Comparative Study on the Legal Framework on General Differentiated Integration Mechanisms in the European Union, APEC, and ASEAN
Differentiated integration can be a valuable option to allow progress despite the difference in economic development and diverse interests of member states.
As an alternative to accommodate intraregional diversity in the context where organizations aspire toward more ambitious integration goals, differentiated integration has become a feature in many regional groupings. Such a mechanism allows member states that are ready and willing to move forward in the agreed fields, while the others may join later.
We compare the legal framework of three differentiated integration mechanisms, namely the EU’s enhanced cooperation, APEC’s pathfinder initiatives, and ASEAN minus X, in order to assess, from the legal perspective, the strengths and limitations of each mechanism with a view to advancing the organizations’ integration objective.
The experience of the EU, APEC, and ASEAN has shown differentiated integration to be a valuable option to allow progress despite the difference in economic development and diverse interests of the member states. The main challenges consist in designing a legal framework that allows flexible cooperation among those who are willing and able while sufficiently safeguarding the organizations’ and nonparticipating member states’ interest. It is also vital to ensure effective implementation of the established initiatives as well as the most extensive participation with the ultimate objective of turning differentiated integration into common regional projects.