Regionalism and its future – I

Regionalism comes in many forms: from geographical proximity to ideological similarity as well as linguistic uniqueness. However, it is the geographical closeness that accounts for the most of the regionalism found in the world, be it African Union (AU), European Union (EU), Organization of American States (OAS), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) or SAARC. Even the economic unions, including NAFTA, BIMSTEC, EU, SAFTA, and security organizations like SCO, NATO comprise countries that are neighbors (with the exception of NATO where the US and Canada are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. While regionalism is not a new phenomenon, with some instances dating to before the First World War, it can now be studies under the new auspices to signify its rise and fall.

With the EU floundering and the NAFTA under threat, addition of the threat from Venezuela to pull out from OAS augurs new low to regionalism. While the EU may not be bruised by Brexit, there are already instances of discord among the member states: Greece with its debt problem, Spain and Portugal that are moving along the way of Greece as well as the populist leaders in Hungary, Poland and even France, where run-off election is going to be held between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron with the former trying to reassess the relation with the EU. Add to this, whatever the ambitions of Turkey had to join the EU seems to be waning after the referendum to amend the constitution passed last month.

NAFTA is also under threat after Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential race in the USA, the largest member in the 3 nation group. With his rhetoric about America first, his isolationist policy coupled with the wall-building stance has meant that he does not envision the future of NAFTA.

Whereas in Latin America, Venezuela has threatened to pull out of OAS due to its fear that the organization was trying to “undermine the stability and peace of our country” with the goal of promoting an “invasion” in the words of foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez. The neighboring states have accused Venezuela of trying to slide into dictatorship, while the government sees the protestors as having been instigated by its neighbors.

All is not lost however. EU seems to be in unison, at least for the time being. The financial crisis is being steadied by the member states, especially Germany and France. Also, the populist may have caused alarm but the degree is not as high to be frustrated. As to Venezuela and OAS, the organization will not be shaken by the move of one member, having ousted Cuba on 1962 (Cuba being the only non-OAS country in the western hemisphere). This is not to say that things will turn out well. If due care is not taken, then the notion of nation-state will rise. Liberalism seems to have some work to do.

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