A shared strategic vision

Friday, 2020-12-04 18:02:52
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NDO – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) have officially upgraded their relations from “dialogue” to “strategic partnership”. This strategic decision reflects a shared vision of the two most successful regional organisations nowadays, building a cohesive and comprehensive partnership, as well as sharing in common values and benefits.

The decision to formally establish a strategic partnership between ASEAN and EU was adopted at the 23rd ASEAN - EU Ministerial Meeting, held via video conference on December 1.

The meeting’s joint statement emphasised that this historic step affirms the fundamental values, interests and comprehensive nature of the dialogue partnership between ASEAN and the EU over the past 40 years. At the same time, it demonstrates a shared strategic vision of multilateral cooperation, promoting peace and an open and rules-based international order.

Relations between ASEAN and the EU began at the 10th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in July 1977, when ASEAN agreed to establish formal relations with the European Economic Community (EEC).

The signing of the ASEAN-EEC Cooperation Agreement in March 1980 institutionalised bilateral ties, making the EU a dialogue partner of ASEAN. Since then, the ASEAN-EU relationship has grown rapidly, covering many fields, such as politics - security, economics - trade, culture - society and development cooperation.

The elevation of the ASEAN and EU ties to a strategic partnership after 43 years of cooperation shows the importance and appreciation of each other’s roles in the international arena, meeting the goals and concerns of both sides. ASEAN considers the EU to be its most important partner, especially in the fields of economics, trade and development cooperation.

The EU is currently ASEAN’s second largest trading partner and third largest source of foreign investment. The EU also considers ASEAN an important partner in Asia, recognising ASEAN’s bridging role and supporting ASEAN’s solidarity and centrality in the evolving regional architecture. ASEAN occupies a prominent position in the EU's orientation to diversify its partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region.

The establishment of the ASEAN-EU Strategic Partnership reflects the common strategic vision of the two regional organisations through strengthening cooperation and cohesion in partnership for peace and development.

Promoting its relations with ASEAN, the EU affirmed its support for ASEAN in playing a central role in shaping an open, transparent, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region with mechanisms and processes led by ASEAN, contributing to the maintenance of peace, security, stability and rule of law.

With the strategic partnership, ASEAN is encouraging the EU to cooperate in advancing the goals of the Association as noted in the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOPI), on the basis of trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit, through mechanisms chaired by ASEAN.

The regional and international situation is changing rapidly with increasing geopolitical instability. Multilateralism is being shaken by unilateral steps and an increasing trend of protectionism and fierce competition among major countries.

According to EU officials, the ASEAN-EU Strategic Partnership will help the two sides build stronger links, both in order to protect their common values and interests, and expressing common views as opposed to a world order not based on international law, but depending on the strength of the great powers.

With the new level relationship, both ASEAN and the EU have the opportunity to participate more in efforts to shape international structures, promote cooperation on trade, security - defence and sustainable development. This is also a foundation for ASEAN and the EU to promote a more effective, comprehensive and substantial partnership.

With a population of about one billion people and accounting for nearly a quarter of the world’s total economic value, ASEAN and the EU have increasingly affirmed their position as regional organisations operating efficiently and dynamically. Further strengthening the close partnership creates favourable conditions for the two sides to continue to promote their position and share a common vision on promoting multilateralism, a rules-based regional and international order, as well as working together to address global challenges and promote sustainable development goals.