Contemporary challenges, from the global economic crisis to climate change, have revealed the strengths and weaknesses of regional integration throughout the world.
The Euro-crisis, for instance, has exerted a strain on the EU’s model of top-down governance, while reinforcing the pace (and changing the form) of integration in Europe.
Similarly, climate change is forcing us to rethink the current economic model based on globalized markets and GDP growth.
In a recent report for the European Commission and endorsed by the European Parliament, futurist Jeremy Rifkin has argued that the shift to a low carbon economy and the consequential contraction of the economic system will contribute to a shrinking of globalization (at least in its pro-market orientation) while paving the way to the resurgence of ‘continental regions’. In his view, production processes will be increasingly localized and resources will be managed and shared regionally, with a view to creating hubs of sustainability within geographically continuous continents.
This will fundamentally reshape regional integration and its ultimate goals. As conventional market mechanisms are reformed and production systems are reinvented, more and more regional integration will be built from the bottom up, through what Rifkin calls ‘lateral power’, that is, the capacity to affect change through peer-to-peer collaboration. In a word, a citizens-driven development model.
Against this backdrop, SUSTAIN will bring together top scholars of regional governance, civil society and business to reflect on what ‘sustainable regional integration’ entails for regionalism and what new governance ‘innovations’ will be necessary to achieve this objective.
Funding: EU Jean Monnet Research and Information Activities