One could lose ones sense of geography! Since the end of the first coronavirus pandemic wave in 2020, many international relations analysts have commented on the developments that have emerged in the area of regional cooperation.
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After 20 years of observations, let's take stock!
For decades, and mainly since the end of the 2nd World War (the experience of the League of Nations has been a bitter failure), new platforms have appeared in international relations: regional cooperation organizations. The best known of all, the European Union, having spearheaded it.
The basic principle was: a set of states from the same region, having in common economic, political, social and cultural systemic elements decided to cooperate through free trade agreements, free movement ...
This system has existed all over the world: EU, AU, ASEAN, APEC, MERCOSUR, NAFTA and the PIF as far as we are concerned in the Pacific.
Unfortunately, or fortunately if you are a populist, these regional cooperation tools suffered very badly during the pandemic of 2020. The States, certain of being able to better manage the crisis by themselves, closed the borders, stopped the exchanges for cooperation and… for many of them have quite failed in their management of the crisis! The most striking example of this is the United States and Great Britain, but many other states could be cited as an example.
In any event, therefore, regional cooperation found itself beak in the water, emptied of its meaning and its structure despite, as far as the EU is concerned, the desperate calls of the European Commission calling for unity and cooperation.
And it was from the Pacific that salvation for regional cooperation came. Indeed, the concept of a “tourism bubble” between New Zealand and Australia has emerged in our region. Originally intended to facilitate the movement of people, this idea, in itself very simple, has spread like wildfire in international discussions.
The members of the Pacific Islands Forum (FIP) have used their influence to try to be integrated into this "health free zone" so that they too can revive their tourism.
Then, at the beginning of 2021, the idea spread: between the two sides of the Mediterranean (North and South), between the Scandinavian States, in Southeast Asia… Here again initially focused on the management of tourist flows, this idea has gained ground.
And, in 2023, once the pandemic had finally passed as well as the economic crisis, the first bubbles of political and economic cooperation appeared. Or when regional cooperation, formerly vertical and based on coherent geographic groups, became a flexible, malleable concept where the States met according to their interests, their value (often, in particular within the framework of the various populist waves) even if they were geographically or even culturally distant.
The Pacific, with some divisions due to the history of colonization, found its opportunity there: to create bubbles with former partners (such as France for Polynesia or Kanakie) and other bubbles with the neighbors of the Pacific . Sectoral cooperation agreements came to structure these bubbles and streamline traffic.
Some, like the initial tourist bubbles or the Japanese-Indian technological bubble, had only a short-lived existence (for reasons of opportunities or political divisions), others have been perpetuated over time.
Ultimately, in the same way that human communities have gained in flexibility and polymorphism with the explosion of social networks (making it possible to belong to communities linked by common points across borders), regional cooperation has known the same metamorphic evolution to re-invent in a world calling for constant flexibility