Journal contribution by Dr Yeo Lay Hwee, Director, EU Centre in Singapore, to “International Politics” Vol 47, 3/4, pp. 324-337, Macmillan Publishers Ltd (2010)
This article compares the characteristics and workings of institutional versus networked regionalism through the integration experience of the European Union (EU) and East Asia. It provides a succinct overview of the many factors as to why and how the EU and East Asia evolved different trajectories of integration. For East Asia, the catalysts to integration include the Asian financial crisis that underscored the interdependency between Southeast and Northeast Asia, the role of ASEAN, the spillover effect from growing transnational inter-connectedness in business production and markets, and, critically, the improving relationship between China and Japan. Without rapproachement, central leadership as seen in the EU cannot take the place in East Asia, and hence one way for East Asian regionalism to proceed is through issues-based leadership. Through the experience of APEC, ASEAN and now East Asia, the paper presents how regionalism can develop non-teleologically and with added benefits for the networked model; such as fluidity and having more options by adopting ‘variable geometry’ in cooperation. The paper suggests that less rigid, less hierachical networked forms may be growing in acceptance as an alternative to the more formal and institutional form of regionalism that informed region-building in Europe.