ASEAN, the EU Work towards a Strategic Partnership

At the 21stASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) held in Bangkok, Thailand on October 14, the two sides highlighted the importance of ASEAN-EU relations and wished to further deepen bilateral cooperation in important fields. The two sides agreed to make efforts to work towards a strategic partnership.

At the meeting, the two sides concentrated on reviewing and making orientations for developing ASEAN-EU relations. ASEAN and EU foreign ministers applauded the progress in bilateral ties gained since the AEMM-20 in Brussels, Belgium, in 2014, particularly the implementation of the Plan of Action in 2013-2017 to realise the Nuremberg Declaration on an EU-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership.

The two sides agreed to strive towards elevating the bilateral relations to a strategic partnership and adopted the Bangkok Declaration on promoting an ASEAN-EU global partnership for common strategic goals, which set out orientations, frameworks and solutions to enhance bilateral cooperation in significant fields.

Regarding policies and security, they agreed to strengthen their collaboration to maintain peace and security in the region and at sea, advocate the observance of international law, and deal with non-traditional security challenges, especially terrorism, cross-border crime, cyber security, maritime security, climate change and natural disasters management.

On the economic front, the two sides agreed to kick-start negotiations on an ASEAN-EU free trade area, enhance connectivity via air and sea routes, and develop small-and medium-sized enterprises.

EU currently is the largest foreign investor in ASEAN. In the photo: The 3rd ASEAN-EU Business Summit in Hanoi. Photo: Huy Hung/VNA

The ASEAN-EU High-Level Dialogue on Maritime Security Cooperation in 2015. Photo: Kim Dung/VNA

The4th ASEAN – EU Conference of Science, Technology and Innovation. Photo: Anh Tuan/VNA

The ASEAN – EU, Science, Technology and Innovation Days 2016 in Vietnam. Photo: Anh Tuan/VNA

A workshop of the common security-defence policy in the ASEAN – EU relations is held in Brussells, Belgium, 2014. Photo: Huong Giang/VNA

Pertaining to culture and society, ASEAN and the EU will increase people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in tourism, education-training, and science-technology.

The EU pledged to work closer with ASEAN in sustainable development and continue supporting ASEAN to build the community, narrow development gaps, especially in the Sub-Mekong region and expressed its wish to participate in some regional mechanisms in which ASEAN takes a leading role.

Ministers also discussed regional and international issues of mutual concerns, including the East Sea issue. They again stressed the need to maintain peace, stability, safety, security, and freedom of aviation and navigation while calling on the involved parties to exercise self-restraint, refrain from the use or threat to use force and address disputes peacefully based on international law, specifically the 1982 UNCLOS.They declared support for ASEAN and China’s efforts to implement effectively the DOC and soon reach the COC.

At the meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung emphasised that it is high time to bring ASEAN-EU dialogue relations to a strategic level and deepen bilateral cooperation in important fields. The two sides should give priority to boosting a partnership in economics-trade, connectivity and response to security challenges, both traditional and non-traditional, in the region.He asked the EU to continue supporting ASEAN to build the ASEAN Community and uphold its central role in the region while implementing the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) on narrowing the development gap among members and developing the Mekong Sub-region (GMS), specifically regarding food and water security.

As regards the East Sea issue, the diplomat expressed his deep concern over the complicated developments and reiterated the common stand of ASEAN in the area. He spoke highly of the EU’s viewpoints and asked the union to continue supporting efforts to maintain peace and stability in the East Sea while advocating the settlement of any dispute via peaceful means on the basis of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), with respect to diplomatic and legal procedures and the exercise of self-restraint without use or threat to use force whilst implementing fully and effectively the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and working toward finalising a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) as soon as possible.

The EU is currently the third largest trade partner and the biggest foreign investor in ASEAN. Bilateral trade reached 228.2 billion USD in 2015, making up 10 percent of the bloc’s total trade. The EU also injected 19.6 billion USD in ASEAN, accounting for 16.3 percent of total foreign investment in the bloc.