13 Feb 2013

Europe’s Continental Regionalism

Michael Emerson

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This paper reviews the multiple forms of European continental regionalism, which takes the overall shape of a complex set of concentric circles, with a substructure of a core group within the EU based on the euro and Schengen areas, and several rings of neighbours outside, including the European Economic Area, the regions of the EU’s neighbourhood policy and finally some pan-European organisations. While all world regions have their own unique features, the European case offers some important lessons that should be of interest to other world regions. The first is what appears to be a relatively robust model for single market integration. The second consists of the lessons currently being learned on the hazards on monetary integration without adequate fiscal and political integration. The third lesson is another warning, over the difficulties of anticipating the political dynamics of integration processes once set in motion, often described in Europe as a ‘journey to an unknown destination’. The fourth consists of the EU’s current efforts to develop a comprehensive neighbourhood policy, which is encountering difficult issues of matching ambitious objectives with incentives of adequate weight. Nevertheless, the policy sees a landscape of positive and constructive relations between the EU and its neighbours, in marked contrast to some ugly conflictual or coercive features seen in the cases of other continental hegemons – the three BRIC states of China, India and Russia, but not the fourth one, Brazil.

This working paper was prepared in the context of the CEPS-FRIDE project on the EU-Brazil Strategic Partnership, funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation. Michael Emerson is Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS.