The recent years have seen the European Union as a successful example of regional cooperation come under serious doubt. The increasingly volatile economic environment and the chaotic, at times violent, social conditions that followed raises serious questions about the EU as a model of regional organization. Most in the international community might expect such unrest to come from the traditional hot zone: the Middle East. However, while blogging about regional cooperation in the Middle East throughout this semester, it became apparent that associations such as the League of Arab States and the Gulf Cooperation Council are quietly doing a much better job at fostering regional integration and cooperation. Despite conflicts of interest that inevitably arise, Middle Eastern states seem more adept at sharing resources and achieving economic gains for the benefit most member states. Financial reports from Middle Eastern media show growing economic stability and wealth for many states in the region. This surprising success led me to wonder what are the factors that may contribute to the success or failure of regional cooperation. One of the key differences between the EU and the regional organizations of the Middle East is the unity of religious beliefs and values. Although many member states in the EU can be categorized as Christian, it would be difficult to claim that any EU state shares an affinity with another. Cultural, regional, and historical differences seem to exacerbate the divide between each EU member state and increase the feeling that everyone is in it for themselves, so to speak. There does not seem to be any common goal or any real “cooperation” within the region. This mutual indifference is less present in the Middle East because of the strong bond of a Muslim majority who share, despite occasional political differences, common values and often also a common historical struggle. These Middle Eastern states are bound by their faith and, it can be argued, a common enemy, and therefore a common goal. The recent EU bailout policies that have put a stranglehold on the sovereignty of countries such as Cyprus will surely instill resentment towards the stronger member states, further destabilizing the region. Meanwhile, the Middle East is doing just fine.
Analysis of Regional Integration in the Middle East