6.6.5 Multinational Political Groupings
Multinational political groupings are defined here as comprising more than one country but not having power over the whole world.
The European Union (EU) has created a structured relationship between its members for their mutual benefit. Other similar groupings started to emerge:
● The Southern African Development Community (SADC) was formed by signing a treaty in 1992. It has 16 member States, and declares that it has a mission “to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security; so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy”.
● The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) describes itself as “a consensus mechanism comprised of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela. It was established in Brasilia, on May 23, 2008”. It declared its intention “to develop a South American forum for addressing political, social, economic, environmental and infrastructure issues …to provide it with greater pull and representation in international forums”. Half of the members left a decade later, claiming that it had been “rudderless”, but there was talk in October 2022 of reviving it: Toward a New UNASUR: Pathways for the Reactivation of South American Integration.
The EU is easily the most highly developed of the multinational political groupings. It acts as if it were one country in several scenarios:
● It employs permanent civil servants in the Commission.
● It has its own legal system (5.3.5).
● It negotiates its trade agreements as a single entity (126.96.36.199), so it has more power than its individual members.
● It has permanent observer status at the UN.
● It engages in international peace negotiations.
● It is developing a joint defence capability, working jointly with NATO.
EU membership is steadily growing. With the single exception of Britain, the countries which join it are permanent members. In this regard it is different from some loose political collaborations that are described later (188.8.131.52).
It is a mainly political body, in contrast to alliances and coalitions that have a purely military function. Those are classified as forms of Self-Protection and form part of the next chapter (7.2.7).
The following sub-sections examine the EU in more detail, to illustrate the benefits of such multinational political groupings:
● European sovereignty was pooled to gain peace and collective security (184.108.40.206). There have also been economic and social benefits.
● The EU has a wider perspective than national politicians and is less likely to make hasty tactical decisions (220.127.116.11).
● EU politicians are either directly elected by the people or are appointed by elected governments (18.104.22.168). There is a permanent shared Commission, but national leaders are involved in decision-making.
● Nationalist politicians in Britain fed anti-EU sentiment, blaming Brussels by distorting reality and generating political hostility towards the concept of pooled sovereignty (22.214.171.124). There is still some hostility towards the EU in other member countries, but this is more muted following Britain’s chaotic exit.
● The cost of running the EU is an issue (126.96.36.199), although the economic savings alone are almost certainly worth it. Wealthier members pay more, but they also benefit more from economic stability.
● Directly elected members of the European Parliament, in loose political parties, form policies that are signed off by national political leaders (188.8.131.52) – providing democratic accountability.
● It has been suggested that the EU should be a multi-speed organisation (184.108.40.206), with members of the Eurozone moving towards greater political integration and contributing relatively more to its budget to pay for that.
● In the 2016 referendum, British voters elected to leave the EU: a ‘Brexit’ (220.127.116.11). This choice was largely driven by domestic concerns and nationalism. Many of those who voted to leave now regret that choice.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/665a.htm.