Regionalization (the tendency or process to form regions) and regionalism (the purposive proneness to create regional institutions and arrangements) find expression in the economic and security domains, including convergent motivations toward both political/security and economic forms of integration.
There are three possible options regarding the mutual relations between regionalization and globalization, especially in the economic dimension:
”¢ regionalization as a component of globalization (convergent trends);
”¢ regionalization as a challenge or response to globalization (divergent trends);
”¢ regionalization and globalization as parallel processes (overlapping trends).
Regionalism is emerging today as a potent force in the processes of globalization. If globalization is regarded as the compression of the temporal and spatial aspects of social relations, then regionalism may be understood as but one component, or ”˜chapter’ of globalization. According to this view, by helping national economies to become more competitive in the world market, regional integration will lead to multilateral cooperation on a global scale, the adoption of liberal premises about cooperation, and the opening of the local economies.
Moreover, since globalization unfolds in uneven rather than uniform dynamic patterns, it may reveal itself in processes that are less than geographically global in scope. Therefore, globalization may be expressed through regionalization (Holm and Sorensen 1995, 6”“7).
Thus, the process of regional integration can be interpreted as part of the international (or global) economic order at the end of the twentieth century; if impelled by raw material forces (of the market), then it becomes a result and a component of globalization.
European Union: general information
The European Union history has started since the Second World War. A first step, a forming the Council of Europe, was made in 1949, when Europe was already divided into East and West parts. That’s when modern European cooperation has begun, but its official status was confirmed in November 1, 1993 by the Maastricht Treaty.
Under conditions of the Maastricht Treaty European political and economic integration was enhanced through common currency, a common foreign and security policies, unified and equal citizens rights, and due to cooperation in immigration policies, asylum issues, and judicial affairs.
27 European countries consist of the European Union nowadays. Its first members presented western Europe, later it was expanded and several central and eastern European countries were included as well. Among the modern days members are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
On May 1, 2004, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia were added to the European Union, making it the largest trade unit in the world. In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria joined, and Turkey, Croatia, and the Republic of Macedonia are candidate countries. What should a European country do to qualify for EU membership? First of all, it must be a stable democracy, respecting human rights, the rule of law, and the protection of minorities. Second, it must adopt the common rules, standards and policies that make up the body of EU law. Finally, it must have a functioning market economy that has low inflation, a low budget deficit, and exchange rate stability (its currency doesn’t fluctuate much). Once a country has fulfilled those obligations, and becomes a member state, it enjoys the benefits of the four freedoms on which the EU is based – free movement of goods, services, labor, and capital. In other words, EU citizens may live in any EU country, work in any EU country, sell their goods in any EU country, and invest in any EU country. Everyone enjoys the opportunities and products of the largest and most diverse market in the world.
As wonderful as that sounds, not all EU citizens are in favor of enlargement, and it certainly has challenges. The ten countries that were added in 2004, as well as the two added in 2007, represent a much more culturally diverse group than was ever added before in previous enlargements. The economies and societies of the new member countries are much less stable that those of the western European countries.
Finally, in order for the standard of living of the new countries to be raised to the standards of the older member nations, much economic support from the EU will be needed. Many people from the western European countries feel that they are shouldering an unfair burden in the interest of less advantaged countries. They also worry that large companies may relocate their factories in the new EU countries because they can hire cheaper labor there or that cheaper consumer products from the new EU countries will be brought to western European markets and force them to lower their prices. Despite these concerns, most people feel that the enlargement is a good thing, because it will help the people in the new member countries improve their lives and promote peace and stability for the entire continent of Europe.
Another challenge that the European Union will have to face is how to streamline and simplify the process of passing legislation. Beginning in February of 2002, the European Convention on the Future of Europe met under the leadership of Valery Giscard d’Estaing (former President of France). Its task was to draft a new constitution, and create a whole reform package, that would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the growing EU. In July of 2003 the Convention presented its drafted constitution, and it was agreed by all member states on October 29, 2004.
The draft had now become The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe (TECE) or the European Constitution. The constitution then entered a ratification phase by each member state. In May and June 2005, French and Dutch voters rejected the constitution because, among other things, European feared a loss of national sovereignty. The future of the constitution is unsure, but many leaders are trying to work to reach consensus. There still is much work to do before the citizens of the European Union have a legislative system and a constitution that is easy to understand and support.