Delegation of the European Union to Australia

Australia and the EU

17/07/2018 - 13:30
EU relations with Country

Australia has strong political, economic and cultural ties with the European Union, working closely to meet shared global responsibilities such as promoting sustainable development and tackling climate change and the respect of international law.

The European Union and Australia enjoy a strong, dynamic and continuously evolving partnership, the foundations of which were laid in the 1960s. The relationship is currently based on the 2008 European Union - Australia Partnership Framework, a comprehensive statement of shared values and close historical, political, economic and cultural ties. As our relationship evolved, the EU and Australia have moved to upgrade bilateral ties. To this end in 2017 the EU, its Member States and Australia signed the EU Australia Framework Agreement.

This Agreement (currently under provisional application pending the completion of ratification procedures) builds on an existing solid cooperation basis and will enable the further promotion and expansion of relations across a broad range of areas of mutual interest, such as:

  • Foreign policy and security issues at global and regional level;
  • International trade;
  • Development and humanitarian aid;
  • Migration and asylum;
  • Research and innovation;
  • Environment and climate change;
  • Education and culture;
  • Energy and transport.

A number of mechanisms are already in place to foster cooperation, in particular a series of formal bilateral dialogues as well as several sectoral agreements, including:

The European Parliament and Australian Parliament also engage in ongoing and productive cooperation. In 1979, the European Parliament established a Delegation for Relations with Australia and New Zealand (DANZ) which engages in regular inter-parliamentary meetings with Australia's federal Parliament and discusses issues of common interest.

In addition to formal dialogues and agreements, the EU and Australia engaged on a more informal cooperation track through the EU-Australia Leadership Forum.This platform (funded by the EU) enabled European and Australian leaders in politics, business, media and civil society to meet and discuss new ideas for the relationship. Emerging and Senior Leaders Forums took place in Sydney in June 2017 and Brussels in November 2018. The project ended in 2019.

The EU and Australia are likeminded partners on the international stage and work together to find solutions to global challenges, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Strategic cooperation is on-going in areas such as counter-terrorism, migration and asylum, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, prevention and fight against organised crime, development and humanitarian aid, promotion and defence of human rights as well as supporting the rules-based international system.

Regular consultations underpin this cooperation, together with other forms of concrete collaboration. Australia contributed to EUCAP NESTOR, an EU-led maritime capacity building mission in the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean, and the EU Advisory Mission in support of Security Sector Reform in Iraq (EUAM Iraq). A specific bilateral agreement on cooperation in crisis management enables Australia and the EU to agree on such Australian participation in EU-led crisis management missions around the world.   

Despite having only 6% of the world’s population, the EU accounts for 15.4% of world GDP and its imports and exports with non-EU states accounts for 15.5% of global trade. This makes the EU the second-biggest trade player in the world (after China). It is simultaneously the world's biggest investor; the source of 30% of the world's foreign direct investment (FDI), as well as the top investment destination, receiving 34% of world FDI.

The EU’s trade policy safeguards growth and jobs in Europe. The European Commission together with EU countries and business ensures that negotiated trade deals result in market access for EU exporters. Globally, the EU has more than 200 Free Trade Agreements in place, covering a third of global trade.

The EU and Australia share a strong economic relationship. The EU (27) is Australia's second-largest trading partner (after China and Japan), and its second-biggest trading partner in services. It is also the third-largest source of foreign investment in Australia, and the third-most popular destination for Australian FDI abroad.

The EU as a key trade partner for Australia

In 2019, the EU (27) was Australia's third-biggest merchandise trading partner, accounting for AUD 60.9 billion (or 8.7%) of Australia's total goods trade. 15.8% of Australian goods imports, worth AUD 48.7 billion, were from the EU (second after China), while 3.1% of Australia's goods exports, worth AUD 12.2 billion, were destined for the EU; making it Australia’s eighth-biggest customer for goods.

The EU is Australia's second-largest services trading partner (after the USA), with AUD 21.5 billion worth of two-way services traded in 2018 (11.3% of Australia’s total). It was Australia's second-largest services supplier (after the USA), representing 14.7% of Australia's services imports (worth AUD 14.4 billion), and the third-biggest client of Australian services, purchasing 7.6% of Australian service exports (worth AUD 7.1 billion). 

In 2019, the EU became the third-biggest investor in Australia, with total investment worth AUD 684 billion, or 18% of Australia's total.

The EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement Negotiations

In November 2015, Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull together with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, agreed to initiate the process of launching of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. In September 2017, President Juncker proposed starting trade negotiaions with Australia in his State of the Union address to the European Parliament, and in May 2018, the Council of the EU granted the European Commission the negotiating directives to commence trade negotiations with Australia. The negotiations were formally launched by European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo in June 2018 in Canberra, and are on-going (more information on the EU-Australia FTA is available here).

The EU, together with its Member States, is the largest provider of Official Development Assistance, reaching EUR 75.2 billion in 2019 and constituting 55% of the global totalIn May 2015, the European Council reaffirmed its commitment to increase collective ODA to 0.7% of EU Gross National Income (GNI) before 2030.ODA to GNI in 2019 was 0.46%.

The EU's approach to development cooperation is set in the European Consensus on Development, a policy statement by three key EU institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council) and the EU Member States that commits them to eradicating poverty and building a fairer and more stable world. It identifies shared values, goals, principles and commitments which guide the EU and its Member States in their pursuit of sustainable development.

The EU and Australia meet regularly to discuss international development issues, both bilaterally and in the context of numerous multilateral forums; and within the third countries themselves where we work. Both are committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

They are also committed to implementing the Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination in the Pacific and to making aid to the region more effective by reducing uncoordinated efforts and increasing the use of country partner systems and  pooled funding arrangements.  An example of EU-Australia cooperation in the Pacific is the joint co-financing, together with UN Women, of a program to tackle the root causes of gender inequality and violence against women and girls. The EU, Australia and New Zealand have also joined forces in a climate change and biodiversity initiative which aims to assist Pacific countries across various areas, such as climate change resilience, sustainable fisheries and waste management.


The EU has established a comprehensive system of environmental protection and, as one of the key brokers of the Paris agreement (COP21) in December 2015, is a leader in global efforts to tackle climate change. It addresses concerns through broad-based, targeted policies and activities ranging from the world's largest and most comprehensive emissions trading scheme to energy efficiency labelling for appliances. The EU continues to set stringent environmental standards and ambitious climate action goals, having achieved its binding greenhouse gases emissions reduction and renewable energy targets for 2020New 2030 targets have been agreed by EU legislators and are underpinned by robust measures: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels; to ensure at least 32% of final energy consumption comes from renewable sources; and to improve energy efficiency by 32.5%. The new European Green Deal proposes further measures and even more stringent climate, circular economy, biodiversity and other goals. The proposals would see the EU become carbon neutral by 2050.

The EU and Australia cooperate across a wide variety of international environmental agreements and hold high level dialogues dedicated to environmental issues. The EU and Australia continue to work together on global issues such as combating illegal logging and and addressing the scourge of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing.

The EU and Australia recognise the importance of research, science and innovation to succeed in creating the jobs and investment that underpin inclusive, smart and sustainable growth. In 1994, the EU and Australia signed the first Scientific and Technical Agreement between the EU and a non-EU country. Strong cooperation is ongoing with around 30 000 publications involving EU and Australian authors published annually.


Significant EU investment is provided through the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. From 2014-2020 around EUR 77 (AUD 115) billion will go to research, innovation, support to bring new ideas to market and connecting scientists worldwide through research mobility programs.

Australian universities, companies and researchers are actively involved in Horizon 2020 through a wide range of projects.The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, for example, provides grants to researchers at any stage of their carreer and encourage transnational, inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary mobility. Since 2007, more than 590 Australians researchers have taken part. More information through the Horizon 2020 Participants Portal.

The EU is currently looking at the design and content of the research programme that will succeed Horizon 2020, covering the period 2021-2027. More information is available here.

Promoting EU-Australia scientific collaboration

The European Research Council, set up by the EU in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It is part of the Horizon 2020 programme. The ERC offers long-term grants in Europe to scientists of any nationality and in any field. To date, the ERC has funded around 9,000 top researchers at various stages of their careers. More than 48 Australian researchers based in Europe have been awarded ERC grants, of which 41 are early- to mid-career researchers. From 2019, Synergy grants will allow Australian researchers, who are part of an EU-based team, to conduct research in Australia (without having to relocate to Europe). More information is available here.

More of Australia's top talent will join high-calibre research teams in Europe thanks to recent joint agreements between the ERC and Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC).

NHMRC-funded health and medical researchers in Australia can join high-calibre research teams in Europe through the Implementing Arrangement. It can be a single and long-term research visit of up to 12 months or multiple short-term visits for joint experiments. Applications are open here. 

From October 2019, a similar Implmenting Agreement has been in place for the ARC. More information is available here.




The EU and Australia have a vibrant, longstanding relationship in the field of education that is further strengthened by the EU-Australia Framework Agreement.  

Erasmus+ is the EU's programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014-2020, replacing the previous programme Erasmus Mundus. Erasmus+ funds various projects for institutions and scholarships for individuals worldwide including Australia. A new iteration of Erasmus+ is currently under discussion. Please refer to our booklet Study in Europe  for more information on opportunities for Australians to study in the EU Member States.

Student & staff mobility

Short-term mobility for students, researchers and staff allows students to study in a foreign university and obtain credits recognised at their home institution as part of their degree. A grant is also possible for staff and students of Australian universities which have signed a bilateral agreement with a European university as part of an Erasmus+ mobility project. Each year new projects are selected for EU funding.

Each year new projects are selected. EU funding is available for projects with Australia as part of the wider Asia-Pacific region. Australia is a popular partner for European universities, representing 25% of mobility within the region. New projects have been selected in 2019 involving Australian institutions entailing 189 Australian students and academics coming to Europe and 180 European students and academics coming to Australia.

Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (EMJD) award full-degree scholarships to Master students from around the world covering tuition, travel and a living allowance. These are joint programmes offered by a consortium of universities. Students study in at least two different European countries during their 1-2 year programme. Upon graduation, they are awarded a joint, double or multiple degree. Australian higher education institutions can take part. Nearly 100 scholarships have been awarded to Australian Students since 2014.   

Jean Monnet activities aim to develop EU studies worldwide. For more than 25 years they have been promoting excellence in teaching and research on the European integration process at higher education level. Over the past 20 years, 43 projects have been awarded to Australian Universities though the Jean Monnet Grants Scheme for networks, Chairs, Centres of Excellence, study modules and projects. 

People-to-people links between Europe and Australia are deep and longstanding. Nearly 70% of Australians have European ancestry forming an integral part of Australia's rich multicultural landscape. Data from 2018 indicates that 29% of Australians were born overseas, with EU countries among the top ten birth places.

Many EU citizens live, work and study in Australia and vice versa: at the end of 2018 there were more than 33 000 Australians with valid residence permits (for at least 3 months) issued by EU Member States. Recipricol tourist flows are normally quite considerable.

The EU-Australia Leadership Forum (EUALF), which ran from 2016-2019, was a 1.5 track EU funded program that brought together leaders from government, media, academia and the social sector to discuss the EU-Australia relationship and present opportunities for closer collaboration.


PDF icon The_eu_and_australia_shared_opportunities.pdf

PDF icon The EU and Australia towards a new era.pdf

PDF icon Impacts and outcomes of the Leadership Forum.pdf

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