Scope and Level of Integration: Explaining a Mismatch

  • Olivier Dabène
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)


One of the most visible contradictions of Latin American experiences with integration is the very modest level of integration achieved through the years, as compared to the inflated agenda of topics discussed by the presidents during their summits, or the great variety of norms adopted by the numerous organs. Level of integration most commonly refers to the institutions’ decisional authority, their enforcement capacities, and their ability to represent the regional common interest beyond and over private national ones. The threshold of supranationality is often considered a milestone in the evolution oward deeper integration. Although there is room for discussion on the importance of supranationality, without a doubt the balance between scope and level of integration deserves closer examination. Whatever we may think of neo-functionalism, Philippe Schmitter was right to point out the importance of this balance, considering that “whether member states will expand or contract the type of issues to be resolved jointly (scope), or whether they will increase or decrease the authority for regional institutions to allocate values (level), are the two basic dimensions for the dependent variable.” He correctly added that they were “by no means always covariant.”1 In another seminal piece on Central America, he described a dynamic of spill-around that Latin America still seems to perfectly embody.


Integration Process Regional Integration Free Trade Agreement Variable Geometry Issue Area 
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    Philippe Schmitter, “Central American Integration: Spill-over, Spill-around or Encapsulation?” Journal of Common Market Studies 9(1), September 1970, p. 39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Olivier Dabène 2009

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  • Olivier Dabène

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