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Just over 40 years after establishing official diplomatic relations, 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 and cyberspace norms to trade and education. Such improved cooperation could help both regions to cope with changing geopolitical trends. But there are still questions on the future shape and content of the relationship and ways of making it more beneficial to both parties.
Held as part of the EU-ASEAN Strategic Thinkers and Young Leaders Forums, the conference ‘EU-ASEAN relations: the next forty years’ on 27 February gave both sets of participants an opportunity to attend and take part in discussions, and focussed on how to enhance relations between these two 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. Both, however, emerged in reaction to conflicts and are largely peace projects, with the EU’s formation following the Second World War and ASEAN being established during the Cold War. The end of the Cold War was the cue for expansion in both cases – the EU enlarged to the east, while ASEAN grew from 6 to 10 members, including communist Vietnam.