Diffusing Regional Integration: The EU and Southeast Asia
Given its distinctive structure and norms, is ASEAN’s recent institutionalisation an instance of diffusion from the EU to ASEAN? Or do we observe adaptation to changes in the external and domestic environments of ASEAN states that are unrelated to, or independent of, the EU? Or is there some combination of both at work here – diffusion and adaptation to changes that do not relate to the EU? This article argues that ASEAN members have started to adopt EU-style institutions, in particular, the EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives and economic integration processes. This adoption process can be conceived as both lesson-drawing and normative emulation from the EU. This has not led to a comprehensive and systematic copying of EU institutions by ASEAN. Rather, member states have acted selectively in line with their ‘cognitive priors’ about state sovereignty. We observe institutional change only, but not a change in behavioural practices.