The 23rd ASEAN-EU Senior Officials' Meeting was held on 2 July 2015 in Brussels. The Meeting was co-chaired by His Excellency Le Hoai Trung, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and Mr Ugo Astuto, Acting Managing Director of the Asia-Pacific Department of the European External Action Service.
The Meeting reviewed the ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership and discussed its future direction, including in the light of the Conclusions of the 20th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, held in Brussels on 23 July 2014 and the Informal ASEAN-EU Leaders’ Meeting held in Milan on 16 October 2014. The Meeting noted with satisfaction the progress achieved in ASEAN-EU relations and the shared willingness to work towards a Strategic Partnership embracing all aspects of mutual interest, including those underpinned by political and security cooperation. In this connection, ASEAN welcomed the interest of the EU in furthering engagement with the region through all ASEAN-led processes. The Meeting discussed and agreed there should be mechanisms to intensify the follow-up work towards an ASEAN-EU strategic partnership and welcomed the offer by Thailand, as incoming country coordinator for relations with the EU, to take this forward with the EU. The Meeting appreciated the EU’s contribution as reflected in the Joint Communication adopted by the European Commission on 18 May 2015, "The EU and ASEAN: a Partnership with a Strategic Purpose" and the Conclusions of the Council of the European Union on EU-ASEAN relations, adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council of 22 June 2015.
Particular emphasis was placed on topics of mutual interest for ASEAN and the EU to work together, such as maritime security, cooperation on trans-national crime and counter-terrorism, connectivity, business, trade and investment, enhanced capacity on mediation and reconciliation, climate change, environment and disaster management. ASEAN and the EU also devoted special attention to the challenge of irregular migration, trafficking in human beings and the need for comprehensive regional responses, including those related to tackling the root causes, and in providing assistance and protection to those in need.
The Meeting shared positive views on increasingly close trade and investment relations between ASEAN and the EU and continued engagement in this respect. They were encouraged by the outcome of the consultations between EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and ASEAN Economic Ministers held in Kuala Lumpur on 26 April 2015.
The Meeting shared positive views on the industry's active role and engagement in ASEAN-EU cooperation as a way to deliver the objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The 4th ASEAN-EU Business Summit on 23 August 2015 in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and the ASEAN-EU Days with B2B meetings in Milan (Italy) on 29-30 September 2015 will provide opportunities to enhance business relations between Europe and ASEAN.
The Meeting had a very constructive discussion about the EU’s support to the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity. Recalling the meeting between the EU and the ACCC held in Nay Pyi Taw on 11 September 2014, the EU reiterated its willingness to engage more closely with ASEAN on connectivity, including by sharing lessons learnt at both national and EU-level deriving from the European integration process.
Reaffirming the commitment by ASEAN and EU Ministers at the 20th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM), the Meeting underlined the prospects of closer cooperation on environment and climate change, at a time when both sides prepare for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) to take place in Paris in December 2015 and the forthcoming approval by the United Nations General Assembly of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
The Meeting had a constructive discussion on the importance of cooperation on Human Rights and looked forward to the upcoming visit by the AICHR to Brussels in October 2015.
The Meeting expressed satisfaction with the success of the recent 2nd ASEAN-EU High-Level Dialogue on Maritime Security held in Kuala Lumpur in May 2015 and welcomed the closer cooperation on security-related issues of common interest.
The Meeting also discussed regional and international issues of common concern including current security challenges, the situation in Ukraine, the Iranian nuclear programme and the situation in the South China Sea. The serious concerns expressed by ASEAN over the recent developments in the South China Sea were recalled. The Meeting agreed on the need to maintain peace and stability in the region and to promote maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and over-flight underlining the need to settle disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). All parties concerned were called on to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The Meeting expressed its support for on-going efforts between ASEAN and China to agree on a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, as a positive contribution to the overall regional stability.
The meeting recalled the ASEAN-EU Joint Statement on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and the need to bring those responsible to justice.
The EU reiterated its support for ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture and expressed its appreciation for ASEAN’s important contribution to promoting dialogue and cooperation for peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
The Meeting discussed the preparation for the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Meeting (PMC) with the EU to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August 2015.
The Meeting thanked Viet Nam for its precious role as country coordinator of ASEAN relations with the EU for the last three years and welcomed Thailand which will take over the same role at the beginning of August 2015.