueblos, si no hay una integración cultural y de procesos culturales conjuntos de los países, es muy difícil consolidar un proceso integrador de largo plazo.

El mayor enemigo de la integración es el modelo de desarrollo. En este momento los procesos de integración están en medio de dos modelos de desarrollo que se encuentran en disputa. Un modelo de desarrollo que es más soberano, vinculado a la producción nacional, con la idea de cambiar la matriz productiva y dejar de ser solo países primarios exportadores, con una visión desde el sur, desde nuestros países. El otro modelo, por ahora hegemónico, apuesta al libre comercio mal entendido, donde quienes dirigen el mercado terminan siendo las grandes corporaciones, la política comercial se basa en los tratados de libre comercio con las grandes potencias, tratados neocoloniales que van contra la integración y la política económica favorecen la especulación financiera, las importaciones y el consumismo. Ese modelo de desarrollo a veces disfrazado de progresista es el mayor enemigo de la integración. Si no es derrotado a nivel regional y dentro de cada uno de nuestros países no habrá integración y seremos cada día más dependientes. Ahí seguramente recordemos aquella frase del final de Ensayo sobre la ceguera de Saramago cuando dice “Creo que no nos quedamos ciegos, creo que estamos ciegos, Ciegos que ven, Ciegos que, viendo, no ven”.

 

Lee el articulo completo aqui.

Marcelo Saguier

ALAI AMLATINA, 27/07/2012.- Los procesos de integración regional en Sudamérica han dado importantes pasos en la construcción de una comunidad política en base a valores y expectativas comunes. La defensa de la democracia, la resolución de conflictos mediante la diplomacia, el resguardo de la paz y la reivindicación conjunta de la soberanía argentina sobre las islas Malvinas ante los diferendos con el Reino Unido han sido algunos de campos en donde se logró alcanzar un inédito dinamismo y convergencia regional. Muchos de estos consensos acompañaron el surgimiento de nuevas formas institucionales como la UNASUR, ALBA y la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericana y Caribeños (CELAC).

No obstante tales avances, existe otra dimensión del proceso regional en la que es menos evidente que consensos se expresan. Las dinámicas de la región, como espacio socio-político en construcción, actualmente está regida por los patrones de conflictos y cooperación entre gobiernos, empresas y actores sociales en torno a la utilización de los recursos naturales para fines de exportación y de insumos para la industria. Este es el caso de los recursos minerales y del agua de ríos para la generación de energía hidroeléctrica. A diferencia de las avances alcanzados en materia de construcción política regional en otros campos, el lugar que hoy ocupan los recursos naturales en la integración es más inquietante y potencialmente una fuente de tensiones.

Las políticas de utilización de tales recursos, y los conflictos socio-ambientales que se producen por las mismas, en su mayoría son de carácter nacional o sub-nacional. Sin embargo, al mismo tiempo se despliegan algunas iniciativas de carácter regional impulsadas por gobiernos o por actores sociales que regionalizan sus disputas como estrategias de acción frente a la orientación extractivista de algunos proyectos. Es decir que las dinámicas socio-políticas de construcción de un espacio político regional en Sudamérica van más allá de las distintas iniciativas intergubernamentales que se puedan emprender desde los estados. Los recursos naturales constituyen un eje de articulación tanto para iniciativas de cooperación interestatal como también para la movilización social transfronteriza.

La propuesta de este articulo es la de pensar las dinámicas de la construcción política regional desde ésta perspectiva, en la que las interacciones de cooperación y conflicto entre actores públicos, empresariales y sociales moldean el escenario regional, sus posibilidades y limitaciones.

La minería en zonas de frontera es una de las formas que se redefine el escenario social y político regional. El caso más paradigmático de ello es la frontera entre Argentina y Chile. Tradicionalmente, las fronteras internacionales eran zonas en donde no se permitía emprendimientos productivos (o extractivos) dado que constituían lugares sensibles a la defensa del territorio nacional. Los procesos de democratización e integración económica llevados a cabo en la región permitieron desactivar las hipótesis de conflicto que fundamentaron el imaginario geopolítico de gobiernos y sociedades nacionales durante gran parte del siglo veinte. Sin embargo, estos cambios estuvieron asimismo signados por la orientación neoliberal que marcó las políticas de integración durante la década del 90. Una de las características de ello fue el establecimiento de nuevas mecanismos institucionales para atraer y resguardar inversiones. La minería de frontera entre Argentina y Chile es producto de ello, y su expresión más acabada es el acuerdo binacional minero que fuera firmado en 1997 y ratificado en los parlamentos en el 2000.

El territorio comprendido por el acuerdo binacional cubre un área sobre la cordillera de los Andes de más de 200.000 kilómetros cuadrados, lo que equivale al 95% de la frontera internacional de ambos países. El acuerdo concede a las empresas la disponibilidad de minerales y agua para sus procesos de extracción, así como poder de control fronterizo. Pascua Lama es el proyecto binacional de megaminería que fue posible con este acuerdo. Las empresas que desarrollan el proyecto son: Barrick Exploraciones Argentina y Exploraciones Mineras Argentinas, en la Republica Argentina, y Compañía Minera Nevada en Chile. Otros proyectos mineros ya han sido aprobados, amparados en el tratado binacional, se encuentran actualmente en diferentes etapas de desarrollo. Entre ellos, está el proyecto El Pachón en la provincia de San Juan.

El acuerdo minero binacional consiste en un modelo de integración territorial y representa un hito internacional, considerando la extensión del área cubierta, los volúmenes de minerales e inversiones que potencialmente se verían implicados y la posible replicabilidad de este modelo en otras zonas de frontera con comparables condiciones geológicas. Evidentemente, la replicabilidad de este enfoque para la explotación conjunta de depósitos minerales en zonas de jurisdicción nacional compartida está expuesta también a los vaivenes de las presiones sociales frente al extractivismo y al creciente grado de concientización sobre la necesidad de fundar nuevos paradigmas del desarrollo con criterios de sostenibilidad.

La tendencia de minería de frontera se confirma asimismo en otros países latinoamericanos sin que exista necesariamente ningún acuerdo entre los países. Este es caso de los proyectos de exploración minera que actualmente tienen lugar en la frontera de Costa Rica y Nicaragua, de El Salvador y Guatemala y de Perú y Ecuador en la llamada Cordillera del Cóndor – región que en 1995 fue epicentro de un conflicto bélico entre ambos países. En este ultimo caso, desde la resolución del conflicto bélico han habido grandes inversiones mineras atraídas por la riqueza de de yacimientos de oro de este lugar. Incluso sin un acuerdo minero entre ambos países, entre 2005 y 2010 se han triplicado el número de concesiones de exploración a empresas interesadas, en su mayoría del lado peruano de la frontera. Las empresas transnacionales mineras sin duda constituyen actores de creciente influencia en la redefinición del espacio regional y es de suponer que asimismo constituyen factores de influencia en los gobiernos para promover acuerdos mineros internacionales (los gobiernos de Alan García en Perú y Correa en Ecuador habían comenzado a explorar esta posibilidad).

La minería en zonas de frontera contribuye a regionalizar conflictos que se suscitan desde hace años en toda América Latina. Son conocidas las expresiones de resistencia a proyectos mineros llevados a por comunidades rurales en distintas provincias argentinas como Chubut, San Juan, Catamarca, La Rioja y Tucumán. Sin embargo, éstos no son casos aislados sino que se enmarcan en una tendencia generalizada de creciente conflictividad en zonas de exploración minera. Evidencia de ello es que actualmente existen 155 conflictos relacionados a esta actividad en todo Latinoamérica y el Caribe, en las que se ven implicadas 205 comunidades en relación a 168 proyectos mineros. Asimismo, según un informe a cargo del ex Representante Especial del Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas, John Ruggie, las industrias extractivas representan el 28 % de los casos de los casos de violaciones a los Derechos Humanos con complicidad de las empresas. Esta tendencia global se profundiza en América Latina. Un elemento común a tales conflictos es la ausencia de debate público sobre los cuáles son los beneficios y costos de estos proyectos – definidos en términos económicos, sociales y ambientales – así de cómo arbitrar equitativamente los derechos y responsabilidades de los principales beneficiarios y damnificados de los mismos. Las comunidades tampoco son consultadas previamente, según lo establece el Convenio 169 de la OIT, sin bien algunos cambios en esta dirección comienzan a promoverse en Bolivia, Perú y Ecuador.

Las resistencias sociales a la minería a cielo abierto, y especialmente en zonas de frontera, se traducen crecientemente en la búsqueda de estrategias de incidencia mediante la movilización transnacional. Ejemplo de ello es la realización de tribunales de opinión, en donde comunidades afectadas por la minería pueden denunciar simbólicamente los estragos de la minería en el ambiente y su impacto sobre los derechos de las poblaciones. Se realizó el primer “Tribunal Ético de Minería de Frontera” organizado por el Observatorio de Conflictos Minero de América Latina en Chile en el 2010. También el “Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos sobre Empresas Transnacionales” sesionó en Austria 2006, Perú/Colombia 2008 y España 2010 para denunciar la complicidad de empresas transnacionales en casos de violación de derechos humanos en Latinoamérica. Muchos de los casos denunciados están relacionados con la minería, además de la explotación de hidrocarburos, agronegocios, etc. Asimismo, se han creado redes de acción global para el intercambio de información y coordinación de campañas conjuntas. Estas son algunas de las formas que adquiere el activismo transnacional en respuesta a la minería y demás instancias de violaciones de derechos humanos en los que estados y empresas se ven acusados. En este sentido, la minería de frontera actúa como catalizador tanto de nuevos relacionamientos entre empresas y gobiernos, así como también de nuevas formas de resistencias sociales que intervienen en la redefinición del debate regional sobre los vínculos entre desarrollo sustentable y derechos humanos.

Además de la minería de frontera, las dinámicas de la integración regional en Sudamérica están regidas también por una serie de proyectos de infraestructura para la generación y transporte de energía hidroeléctrica. La abundancia de agua en la cuenca del Amazonas hace de esta zona el epicentro de una serie de redes interconectadas de represas y líneas de transmisión que se proyecta vincularán lugares de producción y consumo. La creciente demanda de energía esta dada por el crecimiento económico en las economías de los países sudamericanos, y especialmente del sector industrial brasileño y minero (esta actividad es gran demandante de agua para sus procesos de extracción del mineral). Estos cambios están dando lugar a nuevos patrones de la cooperación regional internacional en el que las empresas brasileñas juegan un papel clave como las concesionarias principales de los proyectos de infraestructura de energía hidroeléctrica.

La Iniciativa para la Infraestructura Regional Suramericana (IIRSA), establece la financiación para estos proyectos. IIRSA es un mecanismo institucional creado en 2000 para la coordinación de las organizaciones intergubernamentales acciones con el objetivo de “promover el proceso de integración política, social y económica de América del Sur, incluyendo la modernización de la infraestructura regional y acciones específicas para estimular la integración y el desarrollo de las regiones aisladas de los subsistemas. IIRSA cuenta una cartera 524 proyectos de infraestructura en las áreas de transporte, energía y las comunicaciones, que se agrupan en 47 grupos de proyectos que representan una inversión estimada de dólares EE.UU. 96,119.2 millones de dólares. El Banco Nacional de Desarrollo de Brasil (BNDES) es también un actor regional clave en la movilización de recursos para los proyectos patrocinados por la IIRSA, tanto en territorio brasileño como también en países vecinos.

El Complejo Hidroeléctrico rio Madeira es uno de los proyectos más emblemáticos y la principal iniciativa hidroeléctrica del IIRSA. Una vez terminado, contará con cuatro represas interconectadas y será el de mayor tamaño de la cuenca del Amazonas. El BNDES provee parte del financiamiento para su construcción. Dos de las represas estarán emplazadas en Brasil mientras que una de ellas estará en territorio boliviano y la última en un río que demarca la frontera internacional entre Bolivia y Brasil.

Además, Brasil y Perú procuran la construcción de un mega-complejo hidroeléctrico en la Amazonía peruana financiado por Brasil. El objetivo de esta iniciativa es para generar electricidad en Perú para ser transportada sobre a Brasil para satisfacer su creciente demanda de energía. Para ello, ambos gobiernos negociaron un Acuerdo Energético que establece que Perú se compromete a exportar el 70% de la energía que produzcan sus centrales hidroeléctricas a Brasil durante un plazo de 50 años. Su construcción tendrá un costo de 4.000 millones de dólares e incluye también una línea de 357 kilómetros para tener la electricidad a la frontera brasileña. Una vez terminada la construcción del complejo, este será el mayor proyecto de energía hidroeléctrica en Perú y el quinto más grande en América Latina. Este proyecto y acuerdo energético ha sido objeto de grande críticas en Perú. El acuerdo fue firmado por los gobiernos de Alan García y de Ignácio Lula da Silva en 2010, pero actualmente está pendiente la ratificación del congreso peruano.

El acuerdo y proyecto ha sido objeto de serios cuestionamientos por los impactos ambientales y sociales de estas obras. En octubre de 2011 la principal concesionaria de este proyecto, la brasileña Odebrecht, decidió retirarse de la construcción de dos des las represas proyectadas como consecuencia de la oposición que este mega-proyecto genera en las poblaciones locales, sobre todo de pueblos originarios. El interés del gobierno brasileño por asegurar un acuerdo que le permita proveerse de energía a costos rentables se mantiene. Seguramente veremos nuevos intentos por reflotar el debate sobre este acuerdo, tal vez tomando en consideración las más recientes resistencias sociales que se han manifestado en repudio al mismo. Evidencia de ello es el proceso de revisión que emprenden los ocho países amazónicos de los mecanismos nacionales de consulta a grupos étnicos en el marco del Tratado de Cooperación Amazónica.

En la medida que avanzan las iniciativas de integración sudamericana se pone en evidencia la ausencia de consensos sobre ciertas áreas sensibles como es el caso de los recursos naturales. Muchos cuestionamientos comienzan a aflorar en el debate regional, como las tensiones entre visiones productivistas del desarrollo y de ecología política en las que se propician formas de desarrollo sustentable, vinculadas a los derechos humanos, la armonía ambiental y formas de producción y consumo más inclusivas. Asimismo, se manifiesta la necesidad de nuevos mecanismos de toma de decisión en materia de recursos naturales, no sólo a nivel nacional sino especialmente en lo relacionado a proyectos regionales que involucran acuerdos entre estados e instrumentos de financiamiento regionales. Es fundamental abordar en profundidad las nuevas asimetrías que genera este tipo de integración, no solo entre economías de mayor y menor tamaño, perfiles productivos especializados como industriales y proveerdores de materias primas, sino también en la necesidad de formular marcos regionales regulatorios y de políticas específicamente sobre recursos naturales (coordinación fiscales, normas de protección ambiental, derecho a de consulta a las poblaciones, eficiencia energética, entre otras).

En un contexto de creación de una comunidad política sudamericana, los conflictos y desafíos del desarrollo sustentable se vuelven invariablemente preocupaciones de todo el bloque regional. Mientras antes podamos avanzar sobre nuevos consensos en materia de recursos naturales, mejor estaremos preparados para avanzar en la profundización de nuevas bases de soberanía.

Nota: Las ideas que aquí se exponen están desarrolladas en un artículo recientemente publicado como: Saguier, Marcelo (2012) ‘Socio-environmental regionalism in South America: tensions in the new development models’, The Rise of Post-Hegemonic Regionalism: The Case of Latin America, Pia Riggirozzi and Diana Tussie, eds., Series United Nations University Series on Regionalism, Springer.

– Dr. Marcelo Saguier es profesor de estudios internacionales e investigador CONICET/FLACSO

Fuente: http://alainet.org/active/56815

by Kintto Lucas

ALAI AMLAT-en, sildenafil 17/07/2013.- In the past few years, case South America has taken some decisive steps toward regional integration. Aware of the challenges of globalization, which have surfaced in international political and economic crises, as well as in the proliferation of transnational illicit activities that are beyond the capacities of individual states to control, some countries have begun to understand that the advantages of greater cooperation and commercial interchange are not the final goal. Rather it is necessary to coordinate responses not only in economic and fiscal policy, but also in social policy, the control of natural resources, environmental issues, defence and other areas, in order to face the threats that impinge on them. Above all, in the world as it is now developing, it is impossible to walk alone. It is essential to walk together.

To reinforce integration we need to increase levels of economic and commercial interdependence in the region. It is a complex but not impossible course. We need to develop a collective vision and cease to contemplate our own navels. The bigger economies must show greater solidarity with the smaller ones, but it is fundamental that the latter look to their own development, stop being parasites and stop hiding behind the farce of re-selling products brought in from other places without any local value-added, but simply adding labels that proclaim the product to be of national industry.

Little by little South America is moving away from a theory of regional integration that supposes a divorce between economics and politics, and which ended up imposing on many countries the fallacy of a “self-regulating market” as a force for development. Nevertheless, it is worrying to see that after the disastrous experiences with the application of market shock theories — in the words of Naomi Klein – these political measures are still being pushed by some OECD countries, multinational financial organizations, rightwing politicians and some businessmen, as a panacea for the economic protection of our countries.

From the North, we are plied with free trade treaties and liberalization and deregulation of financial structures, along with privatization and flexible labour markets as basic mechanisms for international economic integration. In South America there are people who hear these siren songs and defend the urgent need to create a free trade area along the lines of the FTAA/ALCA. With this they propose to cure the failures of the neoliberal model.

The regional integration of South America must retrieve the role of the State over the market, of society over the State and the market. The integrated South American states should take control of an integrated South American market. And Latin American society should play a fundamental role in participating to control States and integrated markets. This integration should open the way for a development model that allows for the advancement of each country as well as common advancement. The efficacy and the ability for channeling regional synergies depend on the ability to understand that this is a collective project, not an individual one, and to understand that this is an institutional fabric that is created through the process of integration.

To expand and strengthen South American integration, Unasur must be strengthened and extended. It is fundamental to move Mercosur towards a South American Mercosur(1). This depends on the capacity of our States to reconfigure their productive structures.

This will be possible if governments can transcend the limits of mere economic rationality and commit themselves to work towards a Common and Inclusive Economic Policy, which can take advantage of the region’s assets in food and hydraulic resources, raw materials and energy resources, generating a productive integration of a complementary character between countries.

In the new world order, the importance of South America for the international economy is undeniable. It is one of the most dynamic economic poles. At the present time, the GDP of the countries of South America represents 73 per cent of that of Latin America and the Caribbean, which in turn represents 8 per cent of world trade. In spite of its economic weight, the productive and export matrix of our countries continues to be centred on the primary sector and on intensive manufactures in primary resources and natural resources. This phenomenon responds to the high prices of commodities in the international market, but also to the concentration of investment, both national and foreign, in the exploitation of primary resources. In consequence, South American countries face the threat of deindustrialization and of economies centred on the primary sector. These processes lead to the emergence of productive enclaves whose wealth creation does not reach the whole economy, given the few productive networks they generate, as well as capital flight in the form of the repatriation of profits and benefits and the unlimited increase in imports. These enclaves in many cases are part of parasitical foreign investment that does not pay taxes and brings very little to our countries.

The way that Latin American countries have conceived their economic development has given rise to productive structures that are engineered to satisfy extra-regional needs. Because of this, the economic dynamics of the countries of the region contribute little or nothing to the collective economic dynamics of the region. Due to this individualist way of thinking of economic growth and the application of commercial policies based on indiscriminate opening to foreign economies, the greater part of South American economies have undergone processes of productive dismantling or the loss of economic dynamism in industrial sectors. At the same time large segments of our populations have experienced a fall in unemployment but growth in precarious employment. Here, if there is a diminishing amount of poverty, inequality is maintained and is at times even more evident.

It is necessary for South American economic integration to move towards the articulation of national economies, and for productive structures to look to satisfying the needs of the people of the region, in a way that allows us to develop our manufacturing sectors and services. In this sense it is important to establish legal and technical conditions to promote regional productive investment. Finally, it is necessary to set up productive conditions that make it possible for each and every one of the economies of the region to reach high levels of competitiveness in order, at a later moment, to be able to compete in the international markets of manufacturing and service sectors of medium and high added value.

In the difficult path towards a South American Mercosur, Mercosur should become the bridgehead to establish a South American commercial bloc, animated by principles of solidarity, complementarity and the consideration of the asymmetries in the levels of social and economic development of different members, that prioritizes the role of the State, and has as its goal the well-being of the population rather than the profits of big capital, and which can serve as an example of a different regionalist model, in the face of traditional schemes that are based on market fundamentalism.
(Translation: Jordan Bishop, for ALAI)

– Kintto Lucas is the Roaming Ambassador of Uruguay for Unasur, Celac, and Alba. Former vice foreign minister of Ecuador.

(1) Unasur: Union of South American Nations. Mercosur: Southern Common Market.

 

Source: http://www.alainet.org/active/65768

Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

Whether a euro area banking union would have saved Cyprus from its recent TROIKA (of European Commission, pharm European Central Bank and IMF) tragic treatment is a very interesting question. If it would, find then clearly a move towards a banking union, help as part of the construction of a political union should be a major component of the reconstruction of the euro area. As we argued in our March 2013 blog, the European Union (EU) summit meeting, 28th/29th June 2012, took a number of decisions in terms of a possible euro area banking union. The most relevant decision was the creation of banking supervision by the European Central Bank (ECB), banking licence for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), and financial assistance by the ESM to governments, members of the euro area, when in financial difficulty. The banking supervision, however, will not come into full operation before 2014. ESM member states would then be able to apply for an ESM bailout when they are in financial difficulty or their financial sector is a threat to stability and in need of recapitalization. This is exactly the problem with the recent Cyprus problem, as we now elaborate.

Essentially the major problem in Cyprus has been the size and insolvency of its banking sector. It is far too big in relation to the total economy (ten times its annual GDP is often quoted by the TROIKA; being big relative to economy means its assets and liabilities relative to GDP are large); it is also the case that as an off-shore financial and business centre, the Cypriot banking attracted a significant amount of foreign deposits. The first feature poses the danger of a ‘systemic risk’ for the entire economy when one or more banks fail. The second feature exposes Cyprus to accusations, such as those from politicians in Germany and elsewhere that Cyprus has become a ‘money-laundering’ centre within the European Union. By the summer of 2012 it became clear that the two biggest domestic banks in Cyprus were in trouble because of huge losses from the exposure of their branches in Greece, in view of the depressed macroeconomic conditions there, promoted by TROIKA; also in view of the ‘haircut’ of the Greek sovereign debt, of which Cypriot banks had acquired a great deal by 2010. This mixture of wrong decision-making by Cypriot bankers and bad luck created the need for bank re-capitalisations. As a result, Cyprus applied for financial help from its partners in the euro area in the summer of 2012.

The request by Cyprus for a bail-out has certain unique features. The tiny economy of Cyprus requested 17.5 billion euros which, by contrast to the previous Southern European bail-outs, was a comparatively trivial sum in absolute terms. It was, nonetheless, quite large, nearly 100%, when expressed as a percentage of Cyprus GDP. The initial negotiations between the TROIKA and the outgoing government of Cyprus were accompanied by political noises from Germany implying that the German electorate was fed up with having to hand over money to the Southern European periphery yet again. The reason as to why the heavily indebted southern periphery of Europe was morally ‘undeserving’ of financial help was simply undesirable money-laundering. The argument produced is that hard working and prudent German tax payers should not be expected to rescue an overblown banking sector in Cyprus, which became a ‘tax haven’ for wealthy non-Europeans. These are especially Russians, whose deposits in Cyprus are thought to be of the order of 25bn euros, an amount that is almost one-third of the total deposits in the Cyprus banks. The depositors in the Cyprus banking system should be partly expected to rescue their economy, a proposal that was apparently initiated and promoted by the IMF part of TROIKA. The European Commission was reluctant on this score, fearing a bank run in Cyprus and potentially elsewhere in the euro area. Such a plan, it is argued by TROIKA, helps to reduce the unsustainable large banking and financial sectors of Cyprus. It is also the case that to the extent the ‘bail-in’ of the banks in Cyprus is successful it will introduce some market discipline in banking. By sending the message to all depositors in all banks that if a bank needs re-capitalisation they may be asked to bear some of the cost, the depositors will be forced to take more care where they ‘park’ their savings. Unfortunately the world is a much more complicated place to rely for such arguments to be uncontroversial. This is particularly so in the world of money and finance. In any case, and as the editorial of the Financial Times (18 March 2013) rightly commented “instead of throwing Cyprus a life-buoy, leaders put a millstone around its neck”.

 

When confidence in the banking system weakens then the safety of bank deposits is substantially in peril. This is exactly what happened in Cyprus. A long-term solution would be a move towards a banking union and a single euro area bank deposit guarantee scheme, along with a fully fledged ‘lender-of-last-resort’ function including ability to intervene in the sovereign debt market as well as the secondary markets. Germany has resisted this solution, arguing that it would only contemplate such action only under a full-blown fiscal union. Such a suggestion is pertinent not merely in terms of the introduction of the proposed solution but also for the long-term survival of the euro area. This is desperately and immediately needed, though. We may conclude that both a European Banking Supervision and a European Banking Resolution Authorities are needed but for them to be successful they would have to come under a political integration arrangement, which would provide the necessary fiscal capacity desperately and urgently required at the euro-area level. The Cyprus crisis has vividly demonstrated the need for such a move. The euro-group policymakers should concentrate their efforts on correcting the various serious ‘design faults’ of the monetary union in Europe, especially the absence of a banking union. They must avoid imposing more austerity and misery and creating conditions for bank runs. Clearly such solutions amount to a nail in the coffin of a banking union and a setback to any serious effort to reform the single currency in Europe.

– See more at: http://triplecrisis.com/would-a-euro-area-banking-union-have-saved-cyprus/