Monday, April 30. 2012MANILA — The European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have endorsed an ambitious EU-ASEAN Plan of Action for 2013-2017, aimed at enhancing cooperation in the political and security field, realizing the full potential of the trade and investment relationship and developing a wide-ranging sectoral cooperation.
Among others, a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the Philippines is expected to be ratified within the year.
The EU has a significant record on which to build upon, including its active commitment to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), its role in the peace process in Aceh, and its involvement in the peace process of Mindanao and Southern Thailand.
This was undertaken at the close of the EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Brunei, attended respectively by Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Foreign Ministers of the 10 ASEAN Member States and the Secretary General of ASEAN.
The EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting took place on April 26 and 27. This year's meeting coincided with the 35th anniversary of the official relations between the EU and ASEAN.
The High Representative, accompanied by the Foreign Ministers of EU Member States, discussed with their ASEAN counterparts possibilities to enhance political dialogue and cooperation between the two regions.
Ashton, who is also the Vice President of the EU Commission, also met bilaterally with several ASEAN ministers in the margins of the Ministerial.
With Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, EU launched the negotiation of a PCA.
Ashton is presently in Myanmar, where she is expected to convey a strong message of EU support to ongoing change in the country. Progress in Myanmar will ultimately help EU interaction with ASEAN as a whole.
The High Representative will also visit Thailand and meet with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on May 1.
The 10 ASEAN Member-States are Brunei Darussalam, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
As a whole, ASEAN represents the EU’s 5th largest trading partner, with Euros 206 billion of trade in goods and services.
The EU is ASEAN’s third largest trading partner after China and Japan, accounting for 11 percent of ASEAN trade. The EU is by far the largest investor in ASEAN countries, with EU companies accounting for an average of 20.6 percent of FDI in the past three years.
The EU has been a strong supporter of ASEAN integration. It has notably established several programs to underpin the ASEAN integration process.
In 2007, the EU and ASEAN adopted a Plan of Action to implement the Nuremberg Declaration for an EU-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership (2007-2012).
ASEAN has in recent years made significant progress in its integration process, including the objective of establishing a single economic market by 2015.
By taking the initiative of forming new regional fora, such as the East Asia Summit and most recently the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+), ASEAN has confirmed its central role in the new East-Asian regional architecture.
The EU is looking forward to its accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), which will further enhance its links with the region.
The High Representative said ahead of the meeting: “The EU has a strong stake in the success of ASEAN, a dynamic region of 600 million people situated across the world’s major trading routes. We welcome the considerable progress made by ASEAN towards its integration goals, which promote peace and prosperity and will create large commercial opportunities.
"The EU and ASEAN are natural partners. The EU wants to be an active and constructive player in the new Asian regional architecture. The time has now come for our two regions to take their political cooperation one step further. I look forward to discussing with Foreign Ministers of ASEAN countries how to boost our cooperation, including in areas such as maritime security, crisis management, human rights and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." (PNA)