Asia and the EU

Sustainable political and social stability in the region will continue to require the advocacy of the EU's values and the spread of more resilient forms of democracy - alongside an improved rules-based multilateral order - aimed at serving the people of the region.

There are multiple challenges for the European Union in the region. These include:

  1. Managing the EU's relationship with an increasingly assertive China, on the basis of the “multifaceted  approach”,
  2. Deepening the EU's relations with its strategic partners India, Japan and the Republic of Korea as well as ASEAN,
  3. Reinforcing the EU’s strategic focus, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific,
  4. Continuing the EU’s partnership and support to the Afghan people, which will be conditioned on a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and minorities. Continuing the EU's "critical engagement" with DPRK,
  5. Addressing the root causes and assisting the appropriate return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar,
  6. Building the EU as an Asia-Pacific security actor and
  7. Starting to create more sustainable connectivity between Europe and Asia – and within Asia - by building transport, digital, energy and people-to-people networks

EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

On 16 September 2021, the Commission and the High Representative adopted a joint communication on the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. The joint communication contains more details on the implementation of the EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, approved by the Council on 19 April 2021.

Current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific have given rise to intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological, political and security areas.

For all these reasons, the EU has decided to reinforce the EU’s strategic focus, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific, to contribute to regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development, at a time of rising challenges and tensions in the region.

The joint communication highlights seven priority areas: sustainable and inclusive prosperity; green transition; ocean governance; digital governance and partnerships; connectivity;  security and defence; and human security.

The EU’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific region will be principled and long-term, promoting inclusive and effective multilateral cooperation grounded in a rules-based international order, shared values and principles, including a commitment to respecting democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

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Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is a unique, informal platform for dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe on the big challenges of a fast-changing world, such as Connectivity, trade and investment, climate change, but also broad security challenges such as counter-terrorism, migration, maritime security and cyber issues. Bringing together 53 partners from across Europe and Asia, ASEM is the main multilateral platform linking Europe and Asia with significant global weight: ASEM partners represent around 65% of global GDP, 60% of global population, 75% of global tourism and 68% of global trade.

ASEM main purpose is to provide a platform to foster political dialogue, strengthen economic cooperation and tackle global challenges together. In many respects, recent developments in the international landscape have increased the value of ASEM as a key building block for an open, cooperative and rules-based international system.

ASEM is conducted as an informal and flexible process on the basis of equal partnership, mutual respect and mutual benefit. ASEM aims to promote the exchange of ideas and best practices and thus act as a breeding ground for new policy ideas. In short, ASEM is the most influential comprehensive partnership between Asia and Europe, boosting Connectivity in all its dimensions between the two regions.

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ASEAN and the EU

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.  

Dialogue between the EU and ASEAN spans more than 40 years. 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.

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. When it comes to trade relations, 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.

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.

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South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC)

SAARC is an economic and political regional organisation of countries in South Asia set up in 1985. It aims to accelerate the process of economic and social development in its member states through increased intra-regional cooperation. The organisation has eight member countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka) and eight observer status countries (China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Burma/Myanmar and the United States of America). SAARC Heads of State are scheduled to meet at annual Summits.

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    18th SAARC Summit, 26-27 Nov 2014