We must believe in and work toward the further development of Regions. Regions as loose networks of nations, as freemarket areas, as confederations, even as federations and ultimately unions.
Witness the historical and epic achievements and lovely narrative of the Coal and Steel Community evolving into the European Common Market and the European Union, spawning, on the way, the political and economic renaissance of its second line members, Spain and Portugal out of fascism and into prosperity, Greece out of royalist and rightwing oppression, Ireland out of historical marginalisation and deep cultural oppression, not to mention the way Irish Republican prosperity has helped the North into a peaceful settlement.
Look into your history of the last few decades and note how left of Centre French Leaders (Mitterand)have worked together on the European project with right of centre German leaders (Kohl), right of centre French leaders (Chirac), with left of centre Germans (Schroeder).
Look how the German economic renaissance went along with effective denazification, starting with Willy Brandt's Ost politik and Cold Thawing through Schroeder and into final unification.
It looks like, as we were beginning to rise into full EU glory we are already peaking - that Europe has bought the con trick of US strategists to over-hastily enlarge the EU, giving the project political and moral indigestion, but suiting the US neo-cons very nicely, allowing NATO's expansion into some very bad post-Stalinist environments. But these things, that we can so bitterly lament, only strengthen the point that regional projects are vital to our future world.
Stop for a moment here and consider that United States itself is a great triumph of federalism, that the civil war won for that vast network of states, not just slave emancipation, but the uniting of those states in a federation that was actually Lincoln's explicit, main objective; and all America's better historical moments have been achieved in Federal frameworks.
Some of us remember how the very effective Anti-Apartheid Movement in UK and elsewhere, its principal aim having been achieved, wanted not to dissolve, but to turn itself into a big campaign to promote Southern African Regional Unity. This was sadly overridden by the new South African leaders enthusiasm for, and preoccupation with twiddling the levers of national power.
Which brings us to what should be our great concern for the future: starting with the South African Development Community SADC to work forcefully towards a Southern and Eastern African free trade area, with free movement, not only of capital and investors, but ordinary travellers and workers (Mbeki's capital oriented African renaissance is a snare and a delusion).
SA policy analysts are lamenting that even the mild southern cone alliance of India South Africa and Brazil is not being adequately pushed by the South African government.
To make the same point about the need for and power of regions elsewhere let us look at Mercosur in Latin America, which is rising something like a phoenix in renewed purpose from the ashes of IMF depredations in Argentina, renewed consciousness among Bolivians Uruguayans and Mexicans. And let us note here a renascent signs of right of centre governments like Mexico being ready to collaborate in such border projects with putatively left of centre governments like Argentina and of course Brazil.
What we hope will become the great spur and a model for cutting edge regional empowerment is the phenomenon of Chavez and Venezuela and the brush fire of both rhetorical and some extent real unity between the radical countries of Cuba Venezuela, Bolivia and now perhaps Ecuador and Nicaragua revindicated, but going for a milder social democratic project.
It should be obvious enough to thinking people with access to ordinary historical references of modern times to agree that development of Regions is both a possible and exciting opportunity we can take up in the next decades, however hard we have to fight for them.
Please Eric Hobsbawm and others, step confidently back up onto the platform and recognise that you have an important job to adjust your sights, widen your horizons and lead us all in exploring and working for a progressive Regional vision.