A World of Regions — And the EU Role?

EDITORIAL, 5 Apr 2010

#106 | Johan Galtung

The US Empire is leaving an economic-military-political-cultural gap, China is not signing up, nor the EU with its recent experience of how colonialism crumbles.  The state system is also fading–except for the biggest ones–being increasingly region-oriented.  EU is the most mature, but AU, SAARC and ASEAN are coming up.  Three new regions are in the making: Latin America-Caribbean (LA), Islamic from Morocco to Mindanao (OIC), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), possibly competing with an East Asian Community.

What could be the European Commission response be to the challenge of being a major peace actor in a world of regions? An optimistic jump into the near future?

First, the EU will have an enormous status and influence as the model region, having achieved so much intra-EU positive peace, directly, structurally and culturally.  The others are all lining up to learn the tricks, asking the EU to open the boxes of successes and failures.  As the world fairly recently has been colonized by 11 of the 27 members, many in the other regions speak EU colonial languages; putting them at much advantage as the colonizers never bothered to learn theirs.

Second, EU could be a useful model in crisis sub-regions, as could also the Nordic Community and ASEAN:

  • a Middle East Community, bringing together a 1967 Israel and the five Arab neighbor states; Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine recognized according to international law, Egypt.
  • a Central Asian Community, bringing together Afghanistan and the 8 bordering countries, all Muslim, absorbing much of SCO.
  • a West Asian Community, Turkey-Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan, all Muslim, with Iraq-Iran-Armenia-Azerbaijan as a bridge between Islam and the West whether Turkey is EU member or not.
  • a Caucasian Community, Georgia-Armenia-Azerbaijan, with status for Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno Karabagh, and with a lower house for the (26?) nations in the region.

This model function of the EU, inter-state and inter-function, is based on five positive peace factors: symbiosis and equity, homology (structural similarity) and entropy (cooperation in all directions) and a joint organization.

Third, the crucial point, however, would be how the EU relates to the other six.  And here the five-point model could be used again, for regions rather than for states.

However, for the EU to play a friendly peace-building role it should not provoke fear but better be nonaligned, basing its security on defensive defense, “homeland security”, rather than on, say, Rapid Deployment Forces.  Leave that kind of activity to a level higher up, to something more global. The EU should give up both direct interventionist violence, and the structural, ODA, violence of extracting resources.

The EU would have to do what China may be steering toward: self-sufficiency in resources, for instance by becoming less oil and gas dependent, close to mandatory anyhow, given the need to reduce carbon emission.  And the EU has to be useful to others, which comes easily for such a resourceful region that through colonialism has stimulated demand for its considerable cultural, scientific and technical resources.

The big question is how to relate for mutual (symbiosis) and equal (equity) benefit.  Any effort to squeeze resources out of the five Third World regions–LA, AU, OIC, SAARC and ASEAN–should be abandoned in favor of exchange at the same level of processing, giving up all protective tariffs against processed products from the Third World.  The EU will have to adjust to a decreasing role in total world trade; South-South trade–among the five regions mentioned–is bound to increase in relative significance, as it does for instance in ASEAN+3.

And the same goes for culture: a regional system based on mutual and equal benefit would demand dialogue, mutual respect and curiosity, not one-way culture traffic.  Is the EU ready to learn from other non-Western thought and languages?

How about homology and entropy, could they be carried over into a regionalized world?   One of the gifts of the EU model to other regions and sub-regions is the division between a Council for States–territorial–and a Commission for the Departments–functional.  With that a condition for inter-regional homology is satisfied, with seven Commissions working for peace by peaceful means.  A dream worth dreaming.  And acting upon: civilizing their state system residues, the Councils.

And with the rapid growth of civil society regionally and globally, other regions are now approaching the “underbrush” condition so fruitful when the EEC came into being. African, Latin American and Asian NGOs are already lobbying in Brussels, so are European NGOs in East Africa and Addis Ababa. There is nothing utopian in what is written in these pages. Rather, it is amazing how quickly the world evolves.

But, a key test is the fifth factor: a joint multilateral organization at the center of a regional world.  An UR, United Regions?  Why not, with no veto power given to a few regions, but maybe decisions by consensus to start with.  There would be a United Regions People’s Assembly, maybe based on regional parliaments where they exist, and in the future on direct elections.  And the secretariat could rotate from one region to the other, as has been done successfully in the European Union.  No need to repeat such UN errors as veto, no popular mandate and permanent location in a very biased environment.

The challenges are there.  Will the response be creative?

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Apr 2010.

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One Response to “A World of Regions — And the EU Role?”

  1. Galtung writes:
    “EU could be a useful model in crisis sub-regions”

    But – don’t disregard that EU is a creation of Merchants and suffers from democratic deficit. Also Russia is left outside as an economic rival.

    Kekkonen had a vision of security based on cooperation in implementing norms generally agreed upon, such as HR, non-violence etc. OSCE became looked upon as a model for similar regimes in the Middle East and Southeast Asia (Gareth Evans). OSCE is also declared by the peace movement (IPB) as an alternative to Nato.

    The obvious need to reform the composition of the UN SC is blocked by the veto, but new road maps are now suggested and the old Canadian proposal (from Dieter Heinrich) of a UN Paliamentary Assembly (UNPA) is close to be tested.

    Out of the Decade of International Law – started by NAM ministers meeting in the Hague 1989 – inspired the creation of I.C.C. now supported not only by State parties (except the US) in the Rome treaty but also by a large NGO Coalition convened by Bill Pace.

    Best regards