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ASEAN can learn from the EU's integration successes and setbacks

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U.S. President Barack Obama, center, is flanked by ASEAN leaders at a summit in Rancho Mirage, California, on February 16.   © Reuters

A generation or two ago, university courses in Southeast Asia compared the fledgling cooperation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to Europe's impressive integration. Southeast Asia's aspirational regionalism then was inspired and informed by Europe's methodical climb from a postwar customs union to an expanded "single market" and eventually a full-fledged political and economic entity with collective security and defense policies, relatively borderless populations and a single currency.

This is no longer the case. Brexit, the U.K.'s decision to go it alone after a 43-year membership in the European Union, is merely the latest manifestation of Europe's unappealing mixture of debt and financial destruction, migration and refugee influxes, and sporadic jihadi terror, among other foreboding crises. Yet for ASEAN, as the central platform for regional order-building in Asia, Europe after Brexit is instructive for the future navigation and direction for the 10-member group and for the rest of Asia.

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