ABSTRACT

In this edited volume we invited authors from different continents to discuss theories of regional powers and regional orders (Part I), the relationships between regional powers and their neighbourhood (Part II) as well as the role of regional powers in the sub-global power distribution (Part III). Inspired by the omnipresence of the alleged rise of new ‘regional powers’ such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa, the individual chapters assembled here have attempted to transcend traditional perspectives on power and the narrow, essentialist dimensions of regions and regional orders. The single chapters have instead inquired as to the prerequisites for region-building from various angles, coalescing geographical with interactionist, institutionalist and interpretive insights, while using illustrations from different world regions to make their various cases. In conclusion, four relationships should be highlighted. First, the difference between territorial and political meanings of region(s). According to Postel-Vinay, regions are not fixed entities and their geographical space is not naturally given (Chapter 1). Regions are rather socially constructed, politically contested as well as historically situated. Consequently, the meaning of geographical spaces such as regions is primarily a political task. The challenges of the relationship between geography and politics become apparent in Anne-Marie Le Gloannec’s discussion about the attraction and domination of the European Union to its neighbouring countries (Chapter 5). ‘Europe’ as a region still remains a contested issue since the EU refers to a rather limited interpretation of the Europe it represents. The relation between the core (EU) and the periphery (European neighbours) and the significant question of further EU enlargement are the biggest challenges for the future constitution of the EU and our understanding of the European region. It was elucidated that ‘Europe’ has in the past always stood for diversity more than unity and that there have been significant differences in meaning across different countries and over time. As an actor, the EU has, however, played a significant role in constructing the political contents of the continent over time. Those who share the same values, norms and identities are integrating in one institution. At some points, rational considerations are finally turned into normative ones in enlargement processes. In effect, the EU’s shape is closely related to a pan-European idea and to a history of which the new member states in Central and Eastern Europe obviously are an unquestionable part.