NEW YORK – In almost every part of the world, long-festering problems can be solved through closer cooperation among neighboring countries. The European Union provides the best model for how neighbors that have long fought each other can come together for mutual benefit. Ironically, today’s decline in American global power may lead to more effective regional cooperation.
This may seem an odd time to praise the EU, given the economic crises in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. Europe has not solved the problem of balancing the interests of strong economies in the North and those of weaker economies in the South. Still, the EU’s accomplishments vastly outweigh its current difficulties.
The EU has created a zone of peace where once there was relentless war. It has provided the institutional framework for reuniting Western and Eastern Europe. It has fostered regional-scale infrastructure. The single market has been crucial to making Europe one of the most prosperous places on the planet. And the EU has been a global leader on environmental sustainability.
For these reasons, the EU provides a unique model for other regions that remain stuck in a mire of conflict, poverty, lack of infrastructure, and environmental crisis. New regional organizations, such as the African Union, look to the EU as a role model for regional problem-solving and integration. Yet, to this day, most regional groupings remain too weak to solve their members’ pressing problems.