Rivista di etica e scienze sociali / Journal of Ethics & Social Sciences

 

SUMMARY

 

Nota della Redazione.

Luigi Troiani è un docente di relazioni internazionali, nella Facoltà di Scienze Sociali, PUST. Presentiamo qui il sommario inglese del suo ultimo libro.

 

The international regional grouping process appears as a key element in the debate on the "reconstruction" of the relations between the states, after the bipolar system collapse. In the 20th century, the formation of regional groupings of states has been a response to imbalances created by the century’s great changes, most notably the second world war and the effects of the bipolar system ending.

Regional groupings are the product of voluntary alliance between sovereign states aimed at achieving common objectives that are to some degree beyond the reach of the sovereign power of the individual state. The regional groupings analysis proposed in the book are those that seek to resolve the trade, social and economic problems of their member states. As such, they have a direct impact on the system governed by GATT and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Regional economic groups also affect the interest of non-members. There may be conflicts between member and non-member states and between different regional groups, but cooperation is the more common theme of the second half of the 20th century. Unlike regional blocs between the two world wars, contemporary arrangements do not seek to erect barriers against non-members, but rather to foster economic cooperation and trade between members.

As an expression of the sovereign powers of countries, the activities of regional groups extend beyond their original scope to encompass the global action of states, which includes politics and security. For this reason, regional groups spontaneously tend to provide responses to the problems of international relations in the contemporary era, first and foremost determining the manner in which countries seek equilibrium and survival. The question is very clear in Europe, where the European Union, after having created the internal market and the single currency, appears now ready to solve the problem of how to establish operational relations with the WEU in the fields of defence and security. Nevertheless, the same question is also beginning to be raised within the framework of ASEAN (with the creation of the ASEAN Regional Forum) and other regional forums for economic cooperation.

The book first focuses on the relationship between multilateralism and regionalism. Much has been said on the conflict between the two. In reality, however, regionalism (at least during the post-war period) has not undermined economic multilateralism, as its proponents have been well aware of the risks that the international community would face if the non-cooperative regionalism that characterised the first part of this century were to recur. In fact, contemporary regionalism has expanded the "culture of cooperation" between countries, to the extent that both the United Nations and the economic agencies promoting multilateralism, such as the IMF and GATT/WTO, have judged this development positively.

The book then examines the relationship between regionalism and security, beginning with an assessment of the theories and models that underlie systematic analyses of international relations. In this context, it gives special attention to the relationship that idealism has with the security arrangements that have been tested at various times in the twentieth century.

Regional economic organisations are examined in detail, using examples and comparisons that also seek to establish a hierarchy in the relationship between these experiences and international security issues. In particular, the book studies the most important organisations on each continent, producing an extensive list of bodies, with summary reports on each.

One of the aims of the study is to develop a theory of regional groupings and to understand the extent to which their specific features can contribute to security. In this regard, the paper underscores the way this concept is evolving in the face of social, economic and cultural changes in international relations and the new threats that security arrangements must cope with (organised crime, terrorism, migration, internal uprisings, ethnic conflicts, etc.). Regional integration is characterised as one of the responses to these problems that the security system of states has made in the contemporary era.

This is the main reason for the intrinsic relevance of regionalism in general, and economic regionalism in particular, in the current search for security models to replace the ungovernable imbalances of the post-bipolar world. The link between regional economic groups and the reorganisation of security arrangements can contribute to the reconstruction of a reliable system of international balance, following the modification of the equilibrium guaranteed by the bipolar system. This is a working hypothesis that attributes regional economic and trade blocs with the ability to act as an alternative both to traditional political and military alliances, and the security systems these create for certain areas of the globe, and to the exclusive superpower role of the United States.

In any case, the phenomenon of regional groupings is expanding. The WTO has identified some 150 regional organisations and many of these work very well for the concertation of policies and actions. It is no coincidence that the United States, the only truly global power (and which initially failed to grasp the importance of the phenomenon), now seeks to play a leading role in the creation of regional groups. Following the establishment of NAFTA, it is now working to create three large regional economic areas: on the American continent, in the Asia-Pacific zone and in the transatlantic area. Despite the risks involved in this project (which would effectively marginalise the multilateral forum of the WTO), the US initiative has positive features, including its contribution to security, that must not be underestimated.

The composition or recomposition of a regional economic space makes a structural contribution to security, thanks to the cooperative mechanisms that it helps to establish, with direct and indirect effects on security arrangements. The cooperation of regionalism is structurally inclusive of security issues. In addition, regional groups also play an independent role in intergovernmental dialogue on many security-related issues and are (true actors) in the dialogue between security institutions.

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