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Comparative regional integration in the EU and East Asia: Moving beyond integration snobbery

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In comparative regional integration (RI) analysis, the European Union's (EU) advancing of its own experience as a model is a significant problem. This article explores this problem by focusing on comparative aspects of RI in the EU and East Asia. It argues that there are important and valid aspects of comparison, such as the origins and objectives of these two regions, but fewer points of comparison between the two when it comes to achieving their objectives. It suggests that historical differences between the two regions constitute the major reason that a direct comparison is neither useful nor productive. It analyses the centrality and the exceptionalism of the EU in much of the comparative RI literature. It agues that the promotion of the EU experience as a form of model or paradigm is far from analytically helpful – the method of comparative analysis needs be the focus of our study as much as the objects of comparison. The article examines how the centrality of the EU in some analysis can amount to a form of de facto snobbery in the positioning of the EU on a rather unsteady pedestal. This ‘integration snobbery’ – to coin a phrase utilized by an EU official – is not constructive for comparative analysis of the EU and East Asia.

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  1. The interviews were conducted in Brussels in June 2006 2007. The author thanks the Commission officials for their participation.

  2. Commission official number 1.

  3. The European Commission's multimedia yearbook presenting some of the EU's ‘most important achievements of 2008’ lists the following 10 topics: controlling the use of chemicals in Europe; a joint response to the financial crisis; better rights for temporary workers; acting to keep children safe; equal rights for passengers with reduced mobility; a helping hand for stability and democracy; keeping Europe's lights on without risking the planet's health; healthy eating made easier; EU countries help each other cope with disaster; and EU funding becomes more transparent (see European Commission, Europe and you in 2008,

  4. Commission official 2.

  5. Commission official 3.

  6. Commission official 4.

  7. Commission official 5.

  8. Commission official 6.

  9. Commission official 7.

  10. Commission official 8.


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Murray, P. Comparative regional integration in the EU and East Asia: Moving beyond integration snobbery. Int Polit 47, 308–323 (2010).

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