Why do regional organizations share a number of key institutions and policies? Why do regional organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) or the Carribean Community (CARICOM) look like the European Union? And why do we find the norms of the Helsinki Final Act in treaties of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? The simple answer is that policy solutions developed in the context of regional integration diffuse. The paper contends that regional integration efforts in Europe have had a decisive but often unacknowledged influence on regional cooperation outside of Europe. The influence of European integration on regional organizations beyond Europe will be illustrated with a case that is unsuspicious of having emulated the European integration experience: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Since 1957, Southeast Asian states have selectively taken over policies and institutions from the European context. The most recent adoption, it will be argued, is the ASEAN Charter, in effect since November 2008. In accounting for this adoption, the paper argues that ASEAN members’ decision is only partially driven by genuine regional or functional demands. Members borrowed from “abroad” expecting the Charter to provide a policy solution to the cooperation problems members faced. Thus, the paper makes an original general contribution to the existing literature on regional integration: It argues that a full account of regional integration processes needs to take diffusion processes into consideration.
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