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Europe and Other Regions of the World

What does the European experiment mean for other regions in the world? From a point of view inside Europe, we tend to lose sight of the exceptional and path-breaking nature of the integration of the European community as seen from abroad. Europe as a space where sustained peace and prosperity reign, the founders' vision, has indeed become a reality. This represents a formidable accomplishment whether viewed in light of Europe's long history of war or of the current state of international affairs.

European integration, conceptually, is by far the most ambitious and thoroughgoing project of regional integration undertaken anywhere in the world as such is a unique political phenomenon. Europe could for this reason potentially serve as a model in international relations. It is especially the concept of shared sovereignty, even if realised in very limited ways, that makes the European regional project look like a unique alternative in a world dominated by the so-called realist approach to conflict resolution with its one-dimensional emphasis on balance of power. Even advocates of world governance – admittedly in retreat these last two years – in their defense of the idea that most major problems are common to a majority of the planet's nations, do not go as far as to propose sharing political/ economic resources to manage such problems.

During the 1990's, a decade which saw the Treaty of Maastricht* signed, a number of other regional agreements were founded, most notably NAFTA in North America and Mercosur in South America, or APEC in East Asia. This worldwide movement of regionalism has changed over the last ten years, and even if some efforts like APEC have run out of steam, the tendency toward regionalism is still very much alive, as witnessed in the development of ASEAN+3 dialogue (among South East Asia, China, Japan, and South Korea) since 1997.

Europe as a model, therefore, is still quite relevant, complete with its unique notions like civil society empowerment and parity among States. It may even be that the European example is all the more relevant now that global governance appears to be a far-off dream while international affairs management is dominated by the only other game in town: real politik.


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Karoline Postel-Vinay
Centre d'études et de recherches internationales (CERI)
CNRS-FNSP
E-mail: postelvinay@ceri-sciences-po.org

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