The presentation aims to give a brief introduction to the work of the Research Group on ‘Regional Integration outside of Europe’, located at the University of Bamberg, Germany.
Among academics and practitioners alike, the European Union is seen as the ‘gold standard’ of regional integration. Hence it is not surprising that scholars of regional integration draw their insights heavily from the European model. Yet, and as a consequence, regional integration theories seem to be eurocentric and biased in favor of conditions to be found in Europe – in particular a high level of intra-regional economic interdependence as necessary condition for successful integration.
However, regional integration projects outside of Europe usually lack high levels of intra-regional economic interdependence. Therefore, to be successful, these integration projects need to be more outward oriented. Generating positive feedbacks from benevolent external actors can have a positive impact on deeper and wider regional integration.
Empirically, by deploying network analysis, we can show that the variation in integration dynamics between ASEAN, Mercosur and the Southern African Development Community seems to be a function of “actions” of external actors and low intraregional asymmetries. We conclude that international political economy and cooperation theory seem to be more promising in making sense of regional integration outside of Europe and that the European Union should be treated as the exception rather than the rule.
About the speaker
Axel Obermeier is a visiting researcher at the European Union Centre in Singapore. He holds a PhD Scholarship from the German Research Foundation and is a member of the Graduate School ‘Markets and Social Systems in Europe’ at the University of Bamberg, Germany. In Bamberg, he is also a member of the research group on ‘Regional Integration outside of Europe’. In his doctoral thesis he deals with the dynamics of international institution building in Southeast Asia, with a focus on the impact of external actors. His research interests include comparative regionalism, international relations theories and comparative methodology. He interned in the Korean National Assembly and for the UNHCR.