Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines

Intervention by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the meeting with ASEAN CPRs

Jakarta, 03/06/2021 - 23:00, UNIQUE ID: 210604_2
HR/VP speeches

Intervention by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the meeting with ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives (Jakarta, 3 June 2021)

Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen,

Thank you for this warm welcome. 

EU Member States Ambassadors have a similar committee in Brussels to yours – the so-called COREPER.

I know from experience how crucial their role is in decision-making.

So I am pleased to address you, their fellow Ambassadors, in the heart of ASEAN itself.

I last met with your respective Ministers at the EU-ASEAN Ministerial meeting in December, at which we formally launched the Strategic Partnership.

This elevation in our relationship was long overdue.

This decision recognised what the EU and ASEAN have already achieved together, what we are doing together today, and what we could do tomorrow.

The EU-ASEAN relationship is built on a solid foundation.

The EU is your most comprehensive partner – with dedicated policy dialogues in 20 different areas – and your main development partner. The EU alone committed over EUR 280 million over 2014-2020 to ASEAN – on trade facilitation, environment, student mobility and much more.

As a strategic partner we will continue our cooperation under our next budgetary cycle, for the period 2021-2027. We will make decisions on allocations later this year.

The launching of the Strategic Partnership last December should encourage us to deepen our relationship even further. Let me give three examples.

First, our green agenda. We all know the urgency of climate change. Your Comprehensive Recovery Framework is written in the same spirit of “building back better” as the European Green Deal.

We propose to step up cooperation on a green transition through a Team Europe Initiative – involving the EU and Member States. This cooperation could be captured in a Green Agenda Statement at a future high-level meeting.

Second, on connectivity. As two connectivity projects ourselves, we are – also in this area – natural partners. We have a good track record of cooperation – from infrastructure to people-to-people connectivity.

Last year’s Foreign Ministers’ statement sets outs new areas. The main area I would mention today is the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA).

If agreed, this agreement would represent a historic achievement in air connectivity and market access between ASEAN and the EU. At the exact moment when we are moving past the pandemic and seeking to re-establish trade and people-to-people connections. Our senior officials made good progress yesterday and our teams are making the final touches. Let’s get it over the finish line. 

Third, defence. The EU itself has taken major steps forward in becoming a defence Union over the last years. We see security and defence cooperation as a key area for further engagement with ASEAN and the ASEAN-led regional architecture, including ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM+).

The High-Level Dialogue on Maritime Security Cooperation later this year should come forward with concrete proposals, including on the presence of our naval assets. The EU is currently exploring options on how to enhance its – limited – maritime presence in the vast Indo-Pacific space with a coordinated approach.

I know this is a bold proposal, but it is what our times require.

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Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen,

Two serious and negative developments have strengthened my view that the EU is stronger with closer ASEAN ties - and vice versa.

Firstly, the pandemic, which has wrought havoc around the world.

We have stood in solidarity with ASEAN throughout the pandemic, and we continue to do so as the third wave now strikes your communities.

Together with our EU Member States as ‘Team Europe’, we mobilised over EUR 800 million to support ASEAN and its Member States to support your response to COVID-19.

More recently, the EU has added an additional EUR 20 million to support WHO activities in the region.

We deliberately chose to follow a different path from some other regional partners by not offering preferential treatment in vaccine deliveries or seeking favours in terms of or vaccine sales.

As a multilateral organisation, we strongly believe that COVAX is the best way of ensuring the early supply of safe vaccines to low and middle-income partner countries.  

And I am happy to see that COVAX deliveries are underway in more than half of the ASEAN countries.

COVAX’s capacity to deliver is thanks in part to massive EU support: Team Europe is a leading contributor to COVAX, having provided more than EUR 2.47 billion.

This past week, EU leaders called for more global efforts to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. We are committed to accelerating vaccine sharing to support countries in need. We aim to donate at least 100 million doses by the end of the year.

The second negative development to emerge in the last month is the situation in Myanmar.

Our position is clear: The illegal over-throwing of the democratically-elected government of Myanmar is a brutal setback to the democratic evolution and development of this important ASEAN member state.

The instability it has created risks spilling over to the wider region.

We welcome the five-point consensus agreed at the ASEAN Leaders Meeting.

These are an important first step, but they need to be implemented faithfully and rapidly.

The process to be set in motion with the 5-point consensus must remain faithful to the Myanmar people’s will, as expressed in the elections last November.

We look forward to the swift appointment of a Special Envoy by ASEAN.

We strongly urge the Myanmar authorities to live up to the commitments made at the Leaders Meeting and stop the violence and repression – which continues today – , and to initiate a dialogue with all stakeholders to restore Myanmar onto its democratic transition path.

This requires that political prisoners be released now.

How can you have a dialogue with them in prison?

The announcements by the military regime listing the CRPH and the National Unity Government as terrorist affiliations are going in the wrong direction.

How can you have a dialogue with “terrorist organisations”?

These steps blatantly disregard ASEAN’s calls for de-escalation.

ASEAN is - and will be - central to address Myanmar’s crisis. The European Union stand ready to support your efforts in any way we can.

It is clear that only an inclusive solution that takes into account the will of the people and of all ethnic communities in Myanmar can move Myanmar away from the spiral of conflict and back to the path of democratic transition and sustainable development.

Any measures that ignores this will not produce peace or stability – either for Myanmar or its neighbours – but only extend people’s sufferings.

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Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen,

The shift in the world’s centre of gravity to the Indo-Pacific started years ago, but the pandemic is accelerating it.

As EU, we have a big stake in the region, which is essential for our economic growth and security. 40% of the EU’s foreign trade passes through the South China Sea. 

This is why the EU has adopted its own Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Our approach is clear. We want the regional order to be open and rules-based. We seek cooperation with other countries in areas where we can find common ground, based on shared principles, values or mutual interests.

We promote rules-based multilateralism. This also goes for the South China Sea. We cannot tolerate unilateral actions that undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order.

Our Strategy is therefore very close to your ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific; and reaffirms our strong commitment to ASEAN centrality.

***

Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen,

Next year, in 2022, it will be the 45th anniversary of EU-ASEAN relations.

This could represent an important occasion to mark and celebrate our relations through the holding of a Summit.

I hope it will be the moment to finally move beyond the pandemic and see how our cooperation has only grown stronger in these difficult times.

Thank you.

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