European Union pledges to extend support for Laos development

European Council President Charles Michel (left) Lao PM Phankham Viphavanh (centre), and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pose for a photo at the welcome ceremony of the EU-ASEAN commemorative summit in Brussels. - Vientiane Times/ANN

VIENTIANE, Dec 17 (Vientiane Times/ANN): The European Union has announced that it will provide 550 million euros to support priority development programmes in Laos from 2021-2024.

The financial assistance to Laos was discussed during a meeting between Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh and European Council President Charles Michel in Belgium this week, according to the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Asean-EU Commemorative Summit taking place in Brussels from December 12-16 to mark the 45th anniversary of Asean-EU Dialogue Relations.

During the summit, the Lao prime minister held a number of bilateral meetings with leaders from various countries to discuss further areas of cooperation.

Phankham met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to discuss the furtherance of collaboration, especially in the field of education. Hungary currently provides 150 scholarships for Lao nationals annually.

In addition, the Lao PM held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Minh Chinh to discuss preparations for a meeting between the Party politburos of Laos and Vietnam and the conclusion of Laos-Vietnam Solidarity and Friendship Year.

Furthermore, Mr Phankham and his Cambodian and Vietnamese counterparts Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Pham Minh Chinh respectively had a breakfast meeting in Belgium, the first for the trio since Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed.

During the meeting, Mr Phankham highlighted the robust development of the friendly ties between Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The three leaders were in agreement that the special friendship, solidarity and cooperation between their countries had flourished, despite the complex changes taking place around the world.

In terms of Asean-EU cooperation, Asean is the EU’s third largest trading partner outside Europe, after the United States and China, with the value of two-way trade reaching US$268.9 billion in 2021.

The EU is an important source of foreign direct investment for Asean countries with the total investment value amounting to US$26.53 billion in 2021, according to the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Asean and EU leaders agreed to further strengthen their cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, natural disaster response, and so on. Speaking at the opening of the summit, European Council President Charles Michel said the EU and Asean are the world’s two most advanced regional integration organisations.

“We understand each other very well; we share the same values and the same spirit of cooperation. We both know the challenges of transforming the vision of a political community anchored in common interests and common rules into concrete reality for our citizens,” Michel said.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the societies and economies of the two regions, the EU, together with our EU Member States, mobilised over 800 million euros to support Asean and its Member States to fight the pandemic,” he added. - Vientiane Times/ANN

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