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The dialogue between the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (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
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 8 August 2015 (ASEAN Day), the EU established a diplomatic Mission to ASEAN and appointed a dedicated Ambassador. In addition, there are currently 25 Ambassadors from EU countries accredited to ASEAN.
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, cyber security and non-proliferation.
Many important steps have been taken to enhance EU-ASEAN cooperation in the area of security and defence policy, for example:
While participating in many ongoing security and defence cooperation activities, the EU is also looking for ways to increase its engagement with all ASEAN-led mechanisms and processes in this field. These and many other developments are invaluable stepping stones towards upgrading the partnership between the EU and ASEAN.
The EU is actively engaged with ASEAN in expanding trade and investment relations, which have intensified considerably during the last decade.
The EU has become ASEAN's second largest trade partner (after China). Meanwhile ASEAN, as a whole, is the EU’s third largest trade partner outside Europe (after the US and China) with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching €246.6 billion in 2014.
The EU is the biggest investor in ASEAN economies:
ASEAN is a growing market:
ASEAN's export potential is growing:
In order to establish ties that would benefit the 1.1 billion people of both regions combined, economic cooperation is furthered through:
Negotiations for an ambitious region-to-region Free Trade Agreement (FTA) were launched in 2007, but paused in 2009 due to limited progress. While a region-to-region agreement still remains the ultimate objective, the EU will, in the meantime, pursue FTAs with individual ASEAN countries:
The European Commission is also about to obtain a mandate from EU countries to negotiate an ambitious agreement on air transport with ASEAN.
The EU is a major development partner for ASEAN, actively supporting the ASEAN Member States and institutions in their efforts to deepen regional integration. The EU has been providing technical assistance, capacity building, lessons learnt and best practices in creating an internal market. This has also implied lending EU support to ASEAN institutions that are instrumental in supporting ASEAN’s regional integration objectives, such as: ASEAN stats, the ASEAN Secretariat Monitoring Office, the ASEAN Centre for Energy, the ASEAN Biodiversity Centre, and a Centre of Excellence (CoE) on CBRN.
To strengthen the ASEAN-EU partnership, the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action was adopted in 2012. The Plan of Action — covering 2013-2017 — goes beyond the traditional economic focus. It also promotes strategic regional cooperation in order to maintain peace, security and stability and political dialogue in non-traditional security areas.
The 20th EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Brussels in July 2014 explored ways to elevate relations to the level of a strategic partnership, marking the start of a renewed engagement between the two partners.
For 2014-2020, the EU has significantly increased its development cooperation funds. More than €170 million has been earmarked to fund the ongoing and post-2015 ASEAN regional integration agenda — more than doubling the amount for 2007-2013. In addition, the EU has pledged over €3 billion to reduce poverty and address development gaps in low-income ASEAN countries.
Ongoing cooperation programmes cover a multitude of activities:
The EU also supports the ASEAN bodies in developing their human rights policies (READI Human Rights Facility).The cooperation agenda for 2014-2020 was agreed at the 21st EU-ASEAN JCC Meeting and focuses on three sectors:
1. Connectivity: sustainable and inclusive economic integration (€85 million/50 % of the funding)
2. Climate change, environment and disaster management (€60 million/37.5 %)
3. Comprehensive Dialogue Facility (€25 million/12.5 %): Improving the Comprehensive Policy Dialogue Facility — E-READI — will help ASEAN increase regional integration and reduce poverty.
Climate change, environment, disaster management, education and youth, development goals, health and communicable diseases, food safety, culture and media, and tourism in the Socio-Cultural pillar.