The EU as a model of a South American project
The evolution of what is today the European Union (EU), from a regional economic agreement among six neighboring states in 1951 to today’s hybrid intergovernmental and supranational organization of twenty-eight countries across the European continent, stands as an unprecedented phenomenon in the annals of history.
UNASUR, born in 2004, is intended to promote regional integration by bringing together members of Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations. In May 2008, leaders from twelve South American countries inked the Constitutive Treaty to create UNASUR with the goal of improve regional economic and political integration.
The rise of new regional integrations
Although the EU is not a federation in the strict sense, it is more than a free-trade association, and it has a set of attributes associated with independent nations: its own flag, currency (for some members), and law-making abilities, as well as diplomatic representation and a common foreign and security policy in its dealings with external partners. The EU members share a common history, whether as aggressors or defenders. The devastation caused by the two world wars, ironically, was the cause for reconciliation between European enemies and the pursue of the peace in the region.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) started in 2008 with Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela as full-right members (Mexico and Panama participate as observers). In December 2010, the accord gained the necessary votes to provide UNASUR legal status. The treaty subsequently went into effect in March 2011 during a meeting at the group’s headquarters in Quito, Ecuador and the UN bestowed the status of ‘observer’ in 2011.
In the EU’s unique and complex institutional configuration the European Council sets the EU’s broad priorities, which brings together national and EU-level leaders. European citizens are represented in the European Parliament by directly elected representatives. The European Commission, whose members are appointed by national governments, promotes the interests of the EU as a whole but defending their own national interest in the Council of the European Union.
The UNASUR has a General Secretary, a rotating Presidency, a Council of Heads of State, Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers, a Council of Delegates, the South American Defense Council, and many other councils oriented to treat themes such as drug trafficking, infrastructures, economy and finance, social development, education, culture, science, technology, and innovation.
Conceived with the aim of modeling a community which will include a common currency, parliament, passport, and defense policy, the vision of union is the sustainable regional development by the union of its sovereign parties; peacefulness and prosper nations, with a sense of belonging and South American citizenship. The organization’s treaty states that UNASUR was founded out of member countries’ “determination to build a South American identity and citizenship and develop an integrated regional space.”
Although UNASUR had looked to the European Union as a model for creating a common currency and central bank, its members shelved such proposals in the summer of 2011. So far, UNASUR has served mainly as a public forum for leaders from member states. The group has helped mediate conflicts between member countries, aided in disaster response and fostered collaboration on collective defense and development projects.
UNASUR countries have made several ambitious proposals for regional integration, some observers say that the group has not yet successfully converted projections into projects. Additionally, the disproportionate size of Brazil’s economy, accounts for about 60 percent of UNASUR’s aggregate economic output, is affecting the group’s ability to cooperate. World Bank data shows that Brazil, the country with the strongest internal market in Latin America, is also the least trade-dependent economy in UNASUR.
Youth and maturity, it is all about learning
Despite the efforts of UNASUR to build a strong and peaceful South America in the context of a political and economic regional integration, there are still discrepancies in the bilateral relations among most members of the union, ancient -and other recent- conflicts that remain in the mind of its societies and politicians.
Both the EU and UNASUR have pending topics to work on, and these ones can only be solved with the political will of their member countries. The keystone to build the future of these regional processes is to learn from the past, and for UNASUR this means to take a look in a wide perspective of the hits and setbacks of the EU, and execute the Union’s policies beyond than a simple political speech and to become in a strategic area of the international political and economic scenario.
Daniel Galíndez M. | November 28th, 2013
Compare and contrast two regional integration processes
The EU as a model of a South American project
Universitat Pompeu Fabra – MSc in International Business – Institutions and Markets
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