EU and ASEAN representatives from the ASEAN Maritime Transport Working Group, ASEAN Secretariat, European Commission Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), the European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Union Mission to ASEAN met virtually for an “EU-ASEAN Discussion Meeting on Cooperation in Maritime Transport.” The discussion was co-chaired by DG MOVE and ASEAN Member State Representatives supported by the ASEAN Secretariat. The event was supported by the Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (E-READI).
This was an initial meeting between the EU and ASEAN with the aim to initiate the cooperation between the regions in the maritime transport sector. It was focused primarily on the key elements of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006) which was adopted with the aim to provide universal minimum standards and create a level playing field in maritime labour conditions at the global level. This introductory meeting further sought to increase the efficiency of both the maritime labour policy implementation and its enforcement across ASEAN.
Opening remarks were given by Ms Magda Kopczynska, Director of Waterborne Transport at DG MOVE for the EU, and by M. Olarn Hengcharoen, Director of Seafarer Standard Division Marine Department of Thailand, for ASEAN. Both commented on the need to protect seafarer rights because of the extent of their contributions to global trade. The EU presented the implementation and enforcement of MLC including legislative acts, the role of flag and port states, as well as the role of MS national labour inspections. ASEAN Member States presented an overview of the situation in the region along with key difficulties related to implementation and enforcement. The discussions were related to the COVID-19 crisis, and each speaker referred to facilitating changes during the pandemic, such as the example of remote inspections by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore which was suggested possibly to be implemented at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) level.
“If maritime transport stops, everything would stop. However, in spite of all the difficulties related to COVID, maritime transport continues to function, and goods are continuing to be delivered,” remarked Magda Kopczynska. “But we can’t have ships sailing safely if seafarers are not taken care of and if labour rights are not taken care of”.
The discussion noted that ASEAN Member States are important in terms of maritime labour supply, and it is therefore essential for the maritime industry that the implementation of the MLC, 2006 and its provisions are carried out by them in a coherent manner. The enactment of the MLC, 2006 agreements into national law and its implementation should ensure that the rights and well-being of seafarers coming from ASEAN are safeguarded, secured and protected, strengthening their position in both the EU and ASEAN. With reference to the ratification and implementation of the MLC, 2006, sharing information on its current status between the EU and ASEAN could be helpful to set a baseline practice and reach a common understanding between the regions.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8 August 1967. The ASEAN Member States are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. On 31 December 2015, the ASEAN Community was formally established. The ASEAN Secretariat is based in Jakarta.
The European Union (EU) is the economic and political union of 27 Member States. Together, the European Union has built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development while maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedom. In 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the goals of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. The European Union is the world's largest trading bloc, and the world's largest source and destination of foreign direct investment. Collectively, the European Union and its member countries are the largest donors of Official Development Assistance (ODA), providing more than half of ODA globally.
The 27 Member States of the European Union (in alphabetical order) are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
The Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (E-READI) is a development cooperation programme that facilitates cooperation and dialogue between the EU and ASEAN in policy areas of joint interest. Drawing on the EU’s experience of regional integration, the E-READI policy dialogue facility further strengthens both the ASEAN regional integration process as well as the overall ASEAN-EU strategic partnership.