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Importance of Regional Organisations in Creating Peace and Stability: The Case of the European Union and ASEAN*

Kategori: European Union Corner
Ditulis oleh Cornelis P.F. Luhulima Dilihat: 3632

Cornelis P.F. Luhulima[1]

Let me begin by congratulating the European Union as a recipient of the 2012 Nobel Peace Price. Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, the former Norwegian prime minister and chairman of the panel awarding the prize said: “The stabilizing part played by the E.U. has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace … The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”[2]

The European Union

Let me start with the European Communities as the world’s second regional organisation after World War II. Robert Schuman’s Declaration of May 1950 stated that “The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken in the first place concern these two countries.” Hence, France “proposes that France-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a High Authority, within the framework of an organisation open to the participation of the other countries of Europe. … The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.” (non seulement impensable, mais matériellement impossible; nicht nur undenkbar, sondern materiell unmöglich) It was the reconciliation of France and Germany after World War II, which became the beginnings of the new Europe and which will be built not according to a single plan, but through concrete achievements by first creating a “de facto solidarity.”

“By pooling basic production and by instituting a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realisation of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace.”

Hence, every stage of the gradual realisation of the European system of states which emanated from Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, from the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community to the creation of the single market and the introduction of the single currency, depended essentially on the Franco-German alliance of interests. It is always open to other European states, “and so it should remain until finality has been achieved.”[3] (Ibid., p. 3)

Europe’s regionalism is an attempt to construct the new Europe as an independent variable, a united Europe, an integrated Europe, to be achieved through systematic attempts at integrating the economies of the founding states with France and Germany at the core and then moving on to politics as the ultimate stage. The Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community as a further step towards the federation of Europe, and a further  expansion of the de facto solidarity, laid down the Community approach or the Monnet approach to Europe’s further integration efforts.

Politically, the core of European regionalism is a rejection of the European balance-of-power principle and the hegemonic ambitions of individual states that had emerged following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, a rejection in the form of closer meshing of vital interests and the transfer of nation-state sovereign rights to supranational European institutions, which will be “the finality of European integration”.[4]

The European Union’s second enlargement with Greece (1981), Portugal and Spain (1985) to help consolidate democracy in those countries just emerging from dictatorship, popularised the European Community as a beacon of democracy and human rights, as an insurance for peace and stability in Southern Europe, next to endeavours to integrate their economies into the European Community to secure their places in a democratic Europe.

The Treaty of the European Union of 1992 laid the foundation for further enlargement, for incorporating twelve Central and East European countries into the European Union in 2004 and 2007 on the basis of the Copenhagen criteria (1993) of stability of institutions consisting of democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities, of a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces as well as the adoption of the 80,000 pages acquis communautaire, and  expansion of administrative structures for effective adoption of the acquis.[5] “Today,” said the Nobel committee, “the word of spreading peace and democracy is focusing on the Balkans.”

Democracy, rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities as well as a functioning market economy have become Europe’s new ideology on which peace and stability are to be built and guaranteed in Europe, and beyond.

However, the European Union now face, and not only limited to the eurozone, serious financial instability. During the first ten years of the eurozone the property boom generated windfall revenue for governments, both central and local, in EU’s periphery. In combination with cheap credit facilities after joining the eurozone, governments began to build infrastructures, property and to provide unimpeded welfare programmes. The European Union (EU) budget is small (EUR 147.2 billion in 2012) and not intended for counter-cyclical purposes. Moreover, member countries have continuously violated the fiscal and debt criteria of the Stability and Growth Pact of the Treaty of the European Union.[6]

The EU is still struggling to recuperate from its financial instability, with gloomy comments accompanying the Nobel Peace Price Award.

Another very recent disturbance has emerged on the EU theatre. Mainstream Conservative Party politicians are openly making the case for Britain to leave the European Union, or at least “radically changing its relationship with it – which may amount to the same thing – with the sympathy of some of our nation’s leaders and far wider support among the public,” as Mr. Tony Blair expressed it.[7] But I think I will leave comments on this point to Ambassador Julian Wilson.


Let me now turn to the Association of South East Asian Nations, ASEAN. ASEAN’s beginnings also start with a reconciliation, the termination of “konfrontasi” between Indonesia and Malaysia. The Bangkok Agreement or rather Bangkok Understanding of June 1, 1966 between Indonesia and Malaysia, as a further development of the Manila Agreement, emphasises 3 points to that effect, which are a referendum in both Sabah and Serawak for the peoples of those two regions to decide democratically on their place in Malaysia, the opening up of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Malaysia and the immediate cessation of hostilities. The Bangkok Understanding was concreticised by the Jakarta Agreement on August 11, 1966 to resolve the conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia peacefully. It was the realisation of the Soekarno-Macapagal doctrine that Asian problems should be solved by Asians themselves in Asian ways. The Jakarta Agreement was to Soeharto a prelude to the creation of a mutually beneficial collaborative network of relationships among the peoples of Southeast Asia towards the creation of an “integrated Southeast Asia”, “to face any foreign pressure or intervention, both economically and military.”[8]

However, that “integrated Southeast Asia” was not to be built on the Indonesia-Malaysian relationship as the core of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN. Integration was to be achieved through political initiatives in each member state, through developing each member state’s national resilience, developing the ability to cope with, endure and survive any kind of challenges or threats in the course of its struggle to achieve its national goals, through making rational choices. It is the nation’s ability to integrate each component of its existence, ideological, political, economic, socio-cultural and defence and security into its comprehensive strength. It means the “total mobilization and utilization of all of a nation’s tangible and intangible resources in defence of its interests”.[9] It is a concept of security that is comprehensive in character and is later to become known in the region as comprehensive security, to comprise the multidimensional character of security concerns.

It is this attitude of greatest self-confidence that Indonesia conveyed to the other ASEAN members to face the volatile strategic situation within and beyond their national perimeters. It was on the premise that lack of resilience in one nation invites foreign interference and threatens neighbouring states that Indonesia advocates all Southeast Asian nations to develop fully their economic, political and socio-cultural as well as defence and security potentials while co-operating with each other in a networking arrangement to desist any threat and provocation. And it is national resilience that must become the strong basis for “stable regional development and reliable regional cohesion.” Each nation in the region has to grow on its own strength in order to achieve the degree of national resilience that will collectively produce regional resilience.

These considerations were sanctified in ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, in mutually respecting the “independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all nations; the right of every state to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coersion, and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another; settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means, and renunciation of the threat or use of force.” Vietnam became a member on these principles in 1995, Laos and Cambodia in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999, after becoming party to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.

These principles became the basis not only for ASEAN’s new members but also for countries to join the East Asia Summit inaugurated in Kuala Lumpur in 2005 with ASEAN in the centre, as the driving force. It was to be linked to ASEAN Summits. China, Japan and South Korea became party to the Treaty, joined by Australia, India and New Zealand, and later the United States and Russia in 2011. The external parties, particularly China and the United States accept ASEAN’s centrality in this equation as it is part of their strategic interests. The new regional architecture with ASEAN as the centre is primarly intended to incorporate the big powers, China and the United States of America, as well as India, Russia and Japan in the design of a peaceful, surprise-free Asia-Pacific, devoid of conflicts, also in the South China Sea.

Beijing’s assertiveness to shape the resolution of the South China Sea disputes is, however,  against ASEAN’s design of  such a security zone. ASEAN have since continued to be distracted by the South China Sea issue. At the close of the summit of ASEAN leaders in Phnom Penh on 18 November, the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen even said that there was an “agreement” not to internationalise the issue. If that statement was left unchallenged, then it would reflect the Chinese position on the issue. The Philippines and Vietnam, as well as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, immediately submitted letters formally disagreeing with this view and the chairman’s final statement did not contain such a reference.

On the other hand, the US’s return to the region culminated in a direct engagement with China at the Eat Asia Summit.  Although they declared their desire for greater economic cooperation in the region they simultaneously compete for influence in ASEAN’s security zone. ASEAN’s tremendous task is indeed to remain relevant and self-confident and resilient in the unfolding power game in the wider region of East Asia. ASEAN is challenged to “maintain the centrality and proactive role of ASEAN as the primary driving force in its relations and cooperation with its external partners in a regional architecture that is open, transparent and inclusive.”[10]

Meanwhile, in the process of building a political and security community, ASEAN emphasises new values to guide the association: “To strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”[11] However, these new values should not infringe upon “the rights and responsibilities of the Member States of ASEAN,” which means national sovereignty and non-interference are to remain unscathed.

ASEAN’s attempt to strengthen democracy and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the region is re-emphasised in the Bali Declaration on an ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations (Bali Concord III of 17 November 2011). It says that ASEAN’s political development  is to be consistent with the purposes and principles of ASEAN’s basic instruments to ensure that peoples and member states of ASEAN “live in peace with the world at large in a just, democratic, and harmonious environment.” It means that ASEAN adheres at the global level to “the rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy, and constitutional government”, and “and promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as promote social justice.”

However, the realisation of democracy and human rights “must be considered in the regional and national context bearing in mind different policitical, economic, legal, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds.”[12]

ASEAN’s regionalism is thus to remain a dependent variable, dependent on the willingness of each member country to surrender parts of its sovereignty for the regional good.

Concluding Remarks

Peace and stability are thus fundamental to both the European Union and ASEAN and is incorporated into their structures and instruments. The European Union’s solidarity which is essentially based on the Franco-German alliance of interests is always open to other European states. Democracy, rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities and a functioning market economy have become the new “ideology” on which peace and stability are to be built and projected beyond the region. The European Union will have to resolve its financial stability and much depend on Germany under the premiership of Mrs Angela Merkel. It will also have to resolve the case of Britain planning to changing its relationship with the European Union.

ASEAN has adopted the new “ideology”, yet simultaneously insisting on the indisputable Westfalian principle of 1648 of national sovereignty and non-interference, built into the Treaty of Amity and Coorperation in Southeast Asia and the ASEAN Charter.  

However, not in all ASEAN states have their national sovereignty developed on national resilience, on the mobilization and utilisation of all of their tangible and intangible resources to produce an attitude of greatest self-confidence to face the volatile strategic situation within as well as beyond their national borders. Some are still overdependent on external powers and thus reducing ASEAN’s solidarity in facing the changing strategic environment as is evident from the 2012 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and ASEAN Summit. Such a situation has weakened ASEAN’s ambition to incorporate the big powers in the region in the design of a peaceful, surprise-free Asia-Pacific, also in the South China Sea. ASEAN will thus have to strengthen its solidarity and regional resilience to remain the driving force in the Asia-Pacific configuration of its design and maintain peace and stability in the region. (Cornelis P.F. Luhulima)

Jakarta, 10 December 2012 


* Delivered at the seminar on “The Role of Regional Organisations in Promoting Peace”, at the Caraka Loka Building, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 December 2012, organised by the Delegation of the European Union and the Indonesian Council on World Affairs (ICWA)

[1] Senior Researcher, Centre for Political Studies, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Jalan Gatot Soebroto 10, Jakarta

[2] The New York Times, 12 October 2012

[3] Joschka Fischer, “From Confederacy to Federation: Thoughts on the Finality of European Integration,” Humboldt University in Berlin, 12 May 2000, p. 3

[4] Ibid.

[5] Added by the Madrid European Council in December 1995

[6] See also Anwar Nasution, Economic policies in crisis: Eurozone versus East Asia, The Jakarta Post, 4 December 2012

[7] Tony Blair, Britain’s European Destiny, http://www.project-syndicate.org/print/britain-and-its-potential-withdrawal-from-the-european-union-under-cameron-by-tony-blair

[8] Keterangan Pemerintah mengenai Beberapa Masalah Pokok yang Penting di Depan Sidang DPR-GR, Disampaikan Jenderal TNI Soeharto, Ketua Presidium Kabinet MAPERA/Pengemban Ketetapan MPRS No. IX/MPRS/1966, pada pembukaan Tahun Sidang 1966/1967 DPR-GR, pada tanggal 16 Agustus 1966 di Jakarta, h. 19-21

[9] Donald Weatherbee, “ASEAN: Pattern of National and Regional Resilience” in Young Whan Kihl and Lawrence E. Grinter, Asian-Pacific Security. Emerging Challenges and Responses (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Riencer Publishers, Inc. 1986), p. 202.

[10] ASEAN Charter, Chapter1, Article 1.15

[11] Ibid, Article 1.7

[12] ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, General Principles, para 7: “All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. All human rights and fundamental freedoms in this Declaration must be treated in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis. At the same time, the realisation of human rights must be considered in the regional and national context bearing in mind different political, economic, legal, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds.”