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

Book: Civil Society and International Governance

The Role of Non-State Actors in the EU, health Africa, Asia and Middle East
Edited by David Armstrong, Valeria Bello, Julie Gilson, Debora Spini
Published 29th October 2010 by Routledge – 224 pages

Series: Routledge/GARNET series

Civil Society and International Governance critically analyses the increasing impact of nongovernmental organisations and civil society on global and regional governance. Written from the standpoint of advocates of civil society and addressing the role of civil society in relation to the UN, the IMF, the G8 and the WTO, this volume assess the role of various non-state actors from three perspectives: theoretical aspects, civil society interaction with the European Union and civil society and regional governance outside Europe, specifically Africa, East Asia and the Middle East. It demonstrates that civil society’s role has been more complex than one defined in terms, essentially, of resistance and includes actual participation in governance as well as multi-facetted contributions to legitimising and democratising global and regional governance.


CONTENT:

1. Introduction David Armstrong and Julie Gilson

Part 1: Theory

2. Civil Society and the Democratisation of Global Public Space Debora Spini

3. Collective and Social Identity: A Theoretical Analysis of the Role of Civil Society in the Construction of Supra-National Societies Valeria Bello

4. Organized Civil Society and Political Representation in the EU Arena Carlo Ruzza

Part 2: The European Union

5. Europeanization of Non-State Actors: Towards a Framework for Analysis Karolina Boro?ska-Hryniewiecka

6. Between Localisation and Europeanisation: Non-Governmental Organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina Erica Panighello

7. European Integration, Cross-Border Cooperation and Third-Sector Mobilizations in the Basque Country Xabier Itçaina

Part 3: Civil Society Outside Europe

8. Governance and Non-Governmental Organisations in East Asia: Building Region-Wide Coalitions Julie Gilson

9. Civil Society and Regional Governance in Eastern and Southern Africa Andréas Godsäter and Frederik Söderbaum

10. The Role of Civil Society in Regional Governance in the Middle East Michael Shulz

11. Transnational Labour Mobilization in the Americas Marcelo Saguier


Challenges of Regional Integration

By Thomas Wallgren

* Presentation given at International Conference of governments and social movements “Regional Integration: an opportunity to face the crises” (21 and 22 July 2009, stuff Asunción del Paraguay)


Because of systemic constraints in the so called leading nations we cannot wait for the Obamas and even Lulas of the world to show the way for the deep changes we need. Political, cultural and moral initiative that will inspire hope on all continents can and needs to come from many places.

In the golden age of the Nordic model, the small North European area that I come from, had disproportionate global significance in pro-people politics. Many of us in these countries still work to preserve and take further the Nordic tradition. We must, however, humbly admit that the Nordic identity has weakened in the last 15 years as we have been been overwhelmed by globalisation and EU-integration.

In this spirit I want to join the large number of people on all continents who enthusiastically welcome the recent wave of positive developments in Latin America, including also many smaller countries, such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. I recognise the enormous difficulties you are facing, including the current crisis in Honduras. Nevertheless I want to welcome the quality and direction of development in many South and Latin American countries in the last few years and the efforts and the decisive contribution of ordinary people from the struggling classes to them.

A. GLOBAL AND HISTORICAL PREMISES OF REGIONAL COOPERATION

Regional integration in the context of collapsing neo-liberalism, authoritarian capitalism and the search for cultural alternatives

1. “Neoliberalism died in 2008-2009. ” Is this statement true or false?
It is true in a limited sense. The state is back in the economy. Simultaneously deregulation, privatisation and trade liberalisation are all on a hold or they are rolled back. George W. Bush goes down in the books as the greatest socialiser of banks and enterprises in world history. Market fundamentalism will not come back easily as an economic orthodoxy. So far so good.

Nevertheless, as we have seen during the past months the demise of neo-liberalism does not mean the end of capitalism nor does it automatically change the balance of power or fundamental policies. Banks are bailed out and the costs of enterprise failures are carried by tax-payers. In the EU the centralising and liberalising Lissabon treaty is back on track. In India the elections were won by a centre right still pursuing growth through exports, international competitiveness, intensified exploitation of domestic natural resources and deepened integration into global markets. Obama brings the US back on a more Keynesian track and into multilateral cooperation, but his victory was more due to the catastrophic results of Bush’s politics than of a desire for fundamental redirection of US power. Financial regulation remains weak, tax havens still work as usual and even the Tobin tax awaits its implementation. In the global arenas, at WTO, the World Bank or even in the climate negotiations positive news are yet to come. All in all, it is clear by now that radical shifts in power structures, economic distribution or national or international policies are not easily within reach.

The main lesson of the past winter is that neo-liberalism was always only a radical fashion, a tip of the iceberg. When it goes away we can see again clearly that the modern state in most countries remains committed to a development model in which a mix of capitalist, growth dependent exploitative economy and consumerist, individualistic, civilisational values remains central. The global trend in the last years and months is not that neo-liberal capitalism is replaced by socialism, a new green politics or even social liberalism but, unfortunately, by authoritarian capitalism. In fact, what we witness on all continents is a colossal lack of political and cultural creativity in the state and corporate sector. Hence, and this is my first point today, people seeking social and ecological justice need to recognise that the shift to politics for sustainable futures that the world so badly needs will not come about just because neo-liberalism goes away.

The good news is that with neo-liberalism gone, with George Bush down and out and with the states and business sector at a loss both intellectually and morally we can begin to understand our responsibility and define our tasks and challenges more clearly than has been possible during the past ten years.

Everywhere people recognise that the ruling elites are failing and at a loss. We need a new internationalism that is not founded on state to state cooperation or market integration. The regional cooperation we are looking for must protect and build upon people-to-people solidarity and conviviality. It must draw its strength from the confidence and creativity of ordinary people who are engaged in a multitude of local struggles and in a plurality of efforts towards decolonisation and civilisational renewal.

2. Too often only the global and national level are recognized as relevant political arenas. They are important, but should not make us overlook the relevance of the local and regional levels. From the perspective of radical and comprehensive democracy building from below and strengthening the disempowered is essential in all responses to the crisis. Democratising the politics and economy of globalisation is important but difficult. In global efforts large corporations and states still have a relative advantage over other actors. Hence, as long as power structure are not altered, we should not expect too much good to come out from institutions working on global regulation of e.g. finance and climate.


The experience of the past years has shown clearly the inadequacy of the current structure, instruments and policies of global financial regulation and economic development. The Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO-framwork have been insufficient or even dysfunctional for development, ecological responsibility and economic stability, especially for the global South. This much should now be uncontroversial. It remains open, however, what the implications are for the politics of global governance and the role of regional and national politics.

My second point today is that regional politics needs to be recognised more than before as a relevant arena of political initiative in its own right. The regional arena is too often considered to be only complementary to nation states and global institutional arrangements and global governance. Regional cooperation in the South can provide protection from dysfunctional and failing global institutions. It can also strengthen the bargaining power of the South, especially the smaller countries of the South, in global politics. Thirdly regional political instruments may play a huge role in achieving at the regional level governance services and functions that are not available at the global level. These can include for instance protection and support of micro and small enterprise as well as of local knowledge systems and forms or democracy, the launch of local and regional currencies with high social and ecological value, and so forth.

3. State borders are becoming more porous than before, people are meeting and mixing more than before. The future belongs, as Indian social philosoper Lohia said fifty years ago, increasingly to “the bastards.” We see every day along the Southern borders of the US and the EU that efforts to keep borders closed and nations clean lead to disaster. Regional cooperation presents major opportunities if the physical and cultural mobility of peoples in the region and between them is enhanced. The opposite politics of regional integration which allows mobility only internally and is closed to the outer world, with exceptions allowed only for selfish reasons or on market premises is a false and dangerous model.


In societies atomised socially and empoverished culturally by late capitalism and consumerism nation state are often seen as competitors. The sense of competition fosters widely felt anxiety. As we have seen in South Asia, Europe, North America and elsewhere the consequence is often un upsurge of xenophobic identity-politics, increasing militarisation and securitisation and even terror by states and non-state agencies.

Regional protection and strategic cooperation should be built with a clear commitment to global solidarity.

In building regionalism for a new internationalism it is essential that we go beyond the current logic of competetive identity politics. In this a people-to-people cooperation and diplomacy, as pursued for instance in the World Social Forum and by a multitude of innovative smaller groups and movementsduring the past years, can play an important role. The legitimacy and need for non-state political cooperation is obvious and  in regional cooperation as well tax-payers money and other public resources should not be exclusively spent on state and market driven integration.

Having said this let me stress that our efforts must complement and give life to, but not undermine the UN centred multilateral system. The G-192 that met in June 2009 for a UN General Assembly on the financial crisis and its impact on development also needs strengthening.

4. Regional cooperation in the South should not only protect the weak. It should also lead the world out of its multiple crises on the long-term. Globally the political debates seem to be moving from a discussion of separate crises to a discussion of inter-connected crises: of the finance sector, the world economy, political governance, food, water, development and climate. I welcome the synthetic framework of this conference. I only want to add that not only are the different areas of crisis interconnected and systemic. They should all be seen as symptoms of an underlying cultural crisis; a crisis of development models and the fundamental aspirations and ideals of modernization.

My fourth suggestion is that all political reforms and initiatives now of the short and medium term should be shaped so as not to hamper but rather support a civilisational shift in which the ultimate goals and ideals of development are reconsidered. It is clear that people, states and corporations in Europe and America must be pressed to responsibility and that we must pay for the mess we have caused during five hundred years through exploitation of other continents and mother earth. Nevertheless, for historical, cultural and social reasons the global North cannot be trusted too much in the search for new civilisational visions and new socially and ecologically enriching models for progress and development. The global South must take the lead. Regional cooperation in the global South and between increasingly self-reliant but co-operating Southern regional blocs can be essential for gaining economic, political and cultural autonomy from Europe and the US, serving global solidarity and environmental responsibility.

Latin America, with its strong tradition of mass participation in politics, progressive left movements, liberation theology and its great cultural variety should be a strong region in this search. In recent years the increasingly lively alliances throughout the region of indigenous and other emancipatory movements, that has given one country a president coming from the indigenous movements and another country a constitution that recognises Mother Earth is of particular interest for people on all continents who are searching for new political tools, ideas and visions. In decolonising development, art iculating new visions of good life (buen vivir) and building radical democracy the movements South America are today a great source of energy and hope for people on all continents. It is important for us all that this political and cultural resurgence is placed at the centre of regional integration here.

6. Nuclear proliferation, the totalisation of war through the war on terror and anti-hegemonic insurgency with little or no dependence on states, and the largely uncalculable threats of new military technologies combining e.g. new IT, nano-technology and genetic engineering make 21st century questions of war and peace more intractable than before. For this reason pro-people regional cooperation should systematically promote cultures and economies of sustainability and peace.

Peace-politics cannot imply thoughtless pacifism. We can still draw insight and inspiration from the Gandhian notion of and experiments with truth-force (“satyagraha”). This year 100 years have passed since Gandhi wrote his definitive statement, the pivotal pamphlet Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule on board a ship between Britain and South  Africa. The new politics of global security that we need, must, as Gandhi and others have clearly seen long back, be linked to the construction of pro-people and environmentally sound development models. These can emerge on the basis of the variety of sustainable life-styles, democracies and civilisational values existing today especially in the global South.

The industrial growth centred development model that first emerged in Europe and North America in the 18th to 20th century needs to be seriously reconsidered. The global record seems to be that industrial growth economies are not capable of overcoming poverty and deprivation everywhere. Without a commitment to peaceful cooperation and civilisational alternatives zero-sum competition for growth and unsustainable life-styles among nations and regions is likely to dominate global politics in the 21st century. Regions are then more than likely to develop into competing, protectionist blocs forming strategic alliances. Even under the condition of functional interdependence globally of the competing blocs, climate change, development failures and resource depletion combined with nuclear proliferation and the evolution of new military technologies may easily lead to completely new types of wars with planetary consequences. Hence, regional cooperation in Latin America, in other Southern regions and between them needs to be globally oriented towards cooperation and solidarity, not competition. It may be helpful in this regard to think of the global North in a new way: not as the developed regions that have made it, but as regions suffering from serious development failures. Even quite conservative new models for measuring overall success in development, such as the so called Happy Planet Index, indicate that life-conditions in the US, Sweden, Germany and other similar countries reached an all-time high in th 1970s and haved steadily deteriorated since then.

B. LESSONS FROM THE EUROPEAN MODEL

Since the early 1950s the emergence of, first the European Economic Community, EEC, and later, its sequel, the European Union, has been the dynamic centre of European  integration. The EU is now the most advanced model of regional integration globally. It has the largest internal market, the most ambitious common political instruments and the tightest juridical integration.

European integration has gained popular support and political legitimacy from two great promises. It has been seen, first, as a peace project and, secondly, increasingly in later years, as a project for benign, political governance of corporate driven globalisation. Without these impressive ideas European integration could not have been brought to its present level. Both ideas are now in a crisis.

I wish to bring out some lessons for regional integration from the fifty years of building the European Union:

(1) Peace ambitions may undermine democracy:
Since its inception in the 1950s the EU has been seen as a device to overcome the belligerent tendencies of nation-states. Drawing on analysis and inspiration coming from the 18th century German enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant and others, the idea has been to promote peace through functional integration of the national economies in the region.
The dark side of this idea was that EU integration has worked top-down. The people have been seen as prone to aggressive sentiment. Integration has proceeded on the initiative and under the leadership of bureaucratic elites. Economic integration has intentionally been built as a device that will promote political and other integration later, behind the backs of the reluctant citizens. For this reason the EU carries a vast democratic deficit. In recent years the democratic deficit in Europe has become obvious to all. The repeated side-stepping of the outcome of national referenda on EU-issues, such as the French and Dutch rejection of the EU constitution  and the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty is rapidly leading Europe to a very serious and deep crisis in democratic legitimacy and participation.
The deficit is structural: decision-making in the EU is so undemocratic that, ironically, the EU, if it would be a nation, would not qualify for membership in the EU.  Because of the post-war technocratic logic of EU-integration the democratic crisis in Europe is also very deep-seated. It will take time to overcome it. At the moment, the effort by EU-leaders to enforce the Lisbin treaty show that so far the EU is on the wrong track in this regard.
The lesson to be learnt is that regional cooperation must, much more than has been the case in Europe, be built democratically, with explicit consent and support by the citizens.

(2) Peace ambitions regionally may be counterproductive for peace globally:

In the aftermath of the second world war the sound ambition of the architects of European integration was to prevent the outbreak of war between European nations. Less attention has, for understandable reasons, been paid to the contribution of Europe to global security. The consequence is that wars between the leading countries of Europe has become highly unlikely but that their integration between them may become, or has perhaps already become, counter-productive for global security. In the great wars of the Bush regime – on Iraq and Afghanistan – a new obscene division of labour is emerging between the trans-Atlantic forces. The USA carries the main burden of classical warfare, the EU steps in economically and logistically in the aftermath of the war, takinmg care of crisis management. This, it may be argued, is the new logic of Western, imperial military hegemony.
If other regions follow the EU model and see regional integration of foreign policy, security policy and trade policy as an instrument for selfish and hegemonic ambitions the ensuing world order may easily end up repeating the calamities of what we in Europe call the westphalian order of competing, sovereign nation states, at a new, higher level.

(3) Regional cooperation for global governance needs to be built democratically from below. Special care must be taken at every step to keep economic policies within democratic control and to avoid spill-over from economic policies on social protection, environmental protection and other vital policy areas:

Since the 1980s the main left and centre argument in favour of deepening European integration has no longer been the argument from peace. The new argument has been the argument from globalization. The main ideas are familiar to all by now. Technological changes have made possible deep changes in the economy. Deepening economic interdependence between nations and regions, the increasing importance of a globalised capital market and the increasing size and power of transnational corporations have overburdened the steering and regulating capacity of nation states. For these reasons new instruments for political regulations are called for. The European Union has been seen by many as a much needed instrument for improved global governance of the economy at first, and now increasingly also of climate change, migration etc.
For this and other reasons the primacy of economic policy instruments is a deep-seated feature of European integration. The creation of a common internal market and of common external economic policies, especially as regards trade, has been a priority in European integration.
In this tradition markets and trade have often been given politically very expansive interpretations: in the EU (as in the WTO) the free movement of trade in goods has not been enough. Free movement of capital, labour and services have been seen as equally natural parts of economic integration on liberal premises. In consequence, the more the economic instruments have developed the more they have dominated over other policy areas in which decision-making has been more confined to the national level. Social policy, workers rights, health and education, environment have all suffered from a subordination to common economic policies. The strong efforts by trade unions, left governments, environmentalists, women’s movements and others to change the balance of forces in Europe have so far met with, at best, half-success. Recent key developments, such as the text and ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty, the formation of Europe’s new global economic policy, and the struggles over the working time, services and chemical legislation at the European level, show that corporate interests and narrowly defined economic goals still tend to dominate EU-policies.


The lesson for other regions is again negative. It is extremely dangerous for democracy, ecology and social justice to make economic cooperation the heart of regional integration.

(4) Regional integration is possible but needs to be democratic:
Let me close on a more positive note with some recommendations drawn from the European experience:

* Regional integration needs to be built democratically. Economic integration should be subservient to social justice and radical democracy.
To this end, there are four  fundamental conditions:
One: the fundamental principle of democracy, that all state power and all power of regional authorities belongs to the people, must always be recognized formally. (In the EU this is still not the case!)
Two: It is imperative that the juridical hierarchy, including the effective control of constitutional rights and freedoms of people and nature, is never subordinated to economic policies or juridical agreements regulating the economy. In the European Union the primacy of economic rights and freedoms at the level of the common regional market and in trade agreements infringes more and more on the human rights achievements. This is not only a concern at the international level where bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements are known to undermine human rights. Also internally in Europe social rights achievements have some times been undermined by the economic logic of integration.
Three: the peoples must always have effective control, before the fact and after the fact, of the balance of powers between regional and national authorities. In practice, referenda about that powers to hold at the national level and what powers to confer to regional authorities are essential. But these must be complemented by stronger powers to question and interfere in the formation of this balance by national parliaments.
Four: the political logic of democratic regionalism by the people and for the people should be pluralistic and decentred. When the peoples are in effective control of the balance of powers different countries will participate in different ways in regional cooperation, taking exceptions as they see fit and forming sub-units of tighter cooperation as they see fit. This should not be seen as a problem. The example of the European Union shows that even when integration is rigidly designed to create a Union of just one kind of members the end-result will be something else. In actual fact different European countries have different between them quite different kinds of membership in the EU both politically and juridically.

* Economic policies of regions should learn from the failures of the neo-liberal experiments in the EU and elsewhere:

+ A Latin American Central Bank issuing a common currencie that may in the long run function as a (regional?) reserve currency must work under democratic political guidance and pursue socially and ecologically responsible monetary policies;
+  The political weight and influence of large corporations tends to be relatively greater on regional than on national and local levels of political decision-making. In order to curb excess corporate influence strong measures must be taken at all times. They need to include very tight transparency regulation and, as I believe, innovative, radical anti-trust regulation. I suggest that a maximum size of corporations is considered as well as sealings on individual ownership and control of corporate activity.

* Regional cooperation may have democratizing effects on the relations between big and small countries. For this, effective, almost excessive formal veto powers by smaller members states in the regional organisations are needed to counter the effective and lasting, greater political weight of larger members.

* Regional, elected parliaments can play an important role in a new regionalism. The elected parliament should not be subordinate to regional non-elected bodies, but the extent of its powers needs to be controlled from lower levels.

* The world has seen the emergence of many special economic zones lately. In a new kind of regionalism special zones for people’s power from below can be created, where people and nature are protected against corporations and states. In Bolivia there seems to be encouraging experiments along this line that could serve as a model for further work.

* The European experience shows that regional cooperation can be effective in enhancing the power and  economic and social status of oppressed minorities and underprivileged regions. The mechanisms to achieve this need careful attention.

* If we manage to correct the imbalances mentioned the European Union shows that cultural and social solidarity between peoples with a long negative record of wars is possible and can be promoted through regional cooperation.

* Lastly, as compared with Europe, Latin America (as well as e.g. South Asia) has four distinct advantages as compared with Europe in its effort to build pro-people, ecologically sustainable regional cooperation to the benefit of the global community.
+ The first is a commonality of cultural values and identity. I do not want to under underestimate the cultural diversity of the Americas. But it seems to me as an outside observer that the experience of more than 500 years of colonialism and imperialism serves as a source of solidarity between the peoples in Latin America.
+ The second is common languages: Spanish and Portuguese are closely related. Again I hope that I do not offend the many people with other  languages as their first language if I say that the conditions for a common public space, and hence for radical regional democracy is more happy in Latin America than in some other regions. In view of recent experiences elsewhere this is likely to be more important for post-national democracy than computer-intensity.
+ The third is common interest. Again, I do not want to overstate the case, but it appears to me that all countries in Latin Ameica could gain in economic and cultural terns from deepened cooperation between them and also with other Southern regions, even if it has to happen at the cost of laxer links to Europe and North America.
+ The fourth is the mere fact that Latin Ametican efforts towards regional integration can learn from the European experience, positively and negatively. For instance, it appears to me that it can be advantageous to build relatively more on existing sub-regional organizations than has been done in the European context where Benelux, Nordic and other sub-regional cooperation structures have been eroded by European institutions when a better policy could have been to sustain and strengthen them as parts of a multilayered regional cooperation structure.

Latin American regional cooperation may also benefit from solidarity and cooperation with regional cooperation in other regions of the South. Together the cooperating regions may make historic contributions to a post-colonial and post-imperial, pluricentric and peaceful world order

With these remarks I wish Paraguay and all countries in Mercosur and South and Latin America at large determination and democratic energy for regional cooperation that will enhance a new internationalism and civilisational renewal world-wide.

Thank you for your attention.

Thomas Wallgren
E-mail:  thomas.wallgren@helsinki.fi



[1] The author is the secretary of Coalition for comprehensive democracy, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in Finland. He is affiliated with the Brussels based organisation Corporate Europe Observatory, chair of the Finnish Refugee Council and co-chair of Alternative to the EU – Finland. He serves as an elected member of the city council of Helsinki and is co-chair of the social-democratic group. Wallgren is the head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Helsinki, Finland. – All references are given for purposes of identification and transparency only. The author claims no ownership of his ideas nor originality for his views. He carries sole responsibility for the views expressed and all shortcomings of his remarks.



Por Roberto Colmán, generic Coordinadora Nacional por la Integración y la Soberanía Energética, help Paraguay

* Presentacion en la “Conferencia Internacional de gobiernos y movimientos sociales “Integración regional: una oportunidad frente a las crisis” (Paraguay, 21 y 22 Julio 2009)

Sumario
1. Situación de la integración eléctrica en América del Sur.
2. Pérdidas por la no integración eléctrica.
3. La mejor interconexión eléctrica.
4. Beneficios si hay integración eléctrica solidaria.
5. La soberanía hidroeléctrica paraguaya y los tratados de Itaipú, Yacyretá y MERCOSUR.
6. Soberanía hidroeléctrica y la propuesta de Chile.
7. Los puntos que el Paraguay plantea.
8. Acta de Foz de Yguazu.
9. Distribución de la energía en Itaipú.
10. Amortización de la deuda de Itaipú.
11. Tarifa por debajo del costo (deuda)
12. Cogestión paritaria.
13. Control y trasparencia.
14. Los ejemplos de Panamá y Bolivia.

DESCARGUE LA PRESENTACION COMPLETA EN PDF

By Walden Bello*

(Speech at the Conference on “Regional Integration: an Opportunity Presented by the Crisis”, look Universidad de Deportes, Asuncion, Paraguay, July 21-22, 2009.)

Globalization has ended in massive failure.

One response to this crisis has been to dump export-oriented industrialization and reemphasize the primacy of the national market in sustaining economic growth.

Another response, complementary to this, has been to build regional associations or regional blocs.

Regional economic blocs are not new. However, some of the more prominent ones have either not moved beyond a primitive stage, as in the case of SAARC in South Asia, or have been based on neoliberal principles, like ASEAN in Southeast Asia. ASEAN’s idea of integration is to see it as a step towards full-scale globalization, a process that is termed “open regionalism.”

The most interesting efforts at integration, in the view of many, are those taking place in Latin America, among them Trade Treaty of the Peoples and ALBA or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas to which eight countries now belong. These experiences are at an early stage and yet they already contain lessons for other parts of the world. It is for this reason that the organizers of this conference decided to hold it in Asuncion, bringing in activists and government officials from Asia and Africa to interact with people in this region to discuss the lessons that developments here have for the rest of the world.

For many of us from outside Latin America, the dynamics of ALBA hold particular interest. One item that fascinates us is the use of barter as a key method of trade, for instance, the exchange of Venezuelan oil for Bolivian soybeans or of Venezuelan oil for medical services rendered by Cuban volunteers. Another is the subsidization of the oil needs of 14 Caribbean countries by Venezuela, which sells fuel to them at 40 per cent off the world price. We are intrigued by the comment of President Hugo Chavez during the World Social Forum in Caracas in 2006 that these practices “go beyond the logic of capitalism.”

Yet we cannot romanticize these efforts. For instance, the plan to build oil and gas pipelines from Venezuela to the furthermost areas of South America is probably dangerous and damaging not only to the environment but also to the indigenous peoples. Some elements of the ALBA perspective, as expressed by some people, reflect the perspective of 1950’s-style national capitalist industrialization, which is probably not suitable for the current period.

The challenges confronting us today cannot be met by either neoliberalism or the old developmentalist model. Let me mention some of these challenges to contemporary regionalism in Latin America and other parts of the South.

1. The first is how to build regional blocs that go beyond trade to include industrial policy, a shared agricultural policy, macroeconomic coordination, and technology sharing.

2. The second is how to ensure that building complementarity among economies does not reproduce the old, unequal division of labor between stronger and weaker economies.

3. The third is how to promote a development process that does not reproduce social inequalities at the regional and national levels in the name of capital accumulation.

4. The fourth is how to promote a development process that is sustainable, that is, one that is built on ecologically benign technologies and is not based on ever-rising material consumption per capita, though of course the spreading of material wealth via income redistribution is necessary to bring people out of poverty.

5. The fifth is how to avoid a technocrat-led process and promote instead the democratization of decision-making in all areas of the economy.

6. The sixth, related to the previous point, is how to move away from a statist process and institutionalize civil society participation in all key areas of economic decisionmaking. Civil society must not only provide a check to both the state and the market, but it must be the leading force in the new economics.

7. Finally, the last I would mention is how to undertake a process of regional integration that transcends the logic of capitalism, to borrow the words of Hugo Chavez.

I propose these as some of the key questions to guide our discussion of regional integration over the next two days.

Thank you.

*Walden Bello is a member of the House of Representatives of the Republic of the Philippines, president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, and senior analyst at the Bangkok-based institute Focus on the Global South. He is the author of 15 books, the latest of which is The Food Wars (New York: Verso, 2009).

Alternative Regionalisms and Civil Society: Setting a Research Agenda

Shaun Breslina and Richard Higgottb

This paper places the contemporary study of regionalism in historical context. It argues that the study of regionalism has occurred in two waves. The first gathered pace as a sub-field of International Relations from the late 1950s and the second emerged in the context of the globalisation of the late 1980s and the 1990s.
Paper available to the subscribers of Asia Europe Journal

Brendan Donegan

This paper presents a Foucauldian reading of regional integration
projects based on the model of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as part of a strategy for the restructuring of national economies along neoliberal lines. Looking at the cases of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the focus of the paper is on the roles played by technical ‘experts’ in depoliticising decisions and issue-areas, there understood as a central element of enabling this strategy. Moves toward regional governance can only be considered as a policy option at the national level if it is possible to distinguish ‘technical’ from ‘political’ within the domestic realm: only an area specified as ‘non-political’ – that is, as posing no threat to national sovereignty – can be governed at a regional level through inter-state cooperation. Consequently, a necessary prerequisite for moving towards regional governance of national economic space is the establishment of a hegemonic political rationality that conceptualises the economic as
technical and distinct from the political.

Available at the Millenium Journal of International Studies

Brendan Donegan
This paper presents a Foucauldian reading of regional integration
projects based on the model of the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) as part of a strategy for the restructuring of
national economies along neoliberal lines. Looking at the cases of the
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Free Trade Area
of the Americas (FTAA), here the focus of the paper is on the roles played
by technical ‘experts’ in depoliticising decisions and issue-areas, buy
understood as a central element of enabling this strategy. Moves
toward regional governance can only be considered as a policy
option at the national level if it is possible to distinguish ‘technical’
from ‘political’ within the domestic realm: only an area specified as
‘non-political’ – that is, troche as posing no threat to national sovereignty
– can be governed at a regional level through inter-state cooperation.
Consequently, a necessary prerequisite for moving towards regional
governance of national economic space is the establishment of a
hegemonic political rationality that conceptualises the economic as
technical and distinct from the political.
Available at the Millenium Journal of Internatioanl Studies

Brendan Donegan

This paper presents a Foucauldian reading of regional integration
projects based on the model of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as part of a strategy for the restructuring of national economies along neoliberal lines. Looking at the cases of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the focus of the paper is on the roles played by technical ‘experts’ in depoliticising decisions and issue-areas, patient understood as a central element of enabling this strategy. Moves toward regional governance can only be considered as a policy option at the national level if it is possible to distinguish ‘technical’ from ‘political’ within the domestic realm: only an area specified as ‘non-political’ – that is, as posing no threat to national sovereignty– can be governed at a regional level through inter-state cooperation.
Consequently, a necessary prerequisite for moving towards regional
governance of national economic space is the establishment of a
hegemonic political rationality that conceptualises the economic as
technical and distinct from the political.

Available at the Millenium Journal of Internatioanl Studies

Brendan Donegan
This paper presents a Foucauldian reading of regional integration
projects based on the model of the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) as part of a strategy for the restructuring of
national economies along neoliberal lines. Looking at the cases of the
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Free Trade Area
of the Americas (FTAA), clinic the focus of the paper is on the roles played
by technical ‘experts’ in depoliticising decisions and issue-areas, remedy
understood as a central element of enabling this strategy. Moves
toward regional governance can only be considered as a policy
option at the national level if it is possible to distinguish ‘technical’
from ‘political’ within the domestic realm: only an area specified as
‘non-political’ – that is, as posing no threat to national sovereignty
– can be governed at a regional level through inter-state cooperation.
Consequently, a necessary prerequisite for moving towards regional
governance of national economic space is the establishment of a
hegemonic political rationality that conceptualises the economic as
technical and distinct from the political.
Available at the Millenium Journal of Internatioanl Studies

Brendan Donegan

This paper presents a Foucauldian reading of regional integration
projects based on the model of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as part of a strategy for the restructuring of national economies along neoliberal lines. Looking at the cases of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the focus of the paper is on the roles played by technical ‘experts’ in depoliticising decisions and issue-areas, discount understood as a central element of enabling this strategy. Moves toward regional governance can only be considered as a policy option at the national level if it is possible to distinguish ‘technical’ from ‘political’ within the domestic realm: only an area specified as ‘non-political’ – that is, as posing no threat to national sovereignty – can be governed at a regional level through inter-state cooperation. Consequently, a necessary prerequisite for moving towards regional governance of national economic space is the establishment of a hegemonic political rationality that conceptualises the economic as
technical and distinct from the political.

Available at the Millenium Journal of Internatioanl Studies

Brendan Donegan

This paper presents a Foucauldian reading of regional integration
projects based on the model of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as part of a strategy for the restructuring of national economies along neoliberal lines. Looking at the cases of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the focus of the paper is on the roles played by technical ‘experts’ in depoliticising decisions and issue-areas, understood as a central element of enabling this strategy. Moves toward regional governance can only be considered as a policy option at the national level if it is possible to distinguish ‘technical’ from ‘political’ within the domestic realm: only an area specified as ‘non-political’ – that is, as posing no threat to national sovereignty – can be governed at a regional level through inter-state cooperation. Consequently, a necessary prerequisite for moving towards regional governance of national economic space is the establishment of a hegemonic political rationality that conceptualises the economic as
technical and distinct from the political.

Available at the Millenium Journal of Internatioanl Studies

Paul Wilding

This paper explores the implications of globalization for social policy, ampoule there and teases out those elements of globalization which have impinged most on it. Then it explores the most important ways in which globalization has had an effect on social policy. Seven issues are explored—the way in which globalization has highlighted and/or created new problems, erectile
its contribution to hollowing out the state, online the way in which it has altered the balance of power between capital and labour, its contribution to stimulating an ideology of competitiveness, its re-establishing of the importance of trade in discussions about social policy and, finally, the way in which it has helped to make the maintenance of social order a new priority. The paper then explores the possibilities for supranational or regional social policy. It examines the case for moving towards such a policy and the problems of so doing.
Article available to subscribers of Social Policy Administration

Rosalba Icaza

Different experiences of regionalism have produced different explanations about their benefits and costs, cure malady driving forces and agents, malady objectives and strategies. While some might emphasize the positive side that the harmonization of phytosanitary standards could have for consumers in a given region, ed for example, others might highlight the negative consequences for the diversity of products and local economies. Such different perspectives have informed the making and re-making of regional institutions, mechanisms, forums and agreements and highlight what regionalisms are: contested political projects driven by state and market actors, as well as communities around the world, which are transforming regional units located in particular geographic areas.
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Regionalisms Futures: The Challenges for Civil Society

Shaun Breslina and Richard Higgottb
This paper places the contemporary study of regionalism in historical context. It argues that the study of regionalism has occurred in two waves. The first gathered pace as a sub-field of International Relations from the late 1950s and the second emerged in the context of the globalisation of the late 1980s and the 1990s.
Paper
Luk Van Langenhove
This paper explores how regional integration can be seen through the lens of the individualism/collectivism dichotomy. Two main worldviews dominate the world since the 18-century: individualism and collectivism. These worldviews not only shape the behaviour of individuals but also that of institutional actors such as states. At the level of states, sale these two worldviews have been reflected in states pursuing their national interests and in states seeking to cooperate with other states. Also, within single states, these two worldviews find their expression in conceptions about how social order and public life are organised: the welfare state versus a market oriented society. As such, regional integration is a process that has a double relation to the individualism/collectivism dichotomy. First, the level of regional integration that states will pursue is linked to (individual) national interests. Secondly, regional integration as a move towards unity is function of the existing degree of homogeneity in social welfare systems. Today, a major challenge for the world is the dual evolution of growing individualism on the one hand (with limits to solidarity) and of a growing area of problems that have to be tackled at a collective level (cf. globalisation). This paper will argue that regional integration can be a valuable answer to overcome the individualism/collectivism dichotomy at the level of states. But for this to happen, civil society needs to become much more involved in regional integration processes.

Brid Brennan and Cecilia Olivet

A profound process of de-legitimation of the structures and key institutions of the current neoliberal model of economic globalization has marked the last years of the 20th century and the beginning of the new millennium. Parallel with this, we have also witnessed the intense search for alternatives, sales highlighted in the World Social Forum process and concretized in the actual emerging alternatives, at the local, national and global level. It is in this context that the most promising alternative regionalisms are emerging, with social movements and civil society organizations (CSOs) as key protagonists.
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Published by Global Social Policy

Alternative Regionalisms: Why and How?

International Metalworkers’ Federation
Development of an alternative economic program has been a major priority for the IMF and its affiliates under the 2001-2005 Action Program. The topic has been discussed thoroughly at many IMF meetings at the world, regional and sectoral level with the aim of clarifying and defining exactly what an alternative economic program should look like.
>Download PDF
Dot Keet
The new alternative regionalisms being promoted by social movements are ‘alternative’ to the increasingly neoliberal directions being taken, and the regional trade and investment liberalization programmes being adopted or reinforced in the existing regional groupings of countries of the South. Social movement strategies for alternative regionalisms are also designed to counter the so-called ‘regional support’ plans containing contradictory conditionalities set by foreign governments, particularly the USA and the EU; by international institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and the World Trade Organization (WTO); and by transnational corporate interests.
>Download PDF

Rethinking the Trading System

Dot Keet
The new alternative regionalisms being promoted by social movements are ‘alternative’ to the increasingly neoliberal directions being taken, and the regional trade and investment liberalization programmes being adopted or reinforced in the existing regional groupings of countries of the South. Social movement strategies for alternative regionalisms are also designed to counter the so-called ‘regional support’ plans containing contradictory conditionalities set by foreign governments, particularly the USA and the EU; by international institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and the World Trade Organization (WTO); and by transnational corporate interests.
keet_whyhowaltreg

Aileen Kwa

The world trade negotiations of the so called “Doha Development Round” at the WTO are in the limelight. High expectations on a successful conclusion of the round are placed by a majority of governments both from the North and the South and by the international business communities. A more cautious position is taken by a number of renowned international economists, trade union organizations and NGOs who are calling for much greater attention on social and environmental concerns and a slowing down and better “sequencing” of trade liberalization efforts and economic reforms without questioning the WTO as central trade negotiation forum, malady in rule making and in dispute settlement entirely.
>Download PDF

The Ascent of Regional Integration

Andres Musacchio
Las teorías económicas tradicionales proponen un modelo de interpretación de los procesos de integración que permite analizarlos con un conjunto de herramientas standard, mediante las cuales se los reduce a un conjunto de elementos comunes a todos ellos. De allí que las diferencias entre las diversas experiencias quedan reducidas a una cuestión de grado, que alude a la profundidad que cada una de ellas ha alcanzado. Sin embargo, este tipo de análisis oculta las profundas diferencias en las estructuras económicas y sociales que los motivan.
A partir de una comparación sintética de los principales rasgos de los procesos de integración de América Latina y Europa, nuestro trabajo intenta perfilar algunos elementos básicos para el análisis de la problemática, que recuperen las nociones de tiempo y espacio y la analicen a la luz las estructuras económicas y sociales concretas. Se intenta mostrar que los aludidos procesos tienen una raíz diferente, no por tener un grado de profundidad distinto, sino por una inserción diferenciada en el recorte espacial de los procesos de acumulación, de los modos de regulación y de los vínculos trabados con las regiones que no forman parte directa del proceso.

Luk Van Langenhove – Isabella Torta – Ana-Cristina Costea

Globalization is one of the major phenomena challenging the existing world order based upon sovereign states. Societies are more and more confronted with global issues linked to international trade and development, ask environment and security concerns. One of the main questions is at which level of governance these issues should be tackled. On the one hand, discount states are still the main actors in the international arena but they are limited in the ways they can act to solve problems of trans-national nature. International treaties and
regulations both limit the sovereignty of states and regulate cross-border and inter-state processes. However, this only happens after states having accepted such regulations by ratifying treaties. So, the paradox is that the ultimate policy authority of tackling global issues and problems still belongs to States, while the origin of the problems and solutions is located at trans-national level. On the other hand, international organizations with global vocation, such as the United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions, are faced today with structural problems and reforming attempts, which sometimes weaken their prompt reaction.
>Download PDF

Published by the United Nations university

Governmental Regionalism: Power/ Knowledge and Neoliberal Regional Integration in Asia and Latin America

Shaun Breslina and Richard Higgottb

This paper places the contemporary study of regionalism in historical context. It argues that the study of regionalism has occurred in two waves. The first gathered pace as a sub-field of International Relations from the late 1950s and the second emerged in the context of the globalisation of the late 1980s and the 1990s.
Paper available to the subscribers of Asia Europe Journal

Brendan Donegan

This paper presents a Foucauldian reading of regional integration
projects based on the model of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as part of a strategy for the restructuring of national economies along neoliberal lines. Looking at the cases of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the focus of the paper is on the roles played by technical ‘experts’ in depoliticising decisions and issue-areas, there understood as a central element of enabling this strategy. Moves toward regional governance can only be considered as a policy option at the national level if it is possible to distinguish ‘technical’ from ‘political’ within the domestic realm: only an area specified as ‘non-political’ – that is, as posing no threat to national sovereignty – can be governed at a regional level through inter-state cooperation. Consequently, a necessary prerequisite for moving towards regional governance of national economic space is the establishment of a hegemonic political rationality that conceptualises the economic as
technical and distinct from the political.

Available at the Millenium Journal of International Studies

Realism and reactive regionalism: where is east asian regionalism heading?

JENINA JOY CHAVEZ, Bangkok Post,
When leaders of the member governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meet for their 13th summit in Singapore today, the world’s attention will be focused on what they will do on the matter of Burma. The Burma question has become a yearly embarrassment and pressure point for Asean, and everyone is curious whether the collective global indignation after the September violence will prompt Asean leaders to do something different this year.
The expectation that Asean will do something different also arises from its announcement three years ago that it will embark on building a charter to formalise itself, establish the legal framework that would define the duties and responsibilities of its members, and guide its relationship with external partners. This was followed by instructions to the Eminent Persons Group, which was appointed to draw up recommendations on what the charter should contain, to be ”daring and visionary”.
The document, which will turn Asean into a rules-based legal entity like the European Union, will be signed by the bloc’s 10 leaders at the summit.
The charter carried some hope for the region at first. After leaders signed the declaration on the establishment of the Asean charter process in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005, civil society groups saw this as a chance to engage Asean on what a meaningful regionalism for the people should look like.
The initial expectation and hope, however, soon turned into concern when it became apparent that the Asean charter was not to be the subject of wide-ranging discussions, and that it was not to be made public until after it is signed by Asean leaders.
Nothing in the charter was seen until Thai independent media outfit Prachatai and the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism posted leaked copies of the final draft of the charter on their websites in early November.
The concern then turned into disappointment _ one fails to see the daring and vision that was hoped for in the Asean charter.
The charter does its job in terms of codifying Asean’s many previous agreements and declarations, and bestowing it legal personality. It clarifies issues on membership, and delineates functions and responsibilities of the different Asean organs.
It creates a new formal Asean bureaucracy _ from the formation of the three community councils (political-security, economic and socio-cultural) and the establishment of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, to the redefinition and strengthening of the roles of the secretary-general and the Asean secretariat.
It even gives a mandate to the much awaited Asean human rights body.
Disappointment springs not so much from things that are found in the charter, but from things that are not but should be.
The charter reaffirms a government-centric Asean, defining rules of engagement for members, and institutionalising age-old values of consensus and non-interference. However, it lacks clear mechanisms for dispute settlement, accountability and redress.
While the bodies themselves are given a mandate, the details are not to be found in the charter, raising concerns that leaving them to ministerial bodies and instruments of Asean would dilute such a mandate.
Good offices, conciliation and mediation may be resorted to, but the default for unresolved conflicts is still the Asean summit. Considering the long years that the leaders have managed to ignore or dodge urgent but controversial issues in the region, undefined dispute mechanisms that are eventually settled politically hardly provides confidence that disputes will receive speedy and proper resolution at all.
The inclusion of human rights in the charter’s preamble and statement of principles, and the creation of the human rights body is a milestone for Asean. It is regrettable that the charter leaves this article incomplete, with the body’s operation still to be defined according to the terms of reference to be determined at the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting, which is another political gathering.
The charter talks about a people-oriented Asean, and upholds consultation and consensus as basic principles in decision-making. Yet the charter does not provide clear mechanisms for transparency and participation, and does not recognise engagement and interaction with non-state actors and civil society. The charter is also silent about how Asean’s operations can be subject to independent scrutiny, how its processes can be accessed by interested groups, and how official information should be made public.
Other missing elements include the non-mention of migrant labour which makes up a substantial portion of labour flow in the region.
The only reference to gender and women’s rights was in the selection of the secretary-general and two of the four deputies.
Finally, the charter fails to celebrate the plurality of Asean economic experiences and recognise its members’ successes based on heterodox policy mixes, by explicitly enshrining in the charter the principles of a market-driven economy.
The desire for a single market and production base should not be construed as exclusively dependent on liberalisation, but should be treated as an attempt to learn from how the more successful Asean members were able to do it without yielding everything to the market, and to build the capacities of other members in the spirit of genuine regional solidarity.
Many analysts have already written off the charter as another of Asean’s many grand declarations that never got implemented. That is, whatever may be considered positive about it will again take years to see fruition. But when leaders announced that the charter will be ”daring and visionary”, civil society was at least willing to give them a chance.
The charter is a letdown. It does not equip Asean to deal with controversial issues that hounded it in the past, and certainly does not offer anything new that could help it deal with Burma.
It is time that the initiative is wrested from the political elites and given back to the people. Let us define the Asean we need, and start the building of an Asean people’s charter.
Jenina Joy Chavez is coordinator of Focus on the Global South-Philippines Programme and an active member of the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacies (Sapa) Working Group on Asean. She is also a trustee of Action for Economic Reforms.

Yeo Lay Hwee, Singapore Institute of International Affairs

Region-building is on the move in East Asia. The past decade has seen lots of initiatives and movements, cure especially in the economic realm. Yet, to date there is still no blueprint for East Asia to deepen cooperation and integrate into an East Asian community. An embryonic form of East Asian regionalism has emerged with the regular ASEAN+3 meetings between leaders, ministers and senior officials. There also exists a patchwork of cooperation at different levels and in different areas such as in trade and finance. But recent tensions in relations between Japan and China, and Japan and Korea over various issues cast doubts as to how fast and how far East Asian regionalism can go.
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