I’ve always had a deep fascination for the European Union, their strength in unity economically, politically, yet their very divided cultural and traditional pride and nationalism. It is simul- taneously contradictory. You have the Eurocrats lobbying for further integration and expansion. On the other hand, there are those who scream for separation and protectionism. Having studied 5 years of EU integration, expansion, foreign policy and security issues for my thesis, one thing I can say is that it’s never stagnant. The EU has evolved so fast and so far that it’s breathtaking – I am never bored.
So it is equally fantastic to see ASEAN, South East Asia’s regional economic bloc, slowly yet gradually expanding towards further inter- dependency in the face of a deteriorating global economic situation. This week ASEAN (Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos) will sign a free trade pact with Australia and New Zealand. This is the reality of globalization. Those that claim globalization is but a myth – ok wake up people! The other reality is that it’s better to swim together than sink alone. Especially during a global recession.
Already, ASEAN Plus Three (Japan, South Korea and China) including regular member observers like Australia, New Zealand and India is a summit that has the world watching on bated breath. Asia already knows what a deep crisis is like. Yet Asia is resilient that despite its Financial Crisis (1997-1999), SARS (2003-2004) and the Tsunami (2004), we keep coming back fighting. But like all neighbours, we bicker and grumble.
And yet, sometimes there is a light at the end of the tunnel that says we need to work together if we believe in a fighting chance. After 4 years of deliberation and negotiation with Australasia, ASEAN is on a sure step towards regional strengthening and integration.
PZ : the next wannabe ASEAN-EU Ambassador 😉