, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 57-77
Date: 24 Nov 2009

Interregionalism or Merely a Fourth-Level Game? An Examination of the EU-ASEAN Relationship

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It is argued in this paper that the normative nature of both the conscious and unconscious attempts of the European Union as a ‘civilian power’ to export its model of regional integration elsewhere, has led to the claim that an ostensibly new form of interaction in international relations - one characterized as interregionalism - has emerged. An examination of the EU-ASEAN relationship, however, would suggest that this assertion is greatly exaggerated. Between conventional bilateral relations, between individual EU members and individual Southeast Asian nations, and forms of multilateral and asymmetrical bilateral relations between the EU as a global actor and individual ASEAN members, the space for interregionalism is indeed very limited. Rather, by building on Putnam’s seminal work enunciating his metaphor of “two-level games” (i.e. the domestic and the international) and its extension in Patterson’s and Deutsch’s discussion of ‘three level games’ (the third level being the intra-regional), it is suggested that interregionalism is merely the addition of a minor fourth level in international relations bargaining. Such a characterization has the salutary effect of drawing attention back, both to the different forms of regional integration, and to the varying capacities within regional entities. It is these elements that are worthy of further research, rather than some imagined alchemy denoted as interregionalism. The latter can best be described as a normative milieu goal, rather than being an appropriate and useful analytical category.

This paper has benefited from presentation at the 50th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, New York, 15th-18th February 2009. An earlier version of the case study section was published as “The Political and Economic Dimensions of EU-ASEAN Relations: An Overview” in José Luis Salès de Marques, Reimund Seidelman & Andreas Vasilach (eds), Asia and Europe: Dynamics of Inter- and Intra-Regional Relations, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2009, pp. 183-207.