When the topic of NATO comes up, your mind jumps to the United States. When the EU is mentioned, Germany is quickly thought of next as the EU powerhouse hegemon. However, these regional organizations are just western-centric ones, they are well known because they were highly encouraged by the United States after World War II. Yes, hegemons currently dominate the regional organization scene but smaller states are finding their foothold and becoming empowered.
In organizations like NATO and the EU, which are dominated by powerful countries, smaller nations reap the benefits. Upon its admission into NATO, Montenegro received a seat at one of the most elite tables in the world and was assured security. Croatia’s ascension into the EU gives them the European seal of approval and makes them look more favorable for international investment. Croatians have also benefitted from higher consumer standards and lower prices. The people of Croatia have gained many economic opportunities from their nation’s ascension. Because of the lower consumer prices, their wages go further, lowering the cost of living and improving their overall life style. Croatian businesses are seeing the benefit of the European Union as well, as sixty percent of their exports make their way to Europe and little cost due to the Schengen Agreement. These benefits are only through the western, liberal approach to regional organizations, outside of this lense and with out a hegemon, small nations have the potential to assert power that gives them even more than just economic or security benefits.
In his article, Archarya suggests that regional organizations can be founded without a hegemon or even in resistance to one, rather than by one. This regionalism, frees nations from the idea that liberalism is universal. Creativity, identity and politics steer the construction of regional organizations that create a new perspective of the world. Many of these new organizations such as ASEAN are founded on equality. Small states and middles powers are able to keep their sovereignty and not forced to give a piece of it over like Croatia did while joining the EU.
When common ideals are represented in new regional organizations, respect for sovereignty is granted, stability is created, and room is created to address issues in the region. ASEAN, for example, was able to create a forum on human rights. Regional stability also allows these organizations to react more quickly to issues that global organizations, such as the UN do not have time for. This is a benefit that Croatia does not have as a small nation in the EU and especially as an Eastern European nation. Croatians will not have a strong role in shaping the ideals of Europe because they have already been formed and must be demonstrated by a nation to be considered for ascension into the Union.
Regional organizations have the ability to overlap, creating networks of power and trade. This allows nations to grow economically I ways that they could not have on a global market. Collectively, states can negotiate trade deals and resist hegemonic nations. . One small nation, say Malaysia, who joins a regional organization has global reach, stability, respect, and an entire host of nations to support it. Now it can deal with China, grow its economy, combat human rights, and endless other things because of its role in ASEAN.
Hegemons have their role in global organizations, however regional organizations are more likely to be ones in which all countries share control. As more nations develop and find their way into the world stage, they will be able to assume more roles in many different types of international organizations beyond those focused on economics. As the dominance of hegemons lessens, intra-regional cooperation will have room to thrive as well. Croatia never has this chance in the shadow of Russia, Malaysia never had much of an opportunity either, but now they are finding their ways in the international system with the help of regional partners.