On 1st December the EU and ASEAN “opened a new chapter in their longstanding relationship” by becoming Strategic Partners. Starting in 1977 with ‘Dialogue Relations’, the partnership has steadily grown over the last 40 years and now includes a commitment to regular summits at leaders’ level.
High Representative Josep Borrell said “a new dynamic in the region” had contributed to the decision. Faced with “increased tension between the US and China”, ASEAN was “looking for new pillars to buttress its stability and prosperity. The EU’s reliability and consistency are increasingly valued assets” in such an uncertain geopolitical environment.
But the partnership has also developed through shared values and interests. HR Borrell highlighted the Covid-19 global pandemic, vaccine efforts and economic recovery as areas of immediate mutual concern and cooperation. The EU and ASEAN traded €250 billion worth of goods in 2018.
Larger, overarching imperatives were important too. HR Borrell said both ASEAN and the EU were focused on “promoting effective multilateralism and a rules-based international order” together.
The European Commission and HR Josep Borrell have put forward a plan for a new, forward-looking transatlantic agenda. With the victory of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris last month, combined with a more assertive and capable European Union, the Commission and HR Borrell say now is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to redesign the EU-US relationship.
The new agenda is comprised of four areas:
These sites of collaboration are seen as the “first steps for joint action”. They will form the initial foundation of what is hoped to be a productive transatlantic partnership in the future. HR Borrell said “with our concrete proposals for cooperation under the future Biden administration, we are sending strong messages to our US friends and allies. Let’s look forward, not back”.
The next step is for the European Council to endorse this proposal which would then be officially launched at an EU-US Summit in the first half of 2021.
The EU adopted a new Cybersecurity Strategy last week. The initiative aims to ensure a global and open Internet with strong safeguards to protect the security and fundamental rights of European citizens. It outlines how the EU will use its digital tools and resources to be technologically sovereign. Focus is on the digital security of essential services such as hospitals, energy grids, railways and the ever-increasing number of connected devices in people’s homes, offices and factories.
The Cybersecurity Strategy focuses on three areas:
In practical terms, the Cybersecurity Strategy advises all four cyber communities in the EU – the internal market, law enforcement, diplomacy and defence – to cooperate more closely on digital threats. A Joint Cyber Unit will pool the collective resources of Member States and the EU to respond to cyber issues on a more effective, transnational level. The Cybersecurity Strategy also includes plans to work with partners around the world to ensure international security and stability in cyberspace.
HR Josep Borrell described the Cybersecurity Strategy as a vital component of the EU’s political, social and economic efforts. “Upholding European values and interests in the cyberspace is crucial for our democracies, our economies and our societies. This is what the new EU Cybersecurity Strategy … is all about”.
The European Commission released its European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP) this month. The EDAP is a response to the increasing challenges that democracies and democratic institutions face, both in the EU and around the world. From growing political polarisation and the spread of disinformation, to attacks on civil society, democratic backsliding is a concerning global trend.
To counter this, the EDAP sets out concrete actions that will support the EU in protecting its own democracies as well as offering support to international partners. It will help direct what issues the EU focuses on and how it will meaningfully address them. The plan has three main pillars:
The Commission will roll out the EDAP until 2023, a year before the European Parliamentary elections, when it will be reviewed.
The EEAS has released a new report on coronavirus mis- and disinformation this month. Entitled “Narratives and Disinformation Around the COVID-19 Pandemic”, the investigation looks at the spread of false or misleading content around the world from May to November.
It found that Covid-19 mis- and disinformation had shifted from the virus itself to vaccines. But despite the change in topic, the “spread and reach of mis- and disinformation online remains worryingly high”. State actors like Russia and China were criticised for their efforts to “amplify voices that downplay the threat of the virus” and to “undermine governments’ strategies of curbing the second wave of infections”.
The report is part of a larger effort by the EU to address and combat disinformation. In October 2018, Facebook, Twitter and Google were signatories to the EU Code of Practice on disinformation. The Code was the first voluntarily signed worldwide set of standards to fight disinformation online.
It was followed by the European Council’s Action Plan against disinformation that sets out actions to be taken on disinformation by the Commission, High Representative and EEAS.
Last week the EU participated with Pacific Island partners in the Kainaki II to COP 26 – Pacific Islands Forum High-Level Roundtable on Urgent Climate Change Action. At the event, leaders from three Pacific countries – Tuvalu, Fiji and Nauru – made strong calls for the world to meet their Paris Agreement commitments and confront climate change more aggressively.
The Forum’s Chair, Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano, asked the high level gathering “five years on [from Paris], we must now ask ourselves: are we making the necessary policy and behavioural change to keep us on the 1.5 degree pathway? From the perspective of the Blue Pacific, the answer is simple: no, we are not.” The Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions to global warming.
The meeting was an important opportunity for dialogue and preparation for the COP26 “Sprint to Glasgow” conference next year. The EU, as a world leader on climate action, was represented by HE Sujiro Seam, Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific. The roundtable follows the EU’s European Green Deal initiative and decision to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030.
This week the EU Delegation hosted the first ever European Christmas Carols at the beautiful Old St Paul’s church. The night was a huge success, with over 250 people attending. The evening was full of festive singing, with carols from France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and New Zealand being performed.
HE Nina Obamaier hosted the event, with representatives from each Member State introducing their country’s carols. The singing was followed by some delicious Christmas treats, including stollen, bretzels, mini berliners, gingerbread and delicious macarons baked by the French Embassy’s chef.
Many thanks to the Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Polish and Spanish Embassies for supporting the event. Plus, a big whakawhetai to the Capital Choir and Brezel Mania for their wonderful singing and tasty treats. Merry Christmas!
On 1st January 2021 the European External Action Service (EEAS) is turning 10. Created out of the Lisbon Treaty, which was signed in 2007 and enacted in 2009, the EEAS was officially launched on 1st January 2011. To mark this milestone the EEAS will launch an EEAS@10 campaign with a new logo (above), hashtag – #EEAS10 – and a series of events to promote the Service.
The celebrations started with a livestreamed debate called “The EU in a changing world – Staying on course in troubled waters” on 1st December. The campaign will feature a range of other events, including a virtual Multilateral Christmas Gala on 19th December, a photo exhibition at EU Headquarters in January and numerous seminars and talks. The activities will culminate on Europe Day next year.
The EEAS’ importance to the EU was made clear from its inception. The Lisbon Treaty stated that the Service will "will help strengthen the European Union on the global stage, give it more profile, and enable it to project its interests and values more efficiently". The EEAS welcomes both past and present employees to participate in this historic occasion, wherever they are in the world.
The EEAS’s centrality to the EU was reinforced when Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called her mandate a “geopolitical Commission”.