ASEAN Membership and the issue of the Leadership: Seeking a pays moteur to boost integration

No. 40 – April 2015
Authors: Massimiliano Porto, Valentina Gullo
Language: English
Membership criteria
Pays moteur

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ASEAN is an Association characterized by very different members in terms of policy, economy and demography. This heterogeneity could represent a hindrance for an Association going towards a stronger integration because of the difficulty in reaching a binding agreement, also due to the decision-making process still based on consensus. Founding countries of ASEAN were Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined in 1984, Vietnam in 1995, Laos PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999. Today ASEAN, composed by ten member states, has reached one of its main goals: to include all the Southeast Asian States in the association, attaining the desired enlargement. However, the enlargement has caused an increase in disparities among members that could be harmful for the further integration of ASEAN that in 2015 will step towards an ASEAN Community. The success of ASEAN will mostly depend on the will of the members to reach a more consistent integration, putting aside vested interests. Moreover, this phase of the path of ASEAN requires more powerful members to assume responsibility in leading the Association. Considering the peculiarities of Southeast Asian countries and culture, very respectful in not interfering in domestic affairs of other States, further effective steps towards integration will require a guidance of a leader recognized by other member States. Indonesia, given its size, historical experience in international relations and past leadership in ASEAN under Suharto’s presidency, should act, better than a leader, as the pays moteur of the organization, triggering new developments of ASEAN integration.