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The end of Another European Union

west india committeeHonorary Correspondent for the West India Committee Philip Cluff says that the Caribbean owes itself a new kind of federalism

 The nature of this debate rests its laurels on hypothetical scenarios due to the fact that none of the events dominating economic potential in the developing world have actually matched their projections yet. However, an interesting subheading appears on closer inspection of those states expected to rise between now and 2050 to the zenith of world politics and economics.

By now, it is safe to assume that most people are familiar with the term BRICS and the plethora of other acronyms used to describe current emerging countries with a serious economic projection over the next few decades. Rightly, most economists assume that, for the sake of cohesion and trade, it is in the best interests of countries such as Mexico, Brazil, India and Nigeria to band together in some way and exclude other, faltering states from the new economic circle of world order. Europeans, specifically from the north, have little cause for concern although the same economists have been unflinching in their proverbial character assassination of southern Europe. (BRICS being a far more flattering term than PIGS, used to describe the post-2008 Portuguese, Italian, Greek and Spanish economies).

One region has been almost entirely overlooked (which can be perceived as a blessing, seeing as the same region is yet to be condemned). The Caribbean seems, even now, to be depressingly weighed down by the term ‘dependencies’ while, in actual fact, it has as a region nearly as much potential as any of the other previously mentioned states. If this seems laughable now that is because the point has not yet been properly elaborated. Firstly, it’s justifiable, albeit harsh, to denounce individual Caribbean governments for the lackadaisical manner in which they routinely seek interest abroad, with corruption being a depressingly reverberant word in the region’s political vocabulary. So as to spare any one nation being singled out, it’s worth saying that the concept of commonwealth has fallen into a dangerous routine of mindlessly justifying itself through an allegedly shared history.

The current geopolitical climate provides and expects a scenario whereby states lacking in financial and governing clarity align themselves and redirect their intentions towards cultivating one another’s resources. Similar attempts to provide and seal regional cohesion are exemplified by ASEAN, the core members of which have an admirable record of simultaneously modernising each other’s economies throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

In recent memory, the federal model in discussion has shown itself to be riddled with issues in the form of the European Union, but this is more a reflection of the tumultuous post-Cold War European landscape and less so a negative reflection of the union model. Subsequently, when compared to ASEAN’s recent successes (all of ASEAN’s five core members were listed in the IMF’s world’s 40 largest states based on GDP in 2014), it is worth noting that ASEAN’s combined strength can be found in its only having one official language (English). The Caribbean, in spite of dialects, has a practically innate advantage in this sense, especially when one accounts for the proximity of the United States and the sizeable Spanish population, notably in Cuba, potentially aiding in relationships with other South American powers.

 Economically, the Caribbean is one of those rare regions that still has potential for growth and the kind of foreign exploitation that would facilitate opening new foreign relationships with relative ease (especially when one accounts for the current foreign economic strategy employed in China of routinely investing in potential counterparts including the supply of a work force). This may seem like exploitation on the same scale afforded by European counterparts prior to 1914, but there are two key differences. Firstly, it’s unlikely that, while experiencing periods of high economic growth, countries such as Brazil and Argentina would be keen to impose themselves on Caribbean sovereignty in the same way as the British and French have; and secondly, the current powers in question are on the rise. Submitting to the wills of their projection seems like a small price for the kind of independence which has long been overdue in the Caribbean, a region in dire need of finding its own feet and keeping its young, educated people in the region.

Perhaps this entire argument is jumbled (the subject matter hardly allows it to be otherwise), in which case here are a few words of clarification. Many have given up the Caribbean for dead, denouncing it as a limbo of American holiday resorts and a hothouse for crimes ranging from petty drugs to tax evasion. This does not need to be the case anymore (although the system of tax havens could prove to be a stern bargaining tool in future). To rally under the banners of Kingston or Havana – both of which have undoubted potential to serve as world centres of commerce and trade in terms of infrastructure and population – would force the new order of world economics and politics to take the Caribbean seriously as a key component of the emerging transnational governance in the Americas. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) has been advocating the inclusion and solidarity of Caribbean nations since 2012 under Venezuela’s flag; recently Haiti has expressed its own interest in joining this governing body. Venezuela is currently experiencing the catastrophic fallout of the Chavez administration so perhaps it’s not wise for Caribbean nations to ally themselves with a poisoned chalice, but that is not to say that the Venezuelan government had the wrong approach. Now it appears logically that Cuba, having torn down the walls cutting it off from the rest of the world, is prepared to ascribe itself such a task and use the model as a fundamental means of achieving unity with other emerging American states. Internally, it is up to the Caribbean to shake off its label of a perennial subaltern of Europe and advocate its own educational interests at home. Caribbean leaders should be doing more to promote the region’s potential, and it is a miserable thought that 39,000,000 people are being routinely taught to seek better opportunities abroad.

Right now, in 2015, a year in which we have seen Cuba lift herself out of self-imposed quarantine, maybe we need to encourage the momentum to carry on at speed and make sure the Caribbean is not anchored down by the crises taking place hundreds of thousands of miles away in Europe. Maybe it is time for Cuba to assume the mantel at the head of a new-found transnational geopolitical governing body and reignite the debate of emerging economies, which is at risk of become tiresomely repetitive.


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