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Thanks you very much Mr Co-chair [H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand].
Today we indeed celebrate forty years of our friendship, but at the same time, we look at the future as we recognise that our friendship today is more important than ever.
Forty years ago, the idea of two regional organisations coming together was incredibly ahead of time. The world, back then in 1977, was still split in two, and both our regions were split. The idea of regional integration, and peace inside our regions, was very brave and visionary at that time. And the idea of cooperation between regions was probably, in a divided world, even more brave and visionary; it was indeed truly pioneering.
Today we live in a different world ; we know that this was the right and wise thing to do. Our world is not divided anymore or at least not along those lines. Our world is in fact smaller and more connected than ever before, but divisions and contradictions happen to take place within our societies more and more and this is why it is so important not to leave anyone behind in our work.
This means that threats have gone global – sometimes disparities and inequalities have gone global, but also that opportunities have gone global. And as a matter of fact, we live in a multipolar world, where power is diffused and the centres of power have multiplied.
And the old global order has disappeared, but a new global order has never really emerged. The only way to govern this multipolar – more chaotic but also more interesting maybe – world, is through a multilateral global governance. And we have always believed that regional organisations like ASEAN can be a crucial pillar in building this multilateral global governance, in the framework of the United Nations' system. A network of regional organisations can contribute immensely to global peace and sustainable development.
So forty years ago, our regional integration processes were at the very, very early stage. Today, ASEAN is also an Economic Community. And we, the European Union, have grown from being a free trade area and the largest common market into a global player in all different fields of our action – from security to diplomacy, from humanitarian aid to sustainable development.
Forty years ago, cooperation between the European Union and ASEAN was a pioneering intuition of our leadership. Today, every day, we see that our interests are the same, as well as many of the challenges we face in our daily life. So our cooperation is not only a well-established reality: it is a necessity, and the most logical thing to do for our people. We both need our commitment and our engagement. We need it to be close and constant but it is not only for us and for our people; we believe it is also for the rest of the world that needs, through global multilateral system of governance - especially now in times of unpredictability-, us to stand together as strong, reliable, cooperative players in the region and in the world.
This is how we, Europeans, see our work with you, with ASEAN. This is about our common security and our common growth. But this is also about the present and the future of the entire world.
It is more than a forty-year story – it is for the next forty years and beyond. It is a must in the present, which is a difficult one, and it is an investment in a better future for all of us.
Thank you and I would be pleased to receive the printed versions in brail of our documents and share with you the Blue Book on our cooperation in these years, with examples of the projects that we are running together for the benefit of our people.