Regional actorness and interregional relations: ASEAN, the EU and Mercosur

Frank Mattheis*, Uwe Wunderlich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The European Union (EU) has a long tradition of interregional dialogue mechanisms with other regional organisations and is using these relations to project its own model of institutionalised actorness. This is partly motivated by the emerging actorness of the EU itself, which benefits from fostering capable regional counterparts in other parts of the world. This article advances the argument that actorness, which we conceptualise in terms of institutions, recognition and identity, is a relational concept, dependent on context and perception. Taking the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and their relations with the EU as case
studies, this article demonstrates that the actorness capabilities of all three organisations have been enhanced as result of ASEAN-EU and Mercosur-EU relations. However, there are clear limits to the development of the three components of regional actorness and to the interregional relations themselves. These limits stem both from the type of interregionalism at play and from the different regional models the actors incorporate. While there is evidence of institutional enhancement in ASEAN and Mercosur, these formal changes have been grafted on top of firmly entrenched normative underpinnings.
Within the regional organisations, interactions with the EU generate centrifugal forces concerning the model to pursue, thus limiting their institutional cohesion and capacity. In addition, group-to-group relations have reinforced ASEAN and Mercosur identities in contrast to the EU. The formation of such differences has narrowed the scope of EU interregionalism despite the initial success of improved regional actorness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-738
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of European Integration
Issue number6
Early online date2 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of European Integration on 02/06/2017, available online:


  • actorness
  • European Union
  • regional organisations
  • interregionalism
  • Mercosur


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