World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Regionalism: Back on the Agenda? (168) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE, 20 / 5-7 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:
Chair: B. A. Roberson (London Metropolitan University)

Paper Presenter: B. A. Roberson (Research Professor, Global Policy Institute, London Metropolitan University, UK) “International Order: Agents and Institutions before the arrival of the Anarchical Society 1492 – 1792: North Africa”
North Africa has had experience of Europe and Europeans for several millennia. Historically it has been a most intensive relationship. The period of this paper begins with the long-running expulsion of Spanish Muslims and Jews that continues intermittently into the 1500s. Within a short period of time, the Ottoman Empire extends its authority across North Africa to Morocco. Eventually as before, the state-like entities governed autonomously from the centre, determining their own internal affairs, their relations abroad were conducted intensively in which the balance of relations whether in trade or the attempts of religious or political domination. Of particular importance are questions of culture, identity, differentiation, and socialization. The agents, international institutions, the nature of international treaties, impact of power differentials and geopolitical calculations in resolving cross-cultural exchanges in this era before the arrival of the anarchical society. There was a common value of a ‘tolerance of diversity’ in the system of relations and law as long as it lasted.

Paper Presenter: Leonie Holthaus (Student, Philipps-Universität Marburg and Institute of Political Science, Germany) “Theories of Regional Cooperation and the Founding of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Gulf ‘Exceptionalism’ Revisited”
The Arab Gulf monarchies of Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman are not only 'exceptional' due to the durability of the authoritarian regimes, but also to the founding of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This sub-regional organization is widely seen as the most successful attempt at regional cooperation in the Middle East. Theoretical explanations about the founding of the GCC are of ongoing relevancy as they determine the research focus on this unique example of regional cooperation in the region. Two periods of analysis regarding the initiation of the GCC can be observed: During the first years after the founding summit in Abu Dhabi (1981), dominant interpretations viewed the organization as a manifestation of the social, religious and economic commonalities of the participating states without reference to any international relations theory. However, this perspective is problematic because it echoes the official state justification for the organization. Authors favoring the neo-realist approach go further calling the GCC an alliance that was only launched to counter the external threat posed by Iran after 1979. The second argument is rightly challenged by more recent publications which constitute a second phase of interpretation. These works usually have an affinity to the social-constructivist approach in which some analyze the GCC as a security community along the lines of those described by Emanuel Adler and Michael Barnett. Such works have in common that they do not highlight Iran as an external threat but rather the shared perception among the political elites regarding the internal threat to the legitimacy and stability of the remaining monarchic regimes posed by the Iranian Revolution. Research questions that examine the individual and collective perceptions of the monarchic regimes are particularly pertinent to this perspective as well as the possibility of evolving norms in the sub-regional context. In addition, the dynamics of the GCC can be analyzed as a trade-off between the collective effort to enhance regime legitimacy on the one hand and the cooperation constraints due to competition for prestige of each single regime and a wide understanding of 'sovereignty' on the other. In the author's view, focusing on possible interdependencies between elite-driven cooperation in the GCC and the persistence of the monarchic regimes appears to be especially promising.

Paper Presenters: Ángel García Ortiz (Lecturer, Universidad de València, Spain) & Antoni Seguí Alcaraz (Universidad de València), “Lights and shadows of Arab Maghreb Union from an European Focus”
Behind the failure of the Permanent Consultative Maghrebian Committee (1964-1975), Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunis tried in 1989 to recover the commitment to achieve a harmonization of the economic policies of the signatory countries. With a widespread projection of creating a common market on February 17, 1989 they started the Union of the Arabic Maghreb (UMA). The creation of this political entity proposed to membership states to continue with different processes the unification and integration that has experienced the Maghreb. At the same time, Europe hastens the process of commercial, economic and monetary integration. This concurrence in the time, proposes an analysis of coexistence, complementarity and distortion. Behind an effervescent and dynamic beginning the actual situation of UMA is now a paralysis. The motives that explain it are from different nature. Nevertheless, those of political character have the responsibility of the paralyzation of the raising of the building to the Great Arabic Maghreb. The models of individual development seem to have failed and the lack of importance in front of industrialized countries, they could force the formation of a close zone of countries that share numerous common aspects. The integration appears as a possible solution to social and economic problems. In this work we try to look over the European economic integration and UMA in a compared perspective. For that we will test the validity of the ''virtuous triangle'' recognizable in case of the EU and if this could explain the failure of UMA at the present day. An strong political supported commitment, the construction of a juridical and institutional system and policies actions tending to consolidate the economic integration, constitute three of the main components of this model, which have formed a ''basic axis'' with aptitude to affect in a positively way the economic development. In UMA, the different integration processes confront- beyond of some advances - serious limitations. Without falling down in easy comparisons, the European experience allows to extract some useful conclusions for the geographical area of reference.

Paper Presenter: Raimundo Gregoire Delaunoy (independent Journalist, Chile), "Arab Maghreb Union: a key element in the Mediterranean relations"
The idea of this paper is to expose a subject of great interest and demonstrate that this integration project (Arab Maghreb Union) has to be established as a concrete structure because, in case of achieving this goal, it should be a relevant factor in the Mediterranean issues. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is, on one hand, to show the positive facts of the Arab Maghreb Union, and, on the other hand, the threats or problems that affect its correct development. Finally, some reflections will be exposed, in order to find solutions to the difficulties that this process has been facing and, also, to establish the real importance of the Arab Maghreb Union in the Mediterranean world. As being part of the African, Arab, Mediterranean and Muslim universe, and considering its historical ties with France, Spain and Italy, the Maghreb has become an essential region for a correct process of integration between the European Union, the Middle East, the Arab-Muslim world and Africa. But, while not achieving the goal of being a well constructed integration group, the Arab Maghreb Union will be condemned to be just a wish and, obviously, it won’t be a key player in the Mediterranean world. After analyzing the historical evolution of the Arab Maghreb Union, we can say that today’s situation is not the best for the region. There’s a lack of democratic processes, something that can be well observed in Mauritania’s military coup or in Libya’s absence of elections during the last 40 years. Also, the relations between Maghreb’s countries need to be strengthened, and, for that purpose, it’s important to solve some conflicts such as the Sahara’s one. Some other big problems are the increasing presence of terrorist groups in the region, especially in Algeria and Mauritania, and the unsolved immigration issue. Summing up, we can say that the Arab Maghreb Union is entangled in a point where there has not been nearly any advance in the last 15 years and if this trend continues, the process will lose weight and will vanish. So, the goal of the Arab Maghreb Union is to start a strong and new stage, in which they should work together.

Paper Presenter: Dr. Nafiseh Vaez (Assistant Professor, Islamic Azad University, Shahreza Branch, Shahreza, Isfahan, Iran) “A Study of Obstacles to the Establishment of an Islamic Union in the Middle East”
After the cold war and the demise of the bi-lateral system, according to Barry Buzan, conditions were provided for the development of poles of regional power. Since then regions have gained significance within the power structures of the international system. Evidently, within the framework of complex competitions, unification of the Middle East region seems to be necessary in order to find solutions for common problems and threats and to find common grounds for cooperation and integration. The Middle East enjoys good potentials of organizing a union (common Islamic identity, emergence, after the cold war, of a regionalism friendly atmosphere, geographical significance, and strategic oil and gas resources). This paper aims to answer the following question: What subjective and objective factors have impeded the creation of a Middle Eastern Islamic union especially during the post cold war era. Subjective obstacles are: 1- Misinterpretation among powerful countries of the region about the unification of all countries disregarding unequal conditions of countries. 2- Mini states of the region fearing that more powerful countries would impose their dominance over others.3- Misinterpretation of the consequences of union- building as to demolishing multiplicity of cultural signs and customs and abolishing varieties among the states of the region. Objective obstacles are as follows: 1- Unequal distribution of power among the states of the region. 2- Nonconformity of regional states and the existence of general tendency toward individual decision-making and a political order based on obligation.3- Border controversies among the states of the region.4- Security problems of most of these countries and their being involved in various crises such as identity, legitimation and participation crises. 5- Vulnerability of most Middle Eastern states due to ethnic demands and conflicts. 6- Shi'a-Suni controversies. 7- Competition between countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia for leadership of the Islamic world. 8- Lack of mutual and official understanding in regard to policies related to security of energy, oil and arms.9- Difference of impressions and positions in regard to foreign policy. Conformity and nonconformity with the West concerning regional crises such as Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. Similarly it seems that insufficient experience in multilateral cooperation, lack of cooperation in mutual media productions, common market and common currency are among the causes of disintegration and delay in the development of an Islamic union. It can be concluded that on the whole, factors of disintegration prevail over those of integration in the region.