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ASEAN and the EU: A Comparison of Sovereignty

The European Union and the Association of South East Nations are two political and economic unions which encompass large portions of the world’s population. Both unions aim to promote peace and cooperation between their member states by facilitating political, economic, and cultural integration. However, the structural differences between these two intergovernmental unions mean that they have differing effects on the individual power of their respective members. By impacting sovereignty, or the overarching authority of a state to govern itself, these structural differences allow ASEAN and the EU to take varying degrees of decisive power away from individual countries.


Both regional organisations use various political and economic tools to promote economic growth, social and cultural integration, and peace within their member states, but their approaches to sovereignty are contrasting. The stark difference in their handling of individual state sovereignty sparks from the structural differences of these institutions, as well as their primary purposes.


The European Union was founded following World War 2 in order to promote lasting reconciliation between member states and avoid another major European War. Its primary goal is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its citizens, mostly through encouraging closer social and economic ties. ASEAN on the other hand was created with the primary objective of speeding up economic growth within its member states, with encouraging regional peace and social progress being secondary consequences to its aforementioned goal.


The European Union operates using a single internal market and a single currency, the Euro. This single creates strong economic interdependence between EU member states. A single currency means individual governments cannot have autonomy over the printing of currency or the setting of interest rates. This takes away each state’s autonomy over drafting economic policies benefiting them, and it results in a loss of financial autonomy.


Although ASEAN is brought together by trade and economic growth, its member states do not share the same level of interdependence as the European Union. Currently, ASEAN is working towards a single market, and it has adopted a method of gradually phasing out tariffs and quotas in order to facilitate trade between its members. However, the phasing out of these tariffs is at the discretion of each state, and ASEAN members are given full autonomy to handle their financial affairs.


Hence, ASEAN and the EU differ in the level of the economic integration of their member states. The autonomy granted by the decreased levels of interdependence between ASEAN’s governments allows them to retain significantly higher levels of sovereignty, as seen through their ability to freely handle their trade agreements and their currency.


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