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On 25th March the European Union will mark 60 years since the signature of the Rome Treaties, the first step towards a united Europe. Since the birth of the European Communities in 1957, the citizens of our Member States have enjoyed six decades of unprecedented peace, prosperity and security.
The contrast to the first half of the 20th Century could not be greater. Two catastrophic wars in Europe between 1914 and 1945 left millions dead, and a continent devastated, divided and prostrate. For countries that had long been at war, European integration has been the most successful peace project in our history.
However, we are living in unpredictable times and the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties is the opportunity not only to reaffirm our commitment to the values and objectives on which the European project is founded but also to take pragmatic and ambitious steps forward.
The anniversary of the 60th anniversary of the European Union is also an occasion for us mark our relations with countries in the world including Vietnam. Our bilateral relation has flourished strongly over the last two decades. The European Union has strong stakes in the success of Vietnam’s reforms. It is committed to forging an upgraded, broader and more diversified relationship with Vietnam, a partner willing to take on increasing responsibilities on the world scene, a central actor of ASEAN, and a particularly dynamic economy.
The entry into force last year of the EU-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will broaden further the scope of EU-Vietnam cooperation in areas such as trade, the environment, energy, science and technology, good governance, as well as tourism, culture, migration, counter terrorism and the fight against corruption and organised crime.
The EU is the second largest trading partner of Vietnam and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, expected to be signed soon, will serve as a potential momentum to further accelerate trade and investment ties in the coming years.
The high number of Vietnamese students studying in Europe reflects the strong people-to-people exchanges in the bilateral ties between the European Union and Vietnam. Currently, out of a total number of 62,843 Vietnamese students following courses abroad, Europe is the second biggest net receiver of Vietnamese students with more than 1/3 - or over 15.000 - studying in Europe.
The world is going through a time of great uncertainty: the global balance of power is shifting and the foundations of a rules-based international order are too often being questioned. The European Union will be an increasingly vital power to preserve and strengthen the global order.
The EU is now the second global economy. We are the largest global market and the leading foreign investor in most parts of the globe. The EU has achieved a strong position by acting together with one voice on the global stage, as well as concluding bilateral trade deals with many important partners around the world.
We invest more in development cooperation and humanitarian aid than the rest of the world combined. EU development aid goes to around 150 countries in the world and increasingly focuses on the poorest places in the world. In the period 2014-2020, about 75% of EU support will go to countries which are often hard hit by natural disasters or conflict, something that makes their citizens particularly vulnerable. Humanitarian crises continue to take a heavy toll internationally, and in 2016 the EU allocated relief assistance of over €1.5 billion for food, shelter, protection and healthcare to 120 million people in over 80 countries. The EU has been, since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to care for the millions of men, women and children displaced by the conflict.
We stand for better global rules, rules that protect people against abuse, rules that expand rights and raise standards. It is thanks to our engagement – the Union together with its Member States – that the global community has set up innovative agreements like the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. In a world of re-emerging power politics, the European Union will have an even more significant role to play.
A more fragile international environment calls for greater engagement, not for retrenchment. This is why the EU will continue to support and help the United Nations: our cooperation with the UN covers peace missions, diplomatic efforts, human rights, tackling hunger and fighting criminality.
Whatever events may bring in the future, one thing is certain: the EU will continue to put promoting international peace and security, development cooperation, human rights and responding to humanitarian crises at the heart of its foreign and security policies.
Ambassador – Head of EU Delegation to Vietnam Bruno Angelet