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Thank you, [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore] Vivian [Balakrishnan].
Let me thank Singapore for assembling us today and for the work you have done since 2018 as coordinator for EU-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) relations.
We last met in September at the EU-ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference, and there have been important developments since then.
First and foremost, I am looking forward to affirmation at this Meeting that we are now in a position to implement the decision we made together in January 2019, to elevate EU-ASEAN relations to a Strategic Partnership.
This is a momentous step forward for both ASEAN and the EU.
This Strategic Partnership represents two fundamental things:
Firstly, the recognition that, in the face of growing geopolitical insecurity and challenges to multilateralism, the EU and ASEAN will form a stronger bond. We do so in defence of our values, ASEAN centrality, and a shared rejection of spheres of influence and the premise that “might makes right”.
We favour cooperation through international rules and mechanisms, not out of weakness, but because it is in our DNA.
Secondly, the opportunity for more engagement among our Leaders to oversee and shape opportunities for further cooperation on trade, security and defence, and sustainable development.
This is a recognition of the degree of our existing cooperation, as well as a platform for even greater engagement.
This is the right time to strengthen our relations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, and second waves have engulfed our societies and economies, deepening the economic damage.
The EU has been your partner on the global response to the corona virus since we held our first video conference on the matter on 20 March.
In ASEAN alone, together with Member States in 2020, we mobilised over €800 million in assistance to fight the health and socio-economic impact of the pandemic, more than any other partner of ASEAN.
We all know that the exit strategy hinges on a successful vaccine, to which all countries can have access.
We will continue to put our expertise and resources to work within the COVAX Facility, where the EU has mobilised up to €500 million in guarantees.
Today’s meeting is also an opportunity to connect our two regions through closer transport, energy, digital and people-to-people links.
The Connectivity Statement we agree today is both a principled and an operational document, with clear strands of work. Let us use it and build on it.
There is a natural partnership in this field for both the EU and ASEAN, both of which subscribe to key sustainability principles, with a substantial list of projects and the opportunity to learn from each other on mobilising private and public investments.
I would now like to pass the floor back to my co-Chair.
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