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Why EU and Asia connectivity?
Europe and Asia have a centuries-old common history. Today the contacts between the two continents are reaching an unprecedented level – together Europe and Asia account for almost 70 percent of global population and over 60 percent of the world's GDP. Over one third of exports from the European Union reach the Asian markets. Every year, thousands of students, academics, researchers and tourists move between the EU and Asia. The cultural exchanges between our cities and our countries are vibrant.
For both Europe and Asia, growing global interdependence is a golden opportunity for increased peaceful political cooperation, fair and stronger economic relations, comprehensive societal dialogue and collaboration on international and regional security. Together we can be the drivers of a more cooperative approach to world politics, global stability and regional economic prosperity, where multilateral organizations are the natural forum for reaching common solutions.
This relationship needs to rely on effective, functioning and sustainable connectivity so that goods, services, ideas and people can flow unhindered. To move up a gear in that cooperation and to unlock opportunities within the global economy, the EU has recently launched the EU strategy on connectivity between Europe and Asia.
#What is the vision of the strategy and what does it want to achieve?
With an aim to engage with the Asian partners on the basis of mutual interests and common objectives, the EU plans to enhance the connectivity with Asia in three principal ways:
First, it will to work on efficient human networks, as well as on cross-border connections for transport, energy and the digital. In order to enable for instance the growth of air transport to the benefit of the citizens and businesses, the EU and ASEAN are already negotiating a comprehensive aviation agreement, which will also allow addressing the environmental and climate impact of aviation.
Second, the EU will pursue a sustainable digital agenda with Asia in a move to foster universal and affordable access to digital technologies and services. The EU will share, among other things, its experience in creating regional, liberalized energy markets with a focus on market-driven transformation towards clean energy.
Third, it will leverage sustainable financing for investments. We will make full use of new tools for external investment available under the new EU budget, but also deepen our cooperation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Last but not least, we will base our engagement on shared principles: sustainability, a comprehensive approach and a rules-based approach.
#What is the EU doing to connect Europe and ASEAN?
The Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) has already an established role as an important platform for collaboration between the European and Asian partners. The EU is renewing its commitment to multilateralism by taking forward cooperation with the ASEM, but also the ASEAN as the central player in connectivity in Southeast Asia. In support of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, the EU has already committed €85 million, aiming at the consolidation of the ASEAN Community, including by fostering a single market, trade facilitation and reducing non-tariff barriers to trade.
# How is this relevant to Laos? What are the opportunities?
In Laos, the EU has launched several connectivity initiatives, one of which being the Vientiane Sustainable Urban Transport project which is to improve public transportation system in Vientiane Capital paving the way for affordable, sustainable, accessible low carbon transport in the capital.
Another glaring example is the Erasmus programme. The European Union sees connectivity and mobility amongst students, academics and researchers as a key engine to mutual understanding and economic growth. Since 2014 Erasmus programme has financed the mobility of over 400 Lao students and researchers to Europe.
In a bid to promote people-to-people connectivity between Lao people and Europeans, the EU will further strengthen student and academic exchanges through the Erasmus programme, the Marie Skłodowska Curie actions, the mutual recognition of diplomas, and regional exchange of researchers and innovators.
We also want to encourage city-to-city cooperation, including interaction between the EU Capitals of Culture and our counterparts in Laos, as well as to increase the mobility of artists and cooperation in sports.
Under this newly launched strategy, the EU in Laos along with the member states will strive to assist Laos to better connect to its neighbours, the region and Europe through human and digital networks and transport links. Laos, a transit country in Asia, is the heartbeat to oxygenate the Euro-Asian connectivity. Let’s boost the pulse!