Department of Political Studies - University of Catania

Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics

Jean Monnet Working Papers in Comparative and International Politics


Fulvio ATTINA'

University of Catania 

Regional Cooperation in Global Perspective.
The case of the "mediterranean" regions

December 1996 - JMWP 04.96 


The current debate on regionalism (see, for instance, Fawcett and Hurrell, 1995; Katzenstein, 1996) is a sound revitalization of a young and important tradition of study in International Relations. Since Oran Young’s (1968) essay on the discontinuities of the international political system, Cantori and Spiegel’s (1970) book on international conflict and regions, and Russett’s (1967) research on different ways of regionalizing the world, the importance of the concept of international region and the usefulness of the approach of regionalism for the analysis of contemporary international politics have been increasingly accepted by the research community. Still, important conceptual and empirical work remains to be done.

International regions are generally seen as sub-system theatres of international conflict and cooperation, but the study of cooperation dominates the field much more than the study of conflict. In addition, economic issues dominate on political issues as object of interest and research in regional analysis.

International political conflict beyond a minimum degree of hazardousness is considered as inevitably exceeding regional borders and attracting external powers. Conflict "invites" ambitious and plunderous governments from other regions and "deserves" the involvement of the leading states of the world. Whereas international conflict is regarded as a process which can be inflated and also initiated from the outside, either by exporting to a region a cause of conflict or activating a dormant one, international cooperation at the regional level is generally considered as an endogenous process. It cannot be imported from the outside nor seeded in a region by external actors and factors.

This paper contends such a belief and argues that regional cooperation may have external origins and be urged on the states of an international region by exogenous causes. Besides, it claims that such causes bring cooperation in different fields, not only economic but also political, social and cultural cooperation. More exactly, the argument is that all geographical groups of states are nowadays hitten by the globalization process.

In most of the cases, the countries of a region are either harmed or advantaged by global problems in the same way or in a very similar way. Globalization stresses existing similarities and diversities among states. For that reason, contiguous countries, as they share similarities more than differences, and irrespective of existing conflictual relations, are led to cooperate as they consider the means to respond to the similar results globalization problems have on their life. Here, it is not suggested that conflict is going to be put aside and cooperation prevail at the regional level. It is, instead, hinted that inter-regional patterns of conflict are becoming increasingly important. Whereas inter-regional cooperation increasingly lessens, intra-regional cooperation increasingly grows.

The paper is divided in six parts. The first one deals with the issue of continuity and discontinuity in the political organization of the world. Globalization and regionalism are the object of the second and third part. Two specific types of regions are reviewed: the "mediterranean" regions and the so-called zones of peace, that is the most advanced stage of region cooperation. Two cases of mediterranean cooperation programmes - the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation - are presented in the fifth part of the paper. The interplay of regionalism and globalization is esamined in the sixth part. The paper ends with an invitation to consider the current European pattern of cooperation as a model to the two contiguous mediterranean regions by diffusion and by demonstration

The political organization of the world and the regions

The perception of the regional dimension of international politics depends on the conception of the nature of the international system. At the same time, the relevance of regions on international politics depends on the prevalence of some aspects of the nature of the international system on other aspects which become temporarily and provisionally less important.

The international system has a political organization which is a set of rules and institutions through which political decisions on the values of the system are imposed on state and non-state actors.

The world political organization has been regarded as mainly reflecting the inequality of states. Because the states are equally sovereign and unequally powerful, the political organization of the international system - based on equal sovreignty and unequal power - is the organization of a plurality of sovreignties which have different roles. If we accept that such equality/inequality dimension is the exclusive dimension of organization, we assert that the political organization of the world is a single structure which unites all the actors in a "continuous" political entity with no regard to regional discontinuities and local or subsystem organization patterns.

Despite the caution issued by a group of analysts who advocated the importance of the regional dimension, the view that the single organization of the world fully dominates on any regional and local form of self-organization and political discontinuity has paramountly prevailed in the study of international politics during the last fifty years. Not enough attention has been given to the fact that, for the absence of a single formal authority in the international system, the presence of multiple centres of political decisions must be, not only theoretically examined, but also attentively tested on reality. Indeed, the plurality of authorities in international politics must be conceived in terms of matters, in terms of regions as well as in terms of both matters and regions.

In other words, the political organization of the world mai take different forms as it varies along the mono-centric/multi-centric authority dimension as well as along the equality/inequality dimension. According to the mono-centri/multi-centric dimension, the organization of the international system depends on the existence of a single political authority (state and/or institution) which leades the system and governs all the matters all around the world or, on the contrary, on the existence of a plurality of political authorities which govern separate matters (territorial security; monetary regime; etc.) and lead separate regional groups of states. To account for such a dimension of international politics means to adopt ‘regionalism’ as an analytical and theoretical perspective.

This essay contends both the alternative and the exclusive separation of the equality/inequality and mono-centric/multi-centric dimension. Indeed, they are simultaneously present and variously combined in unstable and thoroughly changing size.

According with such double dimension of the political organization of the world, the different forms of such an organization can be put in a "square box" which resembles the so-called Dahl’s (1971) box of the dimensions of democratization (See Figure 1). On the vertical and horizontal sides of the box the two dimensions of equality/inequality and mono-centrism/multi-centrism are placed and ideally graded. On the four corners of the box, four typical forms of political organization of the world are located. Clockwise, they are named as Democratic, Fragmented, Politicentric and Hegemonic organization.

Concisely, these forms can be defined as follows. The Democratic organization is based on rules and institutions totally respectful of the equality of the actors of the international system; all of them equally participate in the making of decisions to regulate matters and problems of the entire system. In Fragmented organization, no agreement on universal or world regulations is made; issues and problems are solved according to sub-system and region-wide decisions. In Policentric organization, sub-system processes are controlled by few countries; political decisions reproduce the unequal distribution of power and influence among the states of the regions. Finally, in Hegemonic organization, the political decisions of the world are largely influenced by one state which leads the system and provides for the most important collective goods used by all the states of the system.

Such a representation of the political organization form of the world depicts the various degrees of inequality and hierarchy different systems may have. At the same time, it directs attention to the two great species of international system: the world continuous one and the regional discontinuous one.

Figure 1 gives also a graphical indication of what organization existed at the beginning of the present international system and of the three possible paths of change of that organization.



Figure A: Political organization forms of the world


The present organization of the international system was highly hierarchic when the system was constituted, on the ashes of the Second World Wars, by the United States initatives in the field of the capitalist economy (mainly in monetary, financial and trade matters) and in the field of the political sovreignty (mainly in ideological and territorial security matters).

The challenge to the United States hegemonic role, put by the Soviet government on the ideological and military ground, was contained and, on the long run, successfully rejected by the American government. Indeed, the American government has thoroughly provided the system with such collective goods as a rather stable currency for exchange and investment, free circultation and movement for people, goods and messages, and a rather perfect security (or survival) of each state inasmuch as the US army intervention has been successful to repel any real threat put to the existence of a state by the military intervention of another state (see Attiną, forthcoming).

However, American hegemony has not been constant in forms and intensity during the years. It has gone through "relative decline". Notably, it underwent setbacks and revisions especially in the 1960s, with the Vietnam War and the crisis of the gold-dollar parity, and in the 1980s, mostly in the economic and monetary field but also in the field of the political stability of the world. In fact, the containment of the so-called Second Cold War, which was ignited by Breznev on the late 1970s, was rather uncertain and ineffective in comparison with the firm reaction to Soviet expansionism in the early 1950s. Remarkably, the times following the setback periods (i.e. the 1970s and the 1990s) have been also the times of much consideration for regionalizing world politics and for regionalism in international studies.

In the 1970s, the regional arrangement of the world organization seeemed at hand. The American administration seriously looked at the appearance of "regional powers" and examined the advantage of having special relationships with such countries like Brazil in South America, Germany in Europe, Iran in Central Asia, Japan in the Far East and China in Asia. The United States were almost espousing the move toward the policentric organization of the world.

In the 1990s, instead, the regional re-arrangement of the world seems to be out of the American reach in the traditional state-to-state relation pattern. However, there are signs of the American understanding of the evolution of the global system away from state-centrism. Indeed, the movement towards the regional sector of the "world political organization box" is not led today by real and would-be regional powers. Local hegemony may inspire the diplomatic strategy of governments, but current regional discontinuity is not principally forwarded by national governments. It is pushed forth by various actors, processes and forces. The conjunction of such varied pressures makes possible (but not yet certain) the result of going toward the Fragmented organization sector and, maybe, toward the Democratic organization sector rather than the Policentric one, as it is nowadays theorized in many circles.

The fact is that the organization of the world is not an exclusive matter of the states, today. Non-state actors play an increasingly large role because of the current accelaration of the globalization process. Such a process affects the political organization of the world in many ways, and complicates our effort to discern the direction of the movement away from the hegemony corner of the box. To such a process we want to turn shortly our attention now.


The globalization perspective

To define the nature of the international system in our time does not simply mean to account for the conditions created by the non-violent (self)defeat of the Soviet Union, the would-be superpower of the would-be bipolar world. The end of the Cold War and the re-arrangement of Russia in the rank-order of the hierarchical organization of the international system are just two of the elements of the present world change. It is also important to look to the transformation of the international system under the effect of the accelaration of the globalization process.

According to George Modelski (1996 a) globalization is a process that has already been underway for a number of centuries, say the best part of the millennium now closing, and one likely to continue well into the future, beyond the 21st century. However, globalization has been unveiled and massively studied by recently because over the last twenty years its development pace came to be faster. For this reason, we can talk of our times as of "the globalization era". The world in such an era is the world of easy and intense mobility and communication; imperious demands for implementing individual and collective human rights; close recurrent waves of democratization; fast imitation and, at least in a certain size, unavoidable uniformization of societies and cultures; and non-single-state-solvable problems like the problem of pollution, migration, trans-national crime and epidemics. But the world of the globalization era is also the opposite of all this. It is the world of fragmentation, discontinuity, decentralization and individuation (on such a term see Mlinar, 1992). It is the world of the auto-nomy and auto-organization of the individual (person, group, society, region) which has been released from the absolute conditioning determination of its origins and environment. It is the world of the strenuous and even violent reaction of the individuals (single women and men, groups, cultures and regions) to the risk of being overwhelmed by the rest of the world for their lack of ability to bar the door separating them from the aliens (See, for instance: Friedman, 1994; Robertson, 1992).

In such a globalized world, the ability of the state to control its territorial borders has been completely upset. Gone away the power to stop movements of any kind across state borders, even the ability of the most effective governments to keep under their firm control crossboundary flows is markedly reduced. At the same time, the state discovers itself deprived of the material and political conditions and instruments to make foreign policy as it did before such a change took effect. Moreover, the state discloses how unable it is to provide for the security of the citizens with its traditional means in any field, from territorial to economic, from cultural to environmental security (See, for example: Attiną, 1996; Camilleri and Falk, 1992; McGrew and Lewis, 1992).

From our point of view, the unveilement of the dual process of globalization and decentralization corroborates the theory of the bi-dimensional nature of the world political organization. At the same time, as long as globalization and decentralization proceed toghether, uncertainty grows on the movement of the world organization toward a specific corner of the box. Uncertainty may even grow bigger. Indeed, against the well sound argument of evolution without mutation of the international system and the global society, as spelled out by George Modelski (1996 b), there is the controversial theory of James Rosenau (1990) on the possible sea-change of the world organization after a period of turbolence of unknown duration. This would bring the casting out of the world political organization from the bi-dimensional box. Still, in the short/medium term, the evolution of the world political organization can be properly analyzed by the empirical and theoretical knowledge used to build the bi-dimensional box.

The regional perspective

Regional fragmentation and discontinuity of the global system organisation derives its importance from the territorial nature of the states and from the consequences that geographical contiguity has on the international conducts of the governments. But not only from this. Also history is of importance as well as economy and culture. Vayrinen (1984) signaled three causes of international regionalism: the different penetration of the capitalist economy in the various parts of the world, the security arrangements of the local actors and the integration of the local actors achieved through resistance to external penetration. Because of regionalism, the global political system is fragmented into local theatres of interactions and political interdependence: the clearer the fragmentation, the wider the organisation discontinuity.

It has been repeatedly said that regional analysis is confronted with the problem of appropriate separation of regions by real and analytically relevant borders. Various criteria have been suggested and adopted by the analysts. The solution of the problem is in the purpose of the research. The analyst is responsible for the definition of the regionalization procedure he adopts. Still, this does not hinder to formulate a general definition of international region construed on the use of the term made by several authors. On this basis, international regions is defined as sub-systems of states linked by geographical relationship, mutual interdependence and subjective perception of belonging to a distinctive community.

It is a firm assertion of regionalist studies that the sharing of common features brings about peculiar forms of political interactions among the countries of an international region. Few examples of this may be cited here. First, the development of norms of conflict management and resolution is highly probable in regions of intense commonality of culture and values. Second, the higher the political interdependence of the member states, the easier it is to setup formal political institutions in the region. Finally, common experience, values and institutions are important factors of sharing similar political attitudes and external behaviour toward third parties. As a result of such and similar features, cooperation and integration are very likely to mark international politics in the region. Europe is the most clear example of region marked by cooperation and integration. ASEAN in Asia may be taken as a case of gradual institutionalization of regional cooperation. On the contrary, the lack of such features results in lasting state of tension and prolonged state of conflict in regional politics.

It is a fundamental point of this essay that regionalism is profitably applied also to the analysis a special kind of region lacking some of the above mentioned attributes but having the requisite of common sharing. Such special kind of region are the "mediterranean" regions, i.e. regions surrounding mid-land seas and including different sub-systems of states linked by their own ties, institutions and people’s identies. Because the use of the term "mediterranean" is now clear, from now on we use it whitout quotation marks and, of course, by lower-case letters because we do not refer to the Mediterranean Sea in particular.

A further instrument of clarification of the mediterranean region term is to show it by a list of pertinent cases such as the following one:

  1. the Euro-African mediterranean region (Europe, Middle East and North Africa)
  2. the Black Sea-Caspian Sea mediterranean region (Europe, Middle East and Central Asia)
  3. the American mediterranean region (Mexican Gulf and Caribbean Sea)
  4. the East Asia mediterranean region (Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea and East China Sea)

Mediterranean regions do not have the features traditionally found in regionalism. They have never been considered as cooperation space. As a matter of fact, they are low frequency space of relations, cooperation as well as conflict relations. Certainly, they are space of lesser frequency of relations than international regions are. Therefore they have been quite ignored by regional analysis.

Before proceeding to the examination of the issue of mediterranean cooperation, it is important to our goal to consider a particular sector of the field of regional studies explicitly dealing with international cooperation, that is the study of the so-called zones of peace.

According to Singer and Wildawsky (1993) a zone of peace is a discrete geographical region in which the vast majority of a group of states have maintained peaceful relations among themselves for at least a generation span (thirty years), though civil wars and domestic unrest and violence might still occur within their borders, as well as international crises and conflicts among them. The absence of war is condition to the existence of such a zone. The causes and effects of such an absence are matter of scrutiny and research. As examples of zones of peace the following ones can be mentioned: Europe because the absence of international war since 1945 has made it a true zone of peace; also the United States, Canada and Mexico make a zone of peace; South America and Oceania are two further examples.

The causes and explanations of the zones of peace are the subject of exciting scientific exercise. They have been summarized by Kacowicz (1996) as follows:

Peace in terms of cooperation - Liberal and Grotian explanation:

  1. presence of liberal democratic regimes;
  2. high level of economic development and prosperity;
  3. economic interdependence, integration and forging of transnational links;
  4. a common cultural framework and the emergence of a normative consensus regarding international conflict management and resolution;

Peace in terms of power - Realist and Geopolitical explanation:

  1. presence of a regional (local or externally imposed) hegemon;
  2. formation of a regional balance of power;
  3. an external common threat to the countries of the region;
  4. geographical isolation, mutual irrelevance and impotence to wage international wars;

Peace in terms of satisfaction

  1. satisfaction with territorial status quo:


Kacowicz suggests also an important instrument of analysis: the gradation of the zones of peace. He counts three grades of them:

  1. Zones of negative or precarious peace. They are characterized by the mere absence of war by reason of deterrence or lack of will and/or capabilities to engage in violent conflict by the region member countries.
  2. Zones of stable peace. In such zones the eruption of international violence is not expected by reason of satisfaction with the territorial status quo and the country’s foreign role. As a consequence, region member countries abstein from intervention in other nation’s internal affairs.
  3. Zones of pluralistic security community. These zones may be defined as mature zones of peace because the expectation of change is channeled by common norms and political institutions in peaceful process.

The following question can be made now : are mediterranean regions prevented from turning into zones of peace of any grade? To answear to such a question, two research strategies can be adopted. First strategy is to look at the attributes of the single zone and evaluate their fitnes to one of the grades. Second strategy is to look at the issue in general terms by intersecting the regionalist and the globalist approach and make a projection on the conditions for cooperation impinged on mediterranean regions by the globalization process. After a short presentation of two mediterranean cooperation projects - the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation - this paper will look to the second research strategy.

The case of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation

At the beginning of the 1990s, the EU and its member governments took up again the state of their relations with the states of the Mediterranean region. They decided to pass from the unproductiveness of the Mediterranean programs and actions of the last twenty years to a new strategy aimed at substituting the traditional sectorial and bilateral approach strategy with the Euro-Meditarrean Partnership. The November 1995 Barcelona Conference - where the Partnership was solemnely launched - wanted to be the opening of a new chapter in the history of relations between the European Union and the countries of the Mediterranean.

The Barcelona Declaration - the founding charter of the Partenership - targets a free trade area between the 27 participants by the year 2010 and pledges to start cooperation in a broad range of political, social and economic fields. It comprises four chapters and a work programme. The chapters deal with Political and Security Partnership; Economic and Financial Partnership; Partnership in Social, Cultural and Human Affairs; Follow-Up.

In the Political and Security Partnership chapter, the participating countries stress their conviction that peace, stability and security in the Mediterranean region are common assets which they pledged to promote and strengthen "by all means at their disposal". In the Economic and Financial Partnership chapter, three long term objectives are given to their partnership: to speed up the pace of lasting social and economic development; to improve peoples' living conditions by raising employment and closing the development gap in the region; to promote cooperation and regional integration. In the Partnership in Social, Cultural and Human Affairs chapter, governments recognise that mutual understanding can be greatly enhanced by human exchanges and a dialogue between cultures; they agree to establish a wide range of cooperation between peoples, not only in politics but also in culture, religion, education, the media, as well as between trade unions and public and private companies. The Declaration recognises the challenge posed by current population trends in the Med12 (non-EU countries) and says that it must be counterbalanced by "appropriate policies to accelerate economic take-off". In the Follow-Up chapter, Foreign Ministers meetings are planned to periodically review the implementation of the Declaration and to agree on further actions to achieve its objectives. Sectorial meetings at ministerial level and ad hoc conferences will also be organised. The first meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers, which will be hold in the first half of 1997, will be the occasion to assess the importance of such a mediterranean cooepration.

Five years have elapsed since the Heads of State of the governments of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine met in Instabul and agreed on a declaration to forward cooperation to encourage free movement of goods, capital, services and labour. The purpose of this initiative is to contribute to the integration of the economies of these countries with the global economy. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs are assigned to meet every six months to review progress of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and to take the necessary steps towards the objectives of the Declaration. In addition to the founding members, Italy, Austria, Egypt, Israel, Poland, Tunisia and the Czech Republic have been granted observer status.

The BSEC main motivation is to create a regional economic cooperation scheme to contribute to political stability and economic development. The participating states declared their intention to develop economic co-operation as a contribution to the establishment of a wide economic area to achieve a higher degree integration into the world economy. Aiming to increase the free circulation of people, goods, services and capital between its members, the BSEC strategy, like the Euro-Mediterranean strategy, includes both inter-governmental and non-governmental cooperation. As far as the inter-governmental aspect is concerned, the states declared their readiness to cooperate in fields such as transport, communications, informatics, mining and processing of mineral raw materials, energy, the environment, tourism, agriculture and agro-industries and many others. In the context of non-governmental cooperation, the participating states aimed at providing favourable business conditions for enterprises, firms and individual entrepreneurs in their respective countries as well as at establishing appropriate conditions for investment, capital flows and industrial cooperation.

It is no secret that the two mediterranean project are regarded with great caution in many circles. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is considered an ambitious programme which face the hard job of mastering the huge economic gap, the large religious cleavage and the extreme political distance dividing the EU and Med-12 countries. On its turn, BSEC is regarded with skepticism as if it were destined to get stuck with the severe problems of an area marked by local conflicts and potential hot spots. The situation in the Caucasus and in the Balkan peninsula may justify this view. Yet the economic interdependence of the members in the region suggests that those conflicts may eventually not totally hamper the functional development of economic, commercial and financial ties. Besides, the need to develop sound economic links with the EU and its members is important to the non EU-countries of the two mediterranean regions. In the medium term, this may act as a catalyst for stabilization. On the other hand, economic and political cooperation initiatives in Europe could provide suitable means for the dissemination of certain norms and standards, principles and policies to those mediterranean regions and lead the member countries to a smooth integration into the world social, political and economic system.

Combining regionalism with the globalization process

The study of international and mediterranean regions and also the approach to the study of the zones of peace do not account for the sensitivity to the problems caused by the globalization process shared by the countries of the same geographical area. Contemporary societies undergo various problems which in their origin, evolution and solution exceed national borders. This is true in such different fields as environment (pollution), demography (migration), health (epidemics) and public security (organized crime, illegal trade and traffic). Because of the effects of interconnection the globalization process has on contemporary societies and states, governments are unable to provide people with personal security, societies with economic growth and groups with social protection unless they turn to international cooperation. The problems raised by the current acceleration of the globalization process cannot be taken under control by governments unless these coordinate national level strategies and policies with policies, strategies and regulations issued at the international level. In other words, the problems globalization produces cannot be solved unless they enter the agenda of the global system or the agenda of an international region. To put a problem in the agenda means to make that problem the object of specific rules of international law and/or the object of the action of competent international institutions of the global or regional system. If such institutions do not exist, the problem will stimulate the creation of new ones.

As already stated, globalization hits all the countries in the world with very different results but the countries of a region - irrespective of the reached stage or grade of cooperation - experience globalization problems in more similar manner than the countries of different regions. This is true for the countries of an international region and, to a lesser extent, also for the countries of a mediterranean region in spite of the fact that the latter ones have few formal and informal instruments for containing tensions and making out collective decisions to face the global problems. Indeed, the countries of mediterranean region may decide to set up such instruments. This is what the states of the Euro-African and Black Sea regions have done.

Indeed, contiguity strenghtens the need for concerted answears because one country’s action and inaction with regard to a global problem directly affects its neighbors. Inaction means that a problem (say, for example, an environmental problem) will be dropped into the territory of the neighbors, if it is not yet there, or will be aggravated, if it is present. But also the government decision to adopt an action or a policy contrasting with the neighbor’s policy on the same problem, results at the least in the aggravation of the disadvantage already experienced by the neighbor because of the problem. Briefly, the countries of international and mediterranean regions closely undergo the same problems. Therefore they share the same condition of rising their ability to overtake the negative consequences of these problems only by entering into cooperation with their regional partners.

It is widely acknowledged that the EU, ASEAN, APEC, MERCOSUR, ECOWAS and similar forms of regional cooperation go, with different strategies, all in the right direction of setting up multilateral institutions to face the challenges of the economic globalization process - apart from the European Union which has a range of issue areas at its arms wider than the economic one. It should be acknowledged also that the increase of regional cooperation, going at faster rate in these days, strengthens the decentralization drive of the international political organization. This essay wants to uphold also the argument that the incoming growth of cooperation among the members of mediterranean regions - like the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation - goes in the same directions, that is to say that they go both in the direction of regional institution setting, for managing the inevitable adaptation of the state to the effects of the globalization process, and heightening decentralization in the global system organization.

However, difference is clear. While international and mediterranean regions are in the same manner consonant with the decentralization dimension of the international political organization of the world; and whereas both of them favor decentralized organization, either fragmented or policentric according to the leading ability of either a large or a small number of state actors involved in the regional cooperation; the two kinds of region are differently equipped for upsetting decentralization. Mediterranean regions are considerably less endowed with instruments to resist foreign countries penetration than international regions. Furthermore, political and economic globalization processes may even give easiest access to powerful intruders, be they state or non-state actors, with the consequence of reducing the prospects for viable regional relationships.

Still, this is not necessarily the case. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership gives an example of a fairly important case of resistance to the ongoing presence of a first rate external actor. Indeed, the Barcelona Conference was convened with the striking (though geographically natural) exclusion of the United States of America. The decision was unofficially explained as retaliation to the celebration of the Middle East Economic Conference held by the Washington and local governments at the exclusion of the European Union and its governments, and to the follow-up of the Conference in the Eastern Mediterreanean. Indeed, to keep the United States out of the Barcelona Conference and the followed-up Partnership is of great importance to the Euro-African mediterranean region. It is important also to see such a decision in connection with the previous experience of the West European countries of containing United States presence in Europe and the surrounding areas (see Attiną, forthcoming). Such resistence efforts have not reached the expected result and are contradicted by actions going in the opposite direction. Still, they demonstrate that decentralization in world politics is stimulated by mediterranean cooperation when certain conditions are present.

A step forward?

In Western Europe - the region-zone of peace with the highest number of the most advanced states and long lasting democracies of the world - international cooperation has extraordinarily progressed in the last forty years. It has been a process of discontinuous increase of economic, political and cultural integration which has been always considered at risk. Even today, despite the deepening and widening of the integration process, the opinion that the risk of a U-turn in Europe is not averted is still there. However, the recognition of the fact that behind the integration process there is the stimulus of the unrevisible globalization process is growing. Most of the political, economic and social actors in Europe concede that it is necessary to adapt the state to the new conditions of the world by deeply and widely coordinating the administrative, economic and social structures of the all European states.

Yet, the prevailing interpretation of the European integration is still away from such conception. For a long time, political scientists have looked at the European Community as a failed attempt to build a federal system and as a successful trade-and-law-driven cooperation process. They have been lenient to the functional and intergovernmental cooperation perspective against the repeated evidence of the inaptness of such a perspective to catch important aspects of the integration run. New analyses have proposed to adopt the regime approach and neo-liberal institutional perspective or the consociational approach and other forms of mixed (national-international) perspective. But satisfactory answears have not been given to the question of "why" European integration keeps going and has been revitalized in these years. Indeed, explanation must take into account several factors. The domestic domain cannot be ignored. Material, cultural and political needs (like social security, health, mobility, housing, cultural and political pluralism) have grown and the state has been requested to provide a great number and large variety of regulations and services. At the same time, the state it has been unable to respond to such demands and fulfill its functions without appealing to international co-operation. In addition to the broadening of internal political regulation linked to the instauration of the welfare state, functional international co-operation increased under the effect of material processes occurring at the global level.

The main causes for international cooperation as practised in Europe can be summarized as in Figure No. 2. This Figure represents the convergent effect of material and political processes at the international and national level which lead to the formation of multi-state, multi-level political systems through the intermediate stage of the formation of international functional cooperation and the multiplication of sub-national government levels.

Material and political transformations take place all around but at different pace in the different regions of the world. Where the concentration of advanced countries is the highest (i.e., where the number of contiguous countries with advanced industries, intense economic relations and deep political regulation of social life is the highest), the demand for international co-operation is the most pressing and it results in great change in domestic and international politics. There is no doubt that, in the last forty years, Europe has been such a place. This situation may as well be repeated in other parts of the world. America is the most probable "next in line". NAFTA and MERCOSUR are significant experiments of wide-range functional co-operation.

Figure B



Cooperation has brought about the re-organization of the European political space not with the substitution of fifteen states by a new (super-)state, but with a wide-range re-organization and co-ordination of political institutions and processes. Such a re-organization is based on the introduction of a new level of government (the Union), with specific policy-making functions and powers. Some of them are exclusive, others concurrent with the functions and powers of national governments. On the other hand, since the Seventies, this upward re-organization of politics occurred in Europe toghether with a downward re-organization and expansion of the power of the local governments. In countries where local governments do not exist between the state and the city level, decentralization penetrated in political debate. In some places, the debate focused on trans-border regions and led to forms of cooperation completely unknown before. By all means, Europe is in a moment of political re-organization, consisting in the re-allocation of political power to different levels of representative institutions correspondent with various territorial layers. Because such a change moves at a slow rate, it does not take a visible revolutionary form though its effects are wide and deep. For this reason, we adopt to refer to the European Union as a multi-state, multi-level political system.

The European Union can be regarded either as the proto-type or as one of the many types of multi-state political system which can be set up to respond to the globalization process. Interdependence and debordering (i.e. the loss of importance of state borders as lines markedly and effectively circumscribing political systems able to solve problems with their own means) are experienced by all the states of the world in a very similar manner. But, expansion of political regulation and democratization, are not the same everywhere. There are great differences in this regard. However, diffusion and demonstration effects of the European Union modelcannot be excluded, even to mediterranean regions. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is a case of diffusion effect. The Black Sea Economic Cooperation, instead, however specific it is, cannot avoid to consider the European Union as an experience demonstrating what conditions, requisites and consequences are essential to regional cooperation.



 This paper has been presented at the Workshop on "The Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Mediterranean Sea: a turntable between three continent", organized by the Bogazici University Center for International Studies and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Permanent International Secretariat, Istanbul, December 5-6, 1996.


  ATTINA' F. (1996), Tendenze e problemi della globalizzazione e della frammentazione, in ATTINA’ F. e LONGO F. (a cura di), Unione Europea e Mediterraneo fra globalizzazione e frammentazione, Bari, Cacucci, 1996, 11-30.

ATTINA’ F. (Forthcoming), International and internal security, the European Union and the global system, in Aggestam L. and Hyde-Price A. (eds), New perspectives on security and identity in Europe, London, MacMillan.

CAMILLERI J.A. and FALK J. (1992), The End of Sovereignty? The Politics of a Shrinking and Fragmenting World, Aldershot, Edward Elgar.

CANTORI L.J. and SPIEGEL L.S. (1970), International relations of regions: a comparative approach, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall.

DAHL R. (1971) Polyarchy. Participation and opposition, Nwe Haven, Yale University Press.

FAWCHETT L. and HURRELL A. (eds) (1995), Regionalism in world politics. Regional organization and international order, Oxford Uniiversity Press.

FRIEDMAN J. (1994), Cultural identity & global process, London, Sage.

KACOWICZ A. M. (1996), Zones of peace in the Third World: South America and West Africa in a Comparative Perspective, Paper presented at the JAIR-ISA Conference in Makuharim Japan, September 20-22, 1996.

KATZENSTEIN P.J. (1996), Regionalism in comparative perspective, in "Cooperation and Conflict", 31, 2, 123-159.

McGREW A.G. and LEWIS P.G. (eds) (1992), Global Politics. Globalization and the Nation-State, Cambridge, Polity Press.

MLINAR Z. (ed) (1992), Globalization and Territorial Identities, Aldershot, Avesbury.

MODELSKI G (1996 a), Time, calenders, and IR: evolution of global politics in the 21st century, paper presented at the 37th Annual convention of the International Studies Association in San Diego, April 16-20, 1996.

MODELSKI G. (1996 b), Evolutionary paradigm for global politics, in "International Studies Quarterly", 40, 3, 321-342.

ROBERTSON R.. (1992), Globalization. Social theory and global culture, London, Sage.

ROSENAU J.N. (1990), Turbolence in World Politics. A Theory of Change and Continuity, New York, Harvester-Wheatsheaf.

RUSSETT B. (1967), International regions and the international system, Chicago, Radn McNelly.

SINGER M. and WILDAVSKY A. (1993), The Real World Order. Zones of Peace/Zones of Turmoil, Chatham, Chatham House.

VAYRINEN R. (1984), Regional conflict formation: an intractable problem of international relations, in "Journal of Peace Research", 21, 337-359.

YOUNG O. (1968), Political discontinuities in the international system, in "World Politics", XX, 3, 369-392.


ć Copyright 1996 Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics .

Fulvio ATTINA'

Jean Monnet Chairman of European Comparative Politics, University of Catania.