Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Regional Integration and the State

The Changing Nature of Sovereignty in Southern Africa and Europe

Hannu Heinonen

Doctoral dissertation, June 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Development Studies.

The study explores the role of the state in regional integration processes. The question is approached through theoretical discussion and two case-studies - SADC (Southern African Development Community) and the EU. The main research question of the study is, what are the possibilities and problems of the integration process in Southern Africa and how do they differ from the possibilities and problems of the integration process in Europe.

The undelrying question of the study is why do states decide to participate in an integration process where they have to limit their sovereignty. Review of the theoretical discussion of the integration studies shows that the integration process is affected by several factors on different levels of the international system. But the state plays a central role in integration processes - integration processes are inititated and carried on by the participatig states.

The European integration process shows that the interests of the state can change over time. At the beginning of the integration process, the objective was to strengthen participating states. Later EU member states have decided that it is in their interest to deepen the process even if it has meant limitation of their sovereignty. The determinant factor has been that the member states have considered it to be in their interst to deepen the process.

In Southern Africa the integration process is only at the beginning. SADC aims to establish a free trade area by 2008. The biggest challenge is how to implement the integration process so that it benefits all member states in a region that is economically dominated by South Africa. In practice this can be achieved through establishment of corrective mechanisms, which ensure equitable distribution of benefits. This would require deeper integration and South Africa to adapt responsibility towards its regional partners.

African integration processes in general have not been as successful as for example the EU. African states have been reluctant to limit their sovereignty in favour of regional organisations.This can be explained by the differences between European and African states. The EU member states have been democracies while African states have been characterised by concentration of power in the executive branch. Furthermore the political systems in Africa have been characterised by vertical clientelist reltionships. As a result it has not been in the interest of the political elite to limit the state sovereignty in favour of regional organisations.

In recent years SADC has been relatively succesful in its integration process and reforms, but a lot remains to be done before the implementation of the free trade area can be succesful. The institutional structure and treaties of SADC differ from the structures of the EU. Member states are the main actors of the integration processes. Their differences are reflected in the process and produce different kinds of integration in different parts of the world.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 19.05.2006

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