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I am delighted and honoured to represent the European Union at this meeting with ASEAN colleagues and friends. I would like to thank Laos for the hospitality extended to us. HRVP Federica Mogherini regrets not to be able to be here today; she has asked me to convey to all the participants her sincere wishes for a fruitful meeting. She met many of you in Ulanbaatar two weeks ago and looks forward to Co-Chairing the EU-ASEAN Minsterial Meeting in October in Bangkok.
Both the EU and ASEAN are like-minded 'Partners in Integration'. We are both strong believers in rules-based multilateralism. We know about the strategic imperative of regional integration but also that it is hard work of negotiations and creativity to translate political visions into actual progress and results for citizens. We need to capitalise on the special quality of our region-to-region partnership, even though there are of course differences in how EU and ASEAN have evolved historically.
The EU has recently released its Global Strategy for its Foreign and Security Policy. In this wide-ranging vision for the EU as a global actor, a specific section is devoted to regional processes. The document mentions ASEAN in several parts and stresses "We will help build maritime capacity and support an ASEAN-led regional security architecture".
This confirms our long-standing engagement with ASEAN and, in a very concise fashion, reconfirms the main elements of the EU's continued commitment to supporting ASEAN and the regional architecture in South East Asia.
As you know, in the last years, there has been a step change in EU-ASEAN cooperation. We are delighted about this and wish to go even further and take the partnership to the next level. This will involve a joint commitment and responsibility to deliver on the substance.
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of official relations between ASEAN and the EU, we can agree that we have come a long way. We in the EU appreciate the importance of ASEAN; we are fully committed to deepening our engagement and taking our partnership to a more strategic level: an all-encompassing, more substantive and political partnership, fit for the 21st Century.
We all face global challenges to which we need to give responses that will only be effective if they are joint responses. The partnership between EU and ASEAN can and must deliver joint action on pressing global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, migration, natural disasters and so on.
There are many areas where EU-ASEAN cooperation is already delivering good results. The EU is ASEAN's 2nd trading partner and we are the first source of foreign investments in the region.
Connectivity is a buzzword across ASEAN – and for good reasons. It is a big unifying theme and ASEAN has rightly set itself ambitious goals to enable businesses and ordinary people to reap the full benefits of regional integration. This is precisely where the EU has matured substantial experience in abolishing internal borders and other obstacles to the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. We have been busy making continent-wide integration work – from transport to energy to student exchanges and beyond. And, without preaching any model, we are ready to share our experience.
But the EU's engagement with Asia goes well beyond trade, investment and development cooperation. It's political. It's strategic. And it needs to develop more also in the security field.
Cooperation on security issues has been the biggest growth area in recent years, with even greater potential yet untapped. We have been building a strong partnership in areas such as maritime security, preventive diplomacy, disaster relief and crisis response and the fight against transnational crime. Terrorism, foreign fighters and radicalization are high on everybody's mind both in Europa as well as in ASEAN. In each case we should combine exchanging lessons learned on how to forge effective regional responses with EU support for concrete capacity building.
It will also mean forging greater collaboration on key regional and global issues such as, for instance, climate change and migration. We should also do more to tackle top regional issues such as Ukraine, the South China Sea or Syria/Iraq/Da'esh. We need to work together to uphold core security principles and to ensure compliance with international law. The EU is ready and willing to contribute to this endeavour. We are partners of your region. And we believe it is our reciprocal interest to invest even more in our friendship and in the work we can jointly do for the security of our people.
Besides being the largest single market and trade power, the European Union is also a foreign policy community, a security and defence provider. For our own people - within our borders and in the rest of the world. And we are ready to take more responsibility to bring security and stability in our part of the world, together with our neighbours; and with our global partners – ASEAN included.
There is much that the EU and ASEAN have achieved together in recent years. But there is even more work to be done. The EU looks forward to that and to a successful EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting where we chart together the next phase in our partnership.