Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines

EU-ASEAN relations, factsheet

Bruxelles, 25/05/2018 - 17:14, UNIQUE ID: 170803_7

The European Union's relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) date back to 1972, recognising a shared commitment to regional integration as a means of fostering regional stability, building prosperity and addressing global issues. Since then, both sides have increased their dialogue and cooperation, and have pursued closer coordination on regional and international issues. Official "Dialogue Relations" - which is the definition ASEAN gives to its privileged partnerships with 10 partners, including the EU - between the EU and ASEAN were established in 1977; the 40th anniversary of these relations was celebrated in 2017.

ASEAN comprises ten South East Asian countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

On 19 May 2015, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission adopted the Joint Communication: "The EU and ASEAN: a partnership with a strategic purpose". The Joint Communication puts forward concrete ideas for taking EU-ASEAN relations to the next level by providing a more coherent framework for sectoral cooperation and by ensuring a sharper political focus. This strategy was confirmed in the Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council of June 2015.

Trade and Investment

The EU is ASEAN's second largest trading partner. Based on EU statistics, in 2015 ASEAN-EU two-way trade in goods stood at €201 billion, an 11% increase on 2014. In 2015, ASEAN exported almost €118 billion to the EU and the EU €83 billion to ASEAN.

The EU is the biggest provider of Foreign Direct Investment in ASEAN and has built a solid investment stock of over €194 billion in the region, accounting for almost a quarter of total Foreign Direct Investment in ASEAN. The EU has concluded negotiations for Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Singapore and with Vietnam and is negotiating FTAs with several other ASEAN countries (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines). Additionally, the EU is negotiating an investment protection agreement with Myanmar (Burma). These agreements are building blocks towards a future fully-fledged EU-ASEAN region-to-region FTA. In March 2017, the EU and ASEAN agreed in a joint statement to take new steps towards resuming talks for this region-to-region agreement.

Mobility, education and culture

It is estimated that 10 million people travel between our two regions each year. Seven million are EU citizens who travel to ASEAN for tourism, business, study, family visits and otherwise, more than from any other partner of ASEAN. There is also a growing exchange of students and scholars. Each year over 1,300 students and staff from ASEAN universities receive scholarships and almost 600 European students and staff will travel to ASEAN countries under the Erasmus+ programme. Over 25 ASEAN scholars a year benefit from Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowships. In addition, many scholarships are provided directly by EU Member States. 

The EU Support to Higher Education in ASEAN Region project (SHARE) is supporting the creation of an ASEAN Inter-University Network through €10 million in funding over the period 2015-2019. This programme, which began in January 2015, is improving the comparability of university qualifications and makes it easier to transfer credits obtained at one ASEAN university to another, promoting people to people connectivity. SHARE is a joint initiative aimed at sharing Europe's experience from the "Bologna Process" with ASEAN. Cooperation between ASEAN research organisations and EU organisations take place under the EU's new Horizon 2020 programme.

Political cooperation

In recent years there have been an unprecedented number of top-level visits from EU officials to South East Asia. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and other European Commissioners have met with ASEAN interlocutors in the region several times in recent months. The HR/VP travelled to Manila from 6-8 August 2017 to co-chair the EU-ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference, and attend the ASEAN Regional Forum of 27 participating members. The EU-ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference adopted the second EU-ASEAN Plan of Action (2018-2022), which will guide cooperation between the two regions. On the same occasion, the EU and ASEAN also adopted a Joint Statement supporting the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

In November 2017 President Donald Tusk travelled to Manila to attend an ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit of the 40th anniversary of official ASEAN-EU relations and participated for the first time in the East Asia Summit lunch as Guest of the Philippines' Chair. An EU-ASEAN Leaders' Meeting, at the invitation of President Tusk and President Juncker, is scheduled to take place in October 2018. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, has also been active in South East Asia in order to intensify our dialogue on human rights, meeting with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in May 2013 and travelling to Jakarta twice in 2014. In October 2015 the AICHR visited the EU institutions for the second time on a full-week visit during which the first EU-ASEAN Policy Dialogue on Human Rights took place. A second edition of the Dialogue was held in Bohol, the Philippines, in November 2017.

In July 2012, the EU acceded to ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Two months earlier, EU and ASEAN Foreign Ministers adopted a Plan of Action for the period 2013 to 2017 in Brunei. A second Plan of Action will be adopted soon and its implementation will start at the beginning of 2018. The EU and ASEAN work together to enhance crisis response and disaster management, including through EU support to the ASEAN Centre for Humanitarian Assistance.

Security and defence-related cooperation

Besides the non-traditional security aspects, the European Union also has a clear interest and plays a relevant role in maintaining stability in Asia. The EU thus promotes a security architecture that is better able to manage the region's political tensions. In recent years, the EU has stepped up its involvement in security and defence related matters commensurate with its global role and responsibilities. Cooperation on broad security issues is growing element in the EU's relationship with ASEAN. This is illustrated by the participation of the High Representative/Vice-President in the ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial meetings, as well as the Shangri La Dialogue in 2014 and 2015. The Chairman of the EU Military Committee has paid several visits to the respective chairs of ASEAN and has also attended the Shangri La Dialogue and the Asia Pacific Roundtable.

The EU has so far organised three Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) orientation courses for ASEAN countries, informing ASEAN representatives on the EU's civilian and military missions and operations. Furthermore, in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 the EU organised High Level Dialogues on Maritime Security. The High Level Dialogue brings together senior officials and experts to discuss how to forge effective answers to maritime security related challenges. The EU will also be co-chairing – with Australia and Vietnam – the ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-sessional Meeting on Maritime Security until 2020.

The EU has also co-chaired a number of initiatives in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) framework, for instance three training courses on Preventive Diplomacy, Mediation and Early Warning Systems as well as an ARF Workshop on The Prevention of Violent Extremism (February 2017 in Brussels) and another one on Trafficking in Persons (Semarang, Indonesia, April 2017). Other security-related initiatives between the EU and the ARF include Inter-Sessional Meetings on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, the Defence Officials Dialogue, and Disaster Relief Exercises.

Integration and connectivity

As two leading regional integration initiatives, the EU and ASEAN are natural partners, and regularly share their experiences - both successes and challenges – of how to make integration work. Exchanges have been taken to a higher level since the first session of the dialogue on connectivity in Myanmar in September 2014.

In the last 15 years, air traffic between the EU and ASEAN has almost doubled. More than 10 million passengers now travel between the two regions every year: a figure that is expected to grow by 65% over the next 20 years. ASEAN and the EU are currently negotiating a region-to-region Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA). The EU has also been supporting ASEAN's endeavours to establish a single aviation market.

Significant sectoral cooperation

The EU is a major development partner of ASEAN and the biggest donor to the ASEAN Secretariat. In the current budget cycle (2014-2020), the EU is supporting the ASEAN integration and the Secretariat with some €200 million of regional funding, more than double the amount under the previous cycle (€70 million). This comes in addition to our bilateral cooperation with individual countries of ASEAN, which will amount to over €2 billion in the period 2014-2020.

The EU supports the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 with a flagship programme (ARISE+) amounting to €85 million. The programme, which began in 2017, will build on the successful work of the ongoing programmes in the areas of trade facilitation, standards conformance notably in food safety and pharmaceuticals, customs and transport, civil aviation, intellectual property rights, statistics and integration monitoring. The new programme will, alongside regional support, also include tailor-made country-level support. Building on the successful EU-ASEAN Dialogue Initiative facility, the new and substantially increased (€20 million in total) Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument programme (E-READI), supports policy dialogues and experience sharing between the EU and ASEAN and among ASEAN Member Countries across all areas of ASEAN Community pillars.

Building on past EU support in border management, the second phase of the EU-ASEAN Migration and Border Management Programme started in 2015, in cooperation with INTERPOL. Aligned with the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, in particular people to people connectivity, the border management programme (€3.4 million) supports the exchange of information between immigration officials in ASEAN capitals and the easing of visa requirements for ASEAN and non-ASEAN nationals within the region.

€60 million of EU funds over the period 2014-2020 will support initiatives and projects tackling climate change and environmental issues, as well as preventing, managing and responding to disasters. Two new programmes were launched in early 2017: Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (€20 million) and Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN (€10 million). A new €10 million programme on enhancing ASEAN's capacities in disaster management was adopted during summer 2017 ("Enhancing the Capacity of AHA Centre and ASEAN Emergency Response Mechanisms").