Different Forms of Integration
Societies are complex social systems, characterized by a high degree
of differentiation but at the same time held together by a high degree
of integration. Although this is not always the case, some societies
are fragmented, while others have a certain degree of coherence,
depending on the relative strength of integration and differentiation
between the subsystems.
As societies are composed of different sectors, we can distinguish different forms of integration, namely: economic, political, security, ... integration. However, the diverse processes tend to converge as the integration process intensifies.
For instance, from our perspective political integration can be regarded as the creation of order in a political system. Various scholars consider political integration as related to the different regulative, normative and cognitive layers of institutionalisation. Thus, in one sense political integration refers to the building or strengthening of formal political institutions and regulative structures. In another sense, it refers to the creation of common norms. And in yet another sense, it refers to the formation of political communities and common political identities. (Kelstrup)
Another distinction can be made on the basis of where the integration project is located on the continuum between shallow and deep integration. For instance, regional political integration in its weaker forms refers to cooperation between states and formations of state-based regimes, whereas the stronger forms of integration refer to the constitution of new political entities, which have a certain degree of independence in regard to the individual states.
In the most general sense, economic integration (sometimes referred to as trade or market integration) denotes the process whereby the economic barriers between two or more economies are eliminated. To some, it involves specific policy decisions by governments designed to reduce or remove barriers to mutual exchange of goods, services, capital and people, whereas other studies treat it as emanating from the natural forces of proximity, income and policy convergence, and greater intra-firm trade.
The economic integration process is often represented as a staged process, going from a preferential trade area to a total economic integration. The market forces set in motion at one stage will create spillover effects to the next stage, making its implementation a sine qua non. However, it is not always so that economic integration projects will follow these stages. For instance, the EEC skipped the so-called first stages of the establishment of a free trade area and started immediately with a customs union.
The early stages of economic integration tend to focus on the elimination of trade barriers and the creation of a custom union in goods.
Free Trade Area
At the lowest level there is the preferential trade area, this means that the members charge each other lower tariffs than those applicable to non-members, however there is no free movement of goods within the area.
A free trade area means that the barriers and quotas to mutual trade are removed.
For instance, the members of the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), Canada, Mexico and the United States, pledge to do away with the barriers to mutual trade. Unlike a customs union, each member continues to determine its own commercial relations with non-members.
Other examples of free trade area are the ones between Mexico and the EU; between Canada and Chile; between the US and Jordan; ....
A customs union goes further than a Free Trade Area and requires its members to implement a common external tariff on imports from outside the Union, whereby the aim is to facilitate goods to move freely throughout the union.
An example of a customs union is the established customs union between the European Union and Turkey, which came into effect in 1996.
The customs union offers Turkey improved access to the countries of the European Union. The free circulation of industrial goods and processed agricultural products is guaranteed, there are no more customs duties, and quantitative restrictions such as quotas are prohibited. The customs union involves harmonization of Turkey's commercial and competition policies including intellectual property laws with those of the European Union. A large part of the EU's trade and competition rules is also extended to the Turkish economy.
Another example of a customs union is, notwithstanding its name, Mercosur: Mercado Común del Sur or the Southern Common Market.
The creation of a common market is the next step, whereby the obstacles for the free movement of labour, capital, services and persons are eliminated.
The instruments necessary to establish a common market are: a trade liberalisation programme; common external tariff; the coordination of macroeconomic policy; and the adaptation of sectoral agreements.
Since the establishment of the European Community the main objective of cooperation has been to generate opportunities for persons, goods, services and capital to move freely across the borders between the member states. The main idea is to eliminate within the EC all special national rules, which discriminate against the citizens, companies or products of other member countries. The initial plan was to realize this common market by the end of 1969, however this goal was only partially achieved. It was only in the eighties that real action was taken to achieve a common market. The single market with the "four freedoms" - the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital - forms the core of the European Common Market.
The establishment of an economic union, which entails a common currency and/or the harmonization and unification of monetary, fiscal and social policies, follows this step.
An example of an economic union is the Economic and Monetary Union within the EU.
As already indicated, the weaker forms of international political integration refer to cooperation between states and formations of state-based regimes. The deeper forms of integration refer to the constitution of new political entities, which have a certain degree of independence in regard to the individual states.
Thus, political integration involves the strengthening of a political system, in particular the scope and capacity of its decision-making process. Besides this institutional aspect of integration, there is as well the normative dimension of creating a political community.
Legal integration is closely related to political integration and involves the establishment of common legal rules and a common legal system for the citizens of the different states of a region.
Sometimes political integration is interpreted as the creation of supranational institutions. However, as already indicated, supranational institutions cannot be considered as the condition par excellence to achieve an increased coherence. Treaties might well stipulate a certain degree of sovereignty transfer, however the actual practice might sometimes diverge considerably from the stipulations of the treaty.
During the heat of the Cold War era, security was articulated in
narrow terms of politico-military security. However, since the eighties
the concept is conceived in broad terms, whereby security goes beyond
the military to embrace as well the political, economic, societal and
The lifting of the Cold War swathe has removed the principal organizing force at the global level, hereby reducing the integrating dynamic and decreasing the continuity between the global system and the regional subsystem. The great powers are not any longer motivated by ideological rivalries and seem to avoid wider political engagements, unless of course their own interests are at stake. This is reinforced by the increasing resource constraints, which decreases their capability to become involved in regional conflicts. All in all, this resulted in a weak global leadership and fed into the assumption that the burden of addressing regional problems was shifted to the local states, which at the same time provided them with better opportunities to gain greater control over their regional environment.
The major 'nerve-centre' of international decision-making in the field of international peace and security is the Security Council of the United Nations (UNSC). However, the Cold War paralysed the functioning of this nerve system considerably. Now that the Cold War is over, the UNSC reasserted its role of peacemaker and peacekeeper, but seeing the ill feeling of the Cold War years it is unlikely that the UNSC will become a centralized world authority. Thus, a new division of labour between the UN and the regional arrangements needs to be worked out, which could strengthen the security role of regional agencies. The Secretary-General Javier Prez de Cullar stated in his 1990 report to the UN members that: "For dealing with new kinds of security challenges, regional arrangements or agencies can render assistance of great value."
A similar note was struck in Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's Agenda for Peace:
"In the past, regional arrangements often were created because of the absence of a universal system for collective security; thus their activities could on occasion work at cross-purposes with the sense of solidarity required for the effectiveness of the world Organization. But in this new era of opportunity, regional arrangements or agencies can render great service ... the Security Council has and will continue to have primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, but regional action as a matter of decentralization, delegation and cooperation with United Nations efforts could not only lighten the burden of the Council but also contribute to a deeper sense of participation, consensus and democratization in international affairs.
Regional arrangements and agencies have not in recent decades been considered in this light, even when originally designed in part for a role in maintaining or restoring peace within their regions of the world. Today a new sense exists that they have contributions to make."