Interregionalism: A Case Study of the European Union and Mercosur

Publication Name
Working Paper
Volume, number, page
Year of Publication
Organization Name
University of Warwick
University of Warwick
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
Full Date
July 2008
Considered Countries
United States
Academic articles
Subregion - European Union
European Union
International Organizations
Foreign Policy
International Relations
Since 1999, the European Union (EU) and Mercosur have been negotiating an association agreement. In order to
understand the relation between the two regions it is necessary to establish a theoretical framework and the
context in which they operate. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that, since the end of the Cold War, the
world has become a more complex place. Consequently, the old theories of International Relations that used to
explain the relation between superpowers and their satellites are no longer useful to understand the current
dynamics. The objective of this article is to comprehensively analyse the relations between Europe and the
Southern Cone, by studying relations between the regions under a new theoretical approach: interregionalism.
This article is divided into two parts. Part one analyses the spectrum of EU and Mercosur interregional relations
based on the typology suggested by Heiner Hänggi. Here it is assumed that the EU possesses a greater quantity
of institutionalised interregional relations than Mercosur. It is clear, then, that the EU is the hub par excellence.
Moreover, the article analyses the Triad relations’ network; it states that relations between North America,
Western Europe and East Asia create the world’s most complex interregional space and have provided a basic
structure for new interregionalism. The origin of interregional relations between the Triad regions was due to
many factors. In the context of Latin America in general and Mercosur in particular, the latter is attractive to
extra-hemispheric regions as a consequence of the United States’ negotiations in the framework of the Free
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). In this context, Europe fears being excluded from this process that could
end up with the construction of a mega-region that would connect the whole Western Hemisphere.
Consequently, the EU is interested in establishing summits and special relations with Latin America and the
Caribbean. Part two deals with the functions of interregionalism described by Jürgen Rüland, applied to the
specific case of EU-Mercosur relations. These functions are: balancing and bandwagoning, institution-building,
rationalizing, agenda-setting and controlling, identity-building, stabilizing and development.
Following Hänggi’s analysis, interregional relations between two regional organisations constitute
interregionalism in the most pure, institutionalised and complex variety. This is the context in which EUMercosur
relations take place.