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Thank you very much Vivian [Balakrishnan, Foreign Minister of Singapore].
Let me thank you, all the friends sitting around this table, Thailand in particular for the excellent hospitality today, and not only you personally, Vivian [Balakrishnan], but Singapore for the work we have done together since last year as coordinator for EU-ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] relations. You are right; I feel like a friend here, a good and old friend to ASEAN as such, but also to all of your countries. But as you were reminding us all that relations between ASEAN and the European Union started in 1972, I would say that I am an old friend, but the European Union is an even older friend, as relations were established just one year before I was born. This tells a lot about the roots of our friendship. But as you said very wisely, in these times our cooperation has become even more strategic and even more important to both of us and for the global environment.
You are right; this is my last ministerial meeting with you. So let me thank all of you for these five years. I think I can say with some pride that together we have brought the European Union and ASEAN closer together than they have ever been. I think this is the good result of the common work that we have managed to do in these last five years. There has been a thread in our five years of common work: we have all realised that we may be far apart geographically, but there is so much we have in common. We share many of the same interests; we share many of the same values, in spite of the distance between us. And our citizens come together very often, tightening the connections among us.
We both want a global system that is based on rules and on international agreements, not on the idea that “might makes right”.
We believe that our world is more and more connected. And precisely for this reason, we need cooperation more than ever before and we invest, in particular, in regional cooperation – an attitude that is a cooperative one.
We believe that Asian security is also European security, and that Asian prosperity is also European prosperity.
Five years after my first ministerial meeting with you, I can say that I see this is even more true and more urgent today.
So I am proud of the work we have done together. Because in advancing our partnership, we have also advanced our shared interests and values.
If you think of our security cooperation: What happens, for instance, in the Korean peninsula, that I know is so relevant and pressing for you, or in the South China Sea, matters also for us Europeans. This is why in these years we have coordinated closer than ever also on security issues. We Europeans have, for the first time ever, taken part in an ASEAN naval exercise. And I am grateful for the opportunity we have had to participate in the East Asia Summit.
We want to engage on security matters in Asia and with Asia even more. That is why we will also deploy military advisors in several of our European Union embassies across Asia – starting with our Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta.
We are also closer than ever when it comes to trade and common values – with a new generation of “free and fair” trade agreements. The agreement between the European Union and Singapore is now ratified. We have signed the agreement with Vietnam. And we believe - and I personally strongly believe - that our future lies in a region-to-region trade agreement.
We are also closer than ever in connectivity terms. A rising number of Europeans visit and come to South-East Asia each year. Mobility programmes like Erasmus are now open to your students and researchers. We have expanded dialogue on, for instance, protecting our environment, on climate change and on human rights. So we have a wide range of issues on which we cooperate.
As you [Vivian Balakrishnan] mentioned, we are very close to achieving our Air Transport Agreement – something quite historic because it will be the first of its kind, creating the world's biggest aviation market for over one billion people in the world.
All these are improvements in the daily lives of our people. It is not just institutional or diplomatic work; it has an impact on daily lives of citizens both in Southeast Asia and in Europe. And I believe that through our cooperation we are showing in practice what it means to govern globalisation, to address its downsides, but also to harness its positive potential for people across the world.
This is the story of these last five years, and I believe that this is also the direction – the compass – for the way ahead. I know that on the European Union’s side we will continue to seek and invest in an even closer partnership with ASEAN. We have an institutional transition in the coming months in the European Union institutions, but I can tell you without any doubt that this investment is here to stay.
I can only ask you for a personal favour: to show my successor the same friendship that you have honoured me with in these five years. It has been a pleasure working with you. We still have three months to go. As you said, I will always remain a friend of ASEAN in my future capacities, in my private capacities and I can assure you that the European Union is going to continue to be the reliable and close partner to ASEAN that it has been in these five years.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-176721