The EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been dialogue partners since 1977, with the shared values and principles of a rules-based international order, effective and sustainable multilateralism, as well as free and fair trade.  

Following the 23rd EU-ASEAN Ministerial meeting on 1 December 2020, the EU and ASEAN opened a new chapter in their longstanding relationship by becoming Strategic Partners.

Political Relations

Dialogue between the EU and ASEAN spans more than 40 years. The European Economic Community (EEC) was the first entity to establish informal ties with ASEAN in 1972. The 10th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in 1977 formalised relations, which were institutionalised with the signing of the ASEAN-EEC Cooperation Agreement in March 1980. 

ASEAN-EU relations are guided by the Nuremberg Declaration on an EU-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership, adopted in March 2007. The Declaration sets out the long-term vision and commitment of both sides to work together. With the adoption of the ASEAN Charter in 2008, the EU initiated formal diplomatic relations with ASEAN in March 2009, followed by the EU countries. 

In 2012, the EU became the first regional organisation to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) — an important milestone, boosting the EU's political and security engagement with the region. 

On August 8th, 2015 (ASEAN Day), the EU established a diplomatic Mission to ASEAN and appointed a dedicated Ambassador. On December 1st, 2020, the 23rd EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting elevated the EU-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership to a Strategic Partnership. 

Security and Defence Cooperation

The EU is a founding and active member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which aims to foster constructive dialogue and consultation through confidence-building and preventive diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region with a view to ensuring peace, prosperity and stability in the region and beyond. 

The EU and ASEAN have also been working in many non-traditional security areas, such as maritime security, conflict prevention, mediation and reconciliation, crisis management, transnational crime, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and non-proliferation. 

Economic Relations, Trade and Investment

The EU is actively engaged with ASEAN in expanding trade and investment relations, which have intensified considerably during the last decade. 

The EU is ASEAN's 3rd largest trading partner, accounting for around 10.6% of ASEAN trade. Meanwhile ASEAN, as a whole, is the EU’s 3rd largest trading partner outside Europe with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching €189.47 billion in 2020. Bilateral trade in services amounted to €93.5 billion in 2019. The EU is the biggest investor in ASEAN countries. In 2019, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stocks into ASEAN accounted for €313.6 billion. 

On 2 June 2021, ASEAN and the EU concluded the negotiations on the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA). The AE CATA is the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement and will bolster connectivity and economic development among the 37 Member States of ASEAN and the EU. 

Supporting ASEAN’s Community Building

The EU is a major development cooperation partner of ASEAN and its Member States. In the period 2014-2020, the EU supported the ASEAN Secretariat and ASEAN regional integration with over €250 million, while bilateral EU support to ASEAN Member States amounted to €2 billion. 

Regional development cooperation programmes focus mainly on connectivity through sustainable economic integration and trade; climate change, environment and disaster management; comprehensive EU-ASEAN policy dialogue in joint areas of interest; higher education and student mobility in ASEAN; and the elimination of violence against women and girls and support to the rights and opportunities of women migrant workers. 

The ASEAN-EU Dialogue on Sustainable Development started in 2017 and is an important high-level policy platform for exchanges on sustainable development cooperation. The 2nd ASEAN-EU Dialogue on Sustainable Development: Towards Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Brussels on 10 February 2020, highlighted the need for enhanced cooperation to tackle the global challenges of climate change and environmental degradation. 

COVID-19 Response

To support partner countries in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, the EU has launched the “Team Europe” approach. “Team Europe” combines resources from the EU, its Member States and European financial institutions. “Team Europe” has mobilised over €800 million in grants and loans to support ASEAN. 

Another major international support that the EU is providing is for vaccination. The EU has chosen the multilateral track for doing that, namely through the UN-sponsored COVAX facility. The EU is the single biggest vaccine donor of COVAX, and ASEAN is benefitting from the COVAX facility through about 32.2 million doses of vaccines in 2021. 

At the onset of the pandemic, the EU and ASEAN recognised the need to take a multilateral approach to mitigate the social and economic impact of COVID-19 in both regions. The first virtual EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting held on 20 March 2020 discussed cooperation in keeping supply chains open and advancing scientific research. At the expert level, there have been two rounds of the EU-ASEAN Experts’ Dialogue on COVID-19 Vaccines (in 2020 and in 2021), enabling exchanges among EU and ASEAN policy practitioners. 

EU-ASEAN Milestones


  Informal relations established


Formal relations established


1st Ministerial Meeting, Brussels


ASEAN-EEC Cooperation Agreement signed


Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) established


EU and ASEAN+3 established Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)


EU and ASEAN cooperate in Aceh Monitoring Mission


Nuremberg Declaration on an Enhanced EU-ASEAN Partnership signed


EU and its Member States start to appoint Representatives to ASEAN


EU accession to ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC)


Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action 2013-2017 adopted


1st dedicated EU Ambassador to ASEAN appointed


EU Mission to ASEAN established


ASEAN-EU Plan of Action 2018-2022 adopted


EU and ASEAN become Strategic Partner


EU Mission to ASEAN becomes a fully fledged EU Delegation to ASEAN


ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA) concluded