European Union External Action

10th Anniversary of the EU-ROK Strategic Partnership: Reflections and Hopes

20/11/2020 - 07:42
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The year 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of the EU-ROK Strategic Partnership. How has the partnership evolved during these ten years? What future awaits the partnership in the context of the growing US-China rivalry? And how can the partnership promote stronger bilateral, diplomatic, security, and economic links, as well as support multilateralism?

Ambassador Maria Castillo Fernandez of the European Union to the Republic of Korea shared her views.

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Congratulatory video message

10th Anniversary of the EU-RoK Strategic Partnership: Reflections and Hopes

16 November 2020

  • My name is Maria Castillo Fernandez. I am the new Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Korea.


  • This year is a special year, as we mark the 10th anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between the European Union and the Republic of Korea. As this difficult year comes to an end, many thanks for letting me be part of your discussions today, with some reflections from Seoul on behalf of the European Union.


  • The Strategic Partnership remains one of the most symbolic declarations in the EU-RoK relations and has played a vital role in moving the relations forward. It has given substance to our relations, political commitment and dynamism to our joint action.


  • In 2010, together with the signing of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the Framework Agreement for Cooperation, and later the Crisis Management Agreement,  we elevated our relationship to that of a Strategic Partnership to not only boost our bilateral cooperation, but also to work together on issues of regional and global significance.  


  • In uncertain time likes this, as truly strategic and like-minded partners for the last 10 years, it is now more important than ever that we work together. The pandemic has accelerated some of the global dynamics and in particular an erosion of the international order.


  • What does our strategic partnership mean today?


  1. Working together to restore multilateralism
    • reinforce our cooperation in support of the international rules-based order
    •  shoulder our responsibility in addressing the many global challenges we are facing.


  1. It also means pushing together the green recovery agenda and our fight against climate change. We both have the same goals – carbon neutrality by 2050 and an agenda for green and digital transition recovery. South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged for restoring multilateralism and promoting the green recovery. The latter was quickly followed by his commitment to make Korea’s economy carbon neutral by 2050, just like the EU.  


  1. We both support open markets, fair and sustainable trade. Over the last 10 years, we have maintained a good balance in trade, with bilateral trade surged almost 50%, with the trade volume reaching more than €90 billion in 2019. The EU is Korea’s 3rd largest export market after China and the U.S. and Korea is the EU’s eighth largest export destination for goods. The EU remains the largest source of FDI into Korea, contributing to the creation of jobs and to innovation in the Korean economy.


  • Next year, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the FTA. Overall, our FTA is a success story, the first of its kind in Asia and a model. Let us make it more successful by enforcing some parts need to be implemented – our sustainable development chapter in particular, and by addressing the few remaining issues that limit the access to our markets (beef, pork meat) so that our FTA delivers its full potential.


  1. On the security front, the EU and Korean warships come together to fight against piracy. Maritime training with Korean Navy, is an extremely important aspect of the EU’s Operation Atalanta to deter piracy off the coast of Somalia.


Not only in the sea, but also in cyberspace, the EU and Korea have recognised the need to address important cybersecurity challenges by enhancing cybersecurity resilience and intensifying international cooperation, including at the bilateral level. We have to work actively to expand our cooperation in security related fields in the very near future.


And when security in Asia matters to the EU, we are at the sides of the Republic of Korea in finding over lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. We can bring our experience in conflict prevention and crisis management around the world. 


  1. Research and innovation is another significant field of our cooperation, which cannot be overlooked. As I said, we both share digital agendas for recovery, and this means more innovation and research. Next year, the EU will launch ‘Horizon Europe’, the 9th Research and Innovation Framework Programme, which will last for 7 years. Our first Digital economy dialogue this week will be the moment to act and enhance research cooperation and innovation exchanges in areas as 5G, AI,


  1. Despite the challenges of Covid, the substance of this relationship is the people, business, researches, students, academia, and artists. It is therefore very important to put our efforts in enhancing people to people exchanges, via cultural cooperation, tourism, architecture, audio-visual co-productions, films and performing arts. Let us explore innovative ways for more cooperation. Last week, we hosted Jinsoo Kim, a young Korean architect, but also Erasmus alumni, award of our Young Architects Talent competition, his time in Europe (Valencia) inspired him. We need more of this.


  1. The EU-Korea strategic partnership is one that keeps moving forward, in a pali-pali way (full speed). Let us use this 10th anniversary, in the year of the COVID pandemic, and not stay on just words, but put our words into joint action to further increase the ambition, the dynamism and the trust in our relation as we aim to build back better.  


  1. In Korea we have a very active Team Europe – 23 MS Embassies, our chambers and the Delegation. Let us join all these efforts and assets as we look forward to the next 10 years of joint work.


  1. As President von der Leyen said, we count on working with South Korea, bilaterally and internationally. South Korea has the possibility of becoming a regional leader and serve as an example for other partners.  


Europe needs Korea and Korea needs Europe.


Thank you.