European Union External Action

Australia and the EU

10/05/2016 - 13:30
EU relations with Country

Australia has strong political, economic and cultural ties with the European Union, working closely with it to meet shared global responsibilities such as promoting sustainable development and tackling climate change.

The European Union and Australia enjoy a strong, dynamic and continuously evolving partnership the foundations of which were laid in the 1960s. The relationship is currently based on the 2008 European Union - Australia Partnership Framework , a comprehensive statement of our shared values and close historical, political, economic and cultural ties. As our relationship evolved the EU and Australia have moved to upgrade bilateral ties. To this end the EU Australia Framework Agreement was signed in Manila in August 2017 by the EU's High Representative Federica Mogherini and Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, marking the beginning of a new era of strategic cooperation. Ratification procedures are underway in Australia, the EU and its Member States.

The new Framework Agreement will build on an existing solid cooperation basis to strengthen the partnership between the EU, its Member States and Australia. It will enable the facilitation, promotion and expansion of cooperation across a broad range of areas of mutual interest, such as:

  • Foreign Policy & Security (including counter terrorism)
  • International Trade
  • Regional Cooperation
  • Development and Humanitarian Aid
  • Migration & Asylum
  • Research & Innovation
  • Environment and Climate Change
  • Education & Culture
  • Energy & Transport

A number of mechanisms are already in place to foster this  cooperation, in particular a series of formal  dialogues (currently over 20 covering, inter alia, Foreign and Security policy, Counter Terrorism, Pacific issues, Trade Policy, Migration & Asylum, Environment, Fisheries, Customs, Human Rights, Development and Consular issues) as well as several sectoral agreements, including:

In November 2015 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker agreed to start the process towards the launch of negotiations for an ambitious Free Trade Agreement.  In September 2017 President Juncker, in his State of the Union address to the European Parliament, formally proposed to open trade negotiations with Australia and signalled the ambition that it be finalised by end 2019. For more information on the possible EU-Australia FTA see here

The European Parliament and Australia's Parliament have ongoing cooperation. In 1979 the European Parliament established a Delegation for Relations with Australia and New Zealand (DANZ) which engages in regular "inter-parliamentary meetings" with Australia's federal Parliament and discusses all issues of common interest (trade, migration, fight against terrorism among others).

In addition to formal dialogues and agreements, the EU and Australia can rely on another, more informal cooperation track, the EU-Australia Leadership Forum. This is a unique platform (funded by the EU) for European and Australian political, business, media and civil society leaders to meet and nurture the relationship with new ideas and proposals. The first Emerging and Senior Leaders Forums were held in Sydney in June 2017. The next Emerging and Senior Leaders Forums are envisaged for 2nd half of 2018.

The EU and Australia are already likeminded partners on the international stage and work together to face global challenges, both bilaterally and multilaterally.  Strategic cooperation is on-going in areas such as counter-terrorism, migration and asylum seekers, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organised crime prevention, development and humanitarian aid, promotion and defence of human rights and the support of a rule of law based system at international and national levels. 

Regular ministerial consultations and formal dialogues between senior officials underpin this cooperation, alongside other forms of concrete collaboration. For example, in 2014/2015 Australia contributed to an EU-led crisis management mission – EUCAP NESTOR, a maritime capacity building mission in the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean. A specific bilateral agreement on cooperation in crisis management enables Australia and the EU to agree on Australian participation in other EU-led crisis management missions.   

With just 7% of the world’s population, the European Union (EU) accounts for 25.8% of world GDP, and its trade with the rest of the world accounts for around 20% of global exports and imports (excluding trade within the EU). This makes the EU the biggest trade player in the world, the biggest importer and exporter, the biggest investor, biggest economy in terms of GDP and the number one recipient of FDI.

The EU’s trade policy safeguards growth and jobs in Europe, with the European Commission alongside EU countries and business, ensuring that negotiated trade deals result in market access for EU exporters. Globally the EU has over 200 Free Trade Agreements in place, covering more than 35% of global trade.

The EU and Australia share a strong economic relationship, with the EU being Australia's second-largest trading partner after China, and its most significant trading partner in services. It is also the largest source of foreign direct investment and the largest destination for Australian FDI overseas. More information on EU-Australia economic interaction is available here. 

The EU as a key trade partner for Australia

In 2016 the EU was Australia's third-largest merchandise trading partner (Australian Bureau of Statistics), accounting for 13.1% or AUD 69 bn of Australia's total goods trade. It was also its second-largest source of imports (18.4% of Australia's total) and fifth-largest market for exports (7.7% of the total).

The EU also remained Australia's largest trading partner in services in 2016, representing AUD 29 bn of Australia's total services trade. While the EU was the most important export market for Australian services, worth AUD 10.5 bn, it was also Australia's largest supplier of services, at AUD 18.5 bn.

Additionally, the EU remained Australia’s largest investment partner for 2016, with the level of total two-way investment valued at 31%, or AUD 1 672 bn of Australia’s two-way investment stocks, ahead of the United States with AUD 1 478 bn.

The EU and its Member States are the largest provider of Overseas Development Assistance globally making up over 50% of all contributions. The European Consensus on Development is a policy statement by 3 key EU institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council) and Member States that commits the EU to eradicating poverty and building a fairer and more stable world. It identifies shared values, goals, principles and commitments which guide the EU and its Member States in their pursuit of sustainable development.

The EU is currently the second-largest donor in the Pacific region after Australia. Effective cooperation in the region, as outlined in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action, is vital to achieving development gains. For this reason the EU and Australia are committed to implementing the Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination in the Pacific and make aid to the region more effective by reducing uncoordinated efforts, overlapping and too much bureaucracy while increasing the use of country partner systems, pooled funding arrangements and delegated cooperation.

EU-Australia concrete cooperation on development issues includes not only working together in the Pacific, but also elsewhere in the world. Examples include: collaborating to improve the provision of basic education in Laos, cooperating to assist with vocational training opportunities in Fiji and jointly partnering with UN Women to combat gender-based violence in the Pacific.  A regular high-level dialogue underpins an expanding relationship in which both have a strong commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals agreed to in 2015 under the auspices of the UN.

The EU has established a comprehensive system of environmental protection, and as one of the key brokers of the Paris agreement (COP21) in December 2015, it is a leader in global efforts to tackle climate change. It addresses concerns through broad-based, targeted policies and activities ranging from the world's largest and most comprehensive emissions trading scheme to energy efficiency labelling for appliances. It also continues to set stringent environmental standards and ambitious climate action goals, already having achieved its binding greenhouse gases emissions reduction and renewable energy targets for 2020 while working on  agreeing legislation to deliver on its ambitious targets for 2030 of reducing emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 levels..

The EU and Australia cooperate across a wide variety of international environmental agreements and hold high level dialogues dedicated to environmental issues.  Among the areas where Australia and the EU have been working together are combating the practice of illegal logging and the issue of whaling.

The EU and Australia recognise the importance of research, innovation to success in creating the jobs and investment that underpin inclusive as well as smart and sustainable growth. In fact, in 1994, the EU and Australia signed the first science and technology Agreement between the EU and a non-EU country. Strong cooperation is ongoing: there are on average close to 30 000 publications involving EU and Australian authors each year.

The EU makes significant investments through its Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation – over the period 2014-2017 there will be close to EUR 77 (AUD 115) billion invested into fundamental research, innovation and providing support to bring new ideas to market through SMEs, public-private partnerships, and research infrastructures, as well as connecting with scientists worldwide through researcher mobility programs.  

The Horizon 2020 Framework Program promotes Excellent Science; Industrial Leadership; and Societal Challenges. Australian universities, companies and researchers are already actively involved in Horizon 2020 with a wide range of projects. Further Australian entities and individuals who want to participate in this programme can find more information at Horizon 2020 – the opportunities for Australian researchers.

Among the activities supported by Horizon 2020, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions provide grants for all stages of researchers' careers - be they doctoral candidates or highly experienced researchers - and encourage transnational, inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary mobility.  Over 500 Australians researchers have been involved in these actions since 2007. Information on Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and funding possibilities is available here.

Erasmus+ is the European Union Programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014-2020, and replaces the previous programme Erasmus Mundus. It funds various projects for organisations and scholarships for individuals in these areas. Due to its strong international focus mainly in the higher education sector, many of these opportunities are available for people and organisations outside the EU – including Australia.

Erasmus+ student and staff mobility

This type of short-term mobility for students, researchers, and staff allows students to study in a foreign university for 3-12 months and obtain credits which are then recognised at their home sending institution as part of their degree. A grant for staff mobility is also possible for 5-60 days. This is possible for staff and students of Australian universities which have signed a bilateral agreement with a European university as part of an Erasmus+ mobility project.

Each year new projects are selected, and EU funding is available for projects with Australia as part of the wider Asia-Pacific region. Australia is a popular partner for European universities and 25% of their mobility with the region is indeed with Australia. New projects have been selected in 2015, 2016 and 2017: over 167 projects with Australia undertaking to send 274 students and 313 staff to Europe, and host 215 European students and 264 staff in Australia. Australian universities and students also benefitted from the previous iteration of the programme.

Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees

Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees award full-degree scholarships to Master students from around the world covering tuition, travel, and a living allowance. These are joint programmes, offered by a consortium of universities. Students study in at least two different European countries during their one to two year programme. Upon graduation, they are awarded a joint or double degree or multiple degrees.

Australian higher education institutions can take part in these programmes: to date two Australian universities have been partners in the 108 programmes selected since Erasmus+ started (2014).  Scholarships for these Degrees are open worldwide: 29 Australian students have been awarded a scholarship since 2014. Australian students also benefitted from scholarships under the previous iteration of the programme.

Jean Monnet activities

Jean Monnet (JM) activities aim to develop EU studies worldwide. For over 25 years they have been supporting Modules, Chairs, and Centres of Excellence to promote excellence in teaching and research on the European integration process at higher education level. Since 2014, Jean Monnet has supported seven Australian projects and two professorial chairs and teaching modules. The programme also supports an association and network to promote better understanding of the EU.

People-to-people links are deep and longstanding. Nearly 70% of Australians have European ancestry, this being an integral part of Australia's rich multicultural landscape. Data from 2016 indicated that 28% of Australians were born overseas, with several Member States being among the top 10 countries of birth by number.

EU citizens live and work in Australia and Australians do the same: at the end of 2016 there were approx. 97 500 Australians with valid residence permits (for at least 3 months) issued by Member States. Bilateral tourist flows are considerable, with average annual numbers estimated to be in the millions.

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