Fundamental differences between Asean and EU

Both Associate Professor Farish A. Noor ("Singapore's South-east Asian potential"; July 13) and Mr Chan Cheng Lin ("S'poreans should develop a S-E Asian identity"; July 16) cite the European Union as an exemplar for Asean to emulate vis-a-vis forging a regional identity.

However, they fail to acknowledge some fundamental differences between the two institutions.

Since its inception following the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, the EU has been a predominantly supra-national organisation; Asean is merely an inter-governmental one.

Historically, the EU has also had a significant degree of ethno-cultural cross-border linkages. Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan opined in an Institute of Policy Studies speech that Europe's status as "heir to Christendom and the Roman Empire" made it a "natural region" ("Small? Become extraordinary"; Jan 28).

Asean, however, is a more improbable historical aberration - an artificial construct that arose from the geopolitical realities of the 1960s. This is quite naturally an inherent impediment to the cultivation of an Asean identity.

As Asean's Golden Jubilee nears, we must remain cognisant that it truly is a sui generis organisation.

Darrion Mohan