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EU stepping up its strategic engagement with the Indo-Pacific region

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 17th September, 2021 06:28:43 PM
  • Print news

The European Union has unveiled a new strategy to step up its strategic engagement in the Indo-Pacific and contribute to the region's stability, security, prosperity, in line with the principles of democracy and rule of law.

The strategy focuses on the EU stepping up the implementation of its connectivity partnerships with India and Japan and supporting partners in establishing a regulatory environment and facilitating the mobilisation of the necessary funding to improve connectivity between Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

The document also mentioned the need for resuming trade negotiations with India, completing the EU''s trade negotiations with Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand, and firming up an economic partnership agreement with the East Africa community.

It also specifically mentioned exploring ways to ensure enhanced naval deployments by EU member states to help protect the sea lines of communication and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific while ensuring maritime security.

The strategy paper listed a number of specific steps to increase the EU''s engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

The 27-nation EU said it will deepen its engagement with partners in the Indo-Pacific to respond to emerging dynamics that are affecting regional stability.

The Commission and the High Representative adopted a Joint Communication on the EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The Joint Communication contains concrete actions to reinforce the strategic engagement with the region, as tasked by the Council on April 19, 2021.

European Commission's President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU is offering a "strengthened partnership" to advance trade, investment and connectivity while addressing common global challenges and reinforcing the rules-based international order.

"The economic, demographic, and political weight of the Indo-Pacific region is expanding, from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific island states," she said.

"With today's proposals, and guided by our values, we are offering a strengthened partnership to advance trade, investment and connectivity, while addressing common global challenges and reinforcing the rules-based international order," Leyen said.

The EU''s Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, said the world's centre of gravity is moving towards the Indo Pacific, both in geo-economic and geo-political terms. 

"The futures of the EU and the Indo-Pacific are interlinked. The EU is already the top investor, the leading development cooperation partner and one of the biggest trading partners in the Indo-Pacific region," he said.

"Our engagement aims at maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, while building strong and lasting partnerships to cooperate on matters from the green transition, ocean governance or the digital agenda to security and defence," Borrell added.

According to the joint communication, the EU and the Indo-Pacific are highly interconnected, with many shared interests and solid ties,from trade and investments to research and innovation, as well as sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity protection and security.

It said this region is increasing in strategic importance for Europe and thus the EU is stepping up its strategic engagement with the Indo-Pacific region. Its growing economic, demographic, and political weight makes it a key player in shaping the rules-based international order and in addressing global challenges.

The implementation of the EU Strategy will include in particular the following actions:

  • Completing EU trade negotiations with Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand; resuming trade negotiations and starting investment negotiations with India; completing an Economic Partnership Agreement with the East Africa Community; assessing the possible resumption of trade negotiations with Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, and the eventual negotiation of a region-to-region trade agreement with ASEAN.
  • Concluding Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) with Malaysia and Thailand; starting PCA negotiations with the Maldives, and bringing the EU's upcoming new PartnershipAgreement with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (ACP) to full fruition.
  • Concluding Green Alliances and Partnerships with willing and ambitious Indo-Pacific partners to fight against climate change and environmental degradation. The first has been agreed with Japan in May 2021.
  • Strengthening ocean governance in the region, including increasing the EU's support for Indo-Pacific countries' fisheries management and control systems, the fight against Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and the implementation of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements.
  • Expanding the network of digital partnerships with Indo-Pacific partners, as well as exploring the possibility of new Digital Partnership Agreements with Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.
  • Stepping up implementation of the Connectivity Partnerships with Japan and India; supporting partners in establishing an appropriate regulatory environment and facilitating the mobilisation of the necessary funding to improve connectivity on the ground between Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
  • Strengthening cooperation on research and innovation under ‘Horizon Europe'; explore the association to this programme of eligible likeminded Indo-Pacific partners such as Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand and Singapore.
  • Exploring ways to ensure enhanced naval deployments by EU Member States to help protect the sea lines of communication and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific while boosting Indo-Pacific partners' capacity to ensure maritime security.

Reinforcing support to healthcare systems and pandemic preparedness for the least- developed countries in the Indo-Pacific region, enhancing collaborative research on communicable diseases in the context of the Horizon Europe research programme.