ASEAN: “Wishful thinking”.

As a citizen of the European Union I am able to move freely on the biggest part of the European continent without having to think twice when crossing the border. Then you arrive in a local shop, everybody speaks one common language and pays in the same currency. These are a couple of examples that make the European Union one of the most successful organizations every created on the world. When being successful others often follow.

Founded in 1951 under the Coal and Steel community,this formed the beginning of an economic and political union known as the European Union. With 28 member states this union is the most successful interstate union formed in the world as we know it today. Various states worldwide tried to implement this ‘union’ thinking with varying successes. The ASEAN, also known as the “Association of Southeast Asian Nations” is a political and economic organization that trys to do precisely this. Unlike the EU, the ASEAN acts according to the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of its Member States.

On the other hand concerning the ASEAN, that it is accepted by the United Nations, several issues occur when comparing it to the European Union and regarding the EU as a leading example.

“Can the ASEAN end up being that, what the EU is today?”

EU vs. ASEAN

The ASEAN consists of 10 member states (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam). The aims and purpose of the organization is stated in the Declaration of 1967.

The first problem the organization faces is that from its establishment in 1967, the ASEAN operated without a formal charter until 2008 it was established and accepted by the member states. Because of this fact the ASEAN was not able to get legal personality and embody fundamental principles, goals and structures. Furthermore, every state wishing to enter the ASEAN could do so until 2008, just by accepting all former declarations created by the ASEAN. These aspects made the organization weak and prone to misuse by new states wanting to enter according to www.voanews.com. 

Secondly, the structure of the ASEAN is similar to the structure of the European Union but, it lacks the legal power. The different departments inside the ASEAN are legal, but lack enough authority to function properly. The lack of a coherent culture and language make integration between these nations even more difficult.

This brings me to my next point. If one looks at the history of both organizations very important differences can be seen. The European Union was formed after enduring a devastating war that brought the European continent to a standstill. Integration was essential to end the chance of another great war on the European continent. Stakes were high, and the overall vision that things needed to change where due time. The ASEAN lacks the willingness the EU had after WWII. The suffering individuals endured during the war made creating a union far more important, than today’s ASEAN. The war that had it’s impact throughout the world has been ended years ago. The ASEAN was created to form a bridge between their members. The main reason is to be better in facing the upcoming giants like the Republic of China and India. The problem is that the ASEAN nations still see sovereignty as their main right and do not want to give away sovereignty for the common good of the ASEAN. By not doing this, they lack the economic punch to compete with China ore other nations.

Since the beginning of 2004 Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have reduced their tariffs on each other’s goods to a maximum of 5%”

On a national scale the nations inside the ASEAN have all their disputes. A couple of the states have a very young democracy after years under dictatorial rule. Democracies do not have the same structure in Asia as they do in Western civilizations. Asian democracies consist of so called “one-party democracies” according to www.dw.de. A couple nations still fall under the authority of upper elite and/or kingdoms. This makes common policies without intervening with their national sovereignty very hard to realize. In my opinion the creation of common policies in regard to the ASEAN is unreal. Nations in Asia are very individual and nationalistic. If this doesn’t change, the ASEAN will be a joint venture with a very uncertain future.

Democracy: A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives”.

On the other hand the ASEAN creates positive pressure for the nations inside the organization. Japan after having subsidized its agricultural sector and enjoying a growing/strong economic situation is starting to feel the pressure. This because of China’s recent initiative to implement a free trade agreement with ASEAN by 2010. 

This made it eminent for Japan to react to this and seek more contact with the ASEAN and other nations around the world to keep up their economic position. According to www.dw.de during a three-day summit over the weekend (December 13-15, 2013) leaders of Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pledged to boost economic and security ties. But they also issued a joint statement where they “agreed to enhance cooperation in ensuring freedom of over flight and civil aviation safety 1 Next, in another ASEAN summit in 2013 that was held in Brunei, according to www.voanews.com various goals where set at this summit. Advance talks on a proposed free trade area in the whole Southeast Asian region. 2 This is all due to the fact that the ASEAN hopes to establish a common market area by 2015.

Link: Preah Vihear temple border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand

Since we are in the year 2014, a common market creation has only seen little progress. Thailand for example still has internal unrest on the political arena and face border clashes with Cambodia. Myanmar with a very young democracy has to get used to the fact of being democracy.

Concluding, the ASEAN organization is a positive step towards integration between10 nations located in Asia. But before even thinking of realizing what the European Union realized up till today a lot of things have to be changed. These things firstly have to come from inside the nations and then start spreading across the nations. In my opinion the ASEAN concept is a very good idea but too early to make a big impact on the world. Over  years time we can think of having created a union that fully functions. This is also the time it took for the European Union to be a functional and respected entity. Furthermore the ASEAN does not face the problem of being divided by a cold war. As it was the case with the EU in the beginning period, time will tell if the ASEAN will work out for these nations as thought of by many.

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