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date: 08 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Comparative regional integration has emerged over the last decade as an exciting area of research. Interest was sparked, in part, by a new wave of integration in Asia, Africa, and the Americas that grew in strength in the 1990s. Like earlier waves, this one generated integration schemes that show puzzling differences and variations. Some integration schemes fail to attain most or any of their objectives, whilst others are highly successful. Some integration schemes confer significant authority on supranational agencies, encourage the use of qualified or simple majority in joint decision making, and make provisions for strong dispute settlement procedures, powerful enforcement tools, as well as extensive common monitoring. Other schemes, however, are strictly intergovernmental in character and shy away from any institutional elements that weaken or undermine national sovereignty. These striking differences in outcomes and in regional governance have prompted scholars to search for comprehensive analytical frameworks of comparative regional integration. This article, which reviews three such frameworks – neo-functionalism, externality theory, and contracting theory – considers their strengths and weaknesses, and raises key issues for future research.

Keywords: comparative regional integration, European integration, regional governance, neo-functionalism, externality theory, contracting theory

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