HANOI, Jan 30 (Bernama): Strengthening the connectivity between the European Union (EU) and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) and deepening the bilateral economic ties will be one of the priorities of the 27-member union this year, according to EU Ambassador to Asean Igor Driesmans.
The diplomat said that the signing of the EU-Asean comprehensive air transport agreement, the first ever region-to-region aviation agreement in 2022, will boost to air connectivity between the 37 countries involved.
The EU wants to invest more in the region, Vietnam news agency (VNA) reported him said, adding that leaders of the union have announced 10 billion EUR (US$10.88 billion) in investment in Southeast Asia in the next couple of years through the "Global Gateway” sustainable investments in the region that aimed to address some of Asean's big connectivity needs and build on some of the successes in that respect of our previous cooperation.
He noted that the EU has already signed free trade agreements (FTA) with Singapore and Vietnam. The union will open negotiations for FTAs with other Asean countries, while resuming FTA negotiations with Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.
Driesmans said that the EU’s second priority is to develop a joint green and sustainable agenda with the region, which is a top priority for the EU and for its partnership with Asean.
He said that the union is rolling out the EU Green Deal to make the EU circular, carbon neutral economy by 2050. Therefore, it need to partner with Asean to make that a reality because due to rapid growth, Asean as the entire region is increasingly a CO2 emitter.
"The EU has been developing quite a few cooperation projects and programmes with Asean, for example, to support Smart Green cities to improve biodiversity to manage peatlands more sustainably.
"So we will want to scale up that ambition, do much more in terms of cooperation, and add a political dimension to our work. And we look forward to work with Indonesia to hold the first ever EU-ASEAN environmental ministerial meeting,” he noted.
He said a EU-Asean dialogue on energy will also be held this year.
The diplomat said that the third priority is security partnership as there's a number of security issues in both of our regions, especially Myanmar in Southeast Asia, and Ukraine in Europe.
VNA reported that the EU also hopes to work with Asean to ensure free and open maritime supply routes in the East Sea in full compliance with international law, in particular the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said, pledging that the union will also support the negotiations for a Code of Conduct on the East Sea (COC).
The ambassador also underlined other priorities of the EU in promoting Indo-Pacific partnership, and ensuring a safe, prosperous Asean.
"The EU hopes for stronger and even stronger partnership building on the momentum of the EU-Asean Summit in Dec,” he added. - Bernama