23.1 Does regional cooperation strengthen the state?

1. To what extent are states able to cope with the challenges of global politics without relying on regional cooperation mechanisms?

  • Those who regard regional cooperation as a stabilizing factor for states stress that, on their own, states are increasingly vulnerable to global processes of trade. Regional cooperation provides a mechanism through which states are able to regain control over markets, cross-border trades, and investments.
  • The realist counterargument might suggest that this nonetheless compromises the states' own interests. Particularly where collaboration and negotiating processes limit their autonomous conduct. In this sense, realists are likely to view regional cooperation as instable frameworks.

2. Does effective regional cooperation have to involve the transfer of power from national capitals to a new centre?

  • Those who argue against this claim often emphasize that regional organizations are deliberately set up by states to pursue their national interests on a global level. The basis of these organizations is a vote of unanimity. Thus, states' wills are preserved in the process.
  • Those who emphasize the loss of state powers due to regional cooperation, claim that states find it difficult to control the autonomous powers established as a result (i.e. the creation of regional institutions and the delegation of powers to them). In this sense, regional cooperation is viewed as reinforcing the web of international norms that constrain states. Finally, it is argued that states' special status as actors of international diplomacy is lost due to increasing regional cooperation, where cooperation among civil society and increasing power among NGOs, trade unions, business associations and social movements impinges on this state privilege.

3. Can states' participation in regional organizations have negative as well as positive consequences for democratic governance in the countries concerned?

  • Those who emphasize the positive effects, do so particularly in relation to small states. Thus, it is argued that the interests of such states is preserved more readily through regional cooperation, which provides more stability and security compared to bilateral relations.
  • As a counterargument to such voices, one might argue that international/regional institutions are often premised on the political norms of powerful states. Therefore, they have a privileged position when dictating the agenda.