The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union are looking for concrete ways to expand their cooperation in areas ranging from security to cyberspace norms, panellists told a Friends of Europe debate on 27 February.
Held as part of the EU-ASEAN Strategic Thinkers Forum, the conference 'EU-ASEAN relations: the next forty years' focussed on how to enhance relations between two regional groupings that share many common values – such as a belief in a rules-based international order – but are very different in structure: The EU is based on law, while ASEAN is an intergovernmental organisation.
An ASEAN-EU Plan of Action for 2018 to 2022 takes the relationship further, going into areas such as counter-terrorism, innovation, transport, trade facilitation, gender equality, environmental protection and sustainable development. “It is more ambitious in a much more challenging environment,” said Le Luong Minh, who was Secretary General of ASEAN from 2013 to 2017. “We are convinced of the importance of collective resilience through local integration and consensus on developments.” He said the relationship was particularly important given the current big-power rivalries in the world.
The relationship should avoid too much focus on institutional concerns, such as the EU’s place at the East Asia Summit, said Reinhard Bütikofer, Member of European Parliament and rapporteur on EU-ASEAN relations. “The core content of this relationship is whether we can be useful for each other,” he said. “One issue that we should invest in from both sides is connectivity. Connectivity is connecting people – not just investment or roads or economic factors: connecting people and connecting ideas. In that sense all our ideas and ambitions come into play.”
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