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Intergovernmentalism is a term in political science with two meanings. The first refers to a theory of regional integration originally proposed by Stanley Hoffmann; the second treats states and the national government as the primary factors for integration.
Intergovernmentalism treats states, and national governments in particular, as the primary actors in the integration process. Intergovernmentalist approaches claim to be able to explain both periods of radical change in the European Union because of converging governmental preferences and periods of inertia because of diverging national interests. Intergovernmentalism is distinguishable from realism and neorealism because of its recognition of the significance of institutionalisation in international politics and the impact of domestic politics upon governmental preferences.
The best-known example of regional integration is the European Union (EU), an economic and political intergovernmental organisation of 28 member states, all in Europe. The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states. Institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Parliament. The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens. The EU's de facto capital is Brussels.
The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states. Within the Schengen Area (which includes 22 EU and 4 non-EU European states) passport controls have been abolished. EU policies favour the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within its boundaries, enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development.
A monetary union, the eurozone, was established in 1999 and is composed of 17 member states. Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. Permanent diplomatic missions have been established around the world. The EU is represented at the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the G8 and the G-20.
Intergovernmentalism represents a way for limiting the conferral of powers upon supranational institutions, halting the emergence of common policies. in the current institutional system of the EU, the European Council and the Council play the role of the institutions which have the last word about decisions and policies of the EU, institutionalizing a de facto intergovernmental control over the EU as a whole, with the possibility to give more power to a small group of states. This extreme consequence can create the condition of supremacy of someone over someone else violating the principle of a "Union of Equals".
The African Union (AU, or, in its other official languages, UA) is a continental intergovernmental union, similar but less integrated to the EU, consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. The AU was established on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU's secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The objectives of the AU are:
- To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the people of Africa;
- To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States;
- To accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent;
- To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples;
- To encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- To promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
- To promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
- To promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;
- To establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations;
- To promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies;
- To promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples;
- To coordinate and harmonise the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union;
- To advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology;
- To work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.
The African Union is made up of both political and administrative bodies. The highest decision-making organ is the Assembly of the African Union, made up of all the heads of state or government of member states of the AU. The Assembly is chaired by Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, elected at the 20th ordinary meeting of the Assembly in January 2013. The AU also has a representative body, the Pan African Parliament, which consists of 265 members elected by the national parliaments of the AU member states. Its president is Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi.
Other political institutions of the AU include:
- The Executive Council, made up of foreign ministers, which prepares decisions for the Assembly;
- The Permanent Representatives Committee, made up of the ambassadors to Addis Ababa of AU member states; and
- The Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), a civil society consultative body
- Continental Union
- Intergovernmental organization
- Liberal intergovernmentalism
- Union for the Mediterranean
- Union of South American Nations
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Brussels has become the de facto capital of the European Union
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