On 30-31 October, the EU and China engaged in the first EU-China Experts' Seminar on Maritime Security (track 1.5), which was held in China's island province of Hainan. The two-day seminar allowed for an exchange of views on key topics related to, among other things, regional cooperation in maritime security, international ocean governance, and protection of critical maritime infrastructure.
The seminar was organised by the Delegation of the European Union to China in partnership with China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS) and supported by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Affairs Office of the Communist Party of China. The meeting gathered 40 experts and officials from the EU and China to discuss issues related to marine environment protection, regional cooperation in maritime security (including in the South and East China Seas), law enforcement at sea, international ocean governance and protection of critical maritime infrastructure.
In his opening speech, EU Ambassador to China Nicolas Chapuis stressed the role of the EU as a maritime actor and global maritime security provider. The EU further promotes and implements the law-based order in the maritime domain, which is based on the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The EU is present in high-risk security areas through its CSDP Missions and Operations, such as EU NAVFOR Atalanta, which is also supported by China.
In terms of peace and security, Ambassador Chapuis stressed the need to deepen the dialogue and engagement between the EU and China. The cooperation should be based on positive elements, however the differences should not be ignored and should be dealt with in a candid way. The stability of the strategic lines of communication, which are vital to the economic interests of the two sides, is of utmost importance.
In response, President of the NISCSS Wu Shicun described the current state of play in the South China Sea and stressed the ongoing negotiations with ASEAN over the Code of Conduct. It was suggested that the EU, which established successful cooperative mechanisms in the maritime domain, could serve as a role model for China.
The two sides stressed positive momentum in bilateral cooperation on maritime issues created by the 2017 EU-China Blue Year and the EU-China Ocean Partnership, which was signed in 2018 at the EU-China Summit in Brussels.
The Seminar was co-financed by the EU-China Partnership Facility (ECPF), which is a 36 months project commissioned by the European Union through the EU Delegation to China. The aim of the ECPF is to reinforce EU-China cooperation on a wide range of issues of global relevance and encourage greater convergence between the EU and China on priority matters, while increasing awareness of EU policies in China. The Project helps to advance EU-China relations in key priority areas, firmly based on the strategic framework of the EU Global Strategy, the EU Strategy on China, and the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation.
The second seminar is scheduled to take place next year in Europe.