THE recent decision by Australia, the United Kingdom and United States to deepen their security and defence ties (the so-called Aukus group) has triggered a lot of debate on the underlying dynamics in the Indo-Pacific region.
As the EU, we have a big stake in the future of the region and, we believe, a big contribution to make as well. That is why we published our own Indo-Pacific strategy last month. Its central message is that the EU is ready to step up its engagement in and with the region, working on issues where we have long cooperated, such as trade and investment.
We are also expanding this to areas where there is scope to do more, for example collaborating on shared global challenges like climate action or cyber and maritime security.
Why is the EU adopting a new Indo-Pacific strategy now? Amid all the economic dynamism of the Indo-Pacific, we see that the regional order is increasingly challenged due to growing geo-political competition. We have a vital interest in ensuring that the regional order remains open and rules-based. To that end, we want to enhance cooperation with all Indo-Pacific partners who share our goals.
We have identified several priority areas where we seek to deepen cooperation. Take connectivity as an example. The EU is and remains a connectivity super power in terms of setting standards that are globally relevant, and in mobilising finance. We want to build links, not dependencies, and that is why we favour a sustainable and rules-based approach to connectivity.
A big priority will be our cooperation on global challenges. Climate change is on everyone’s mind. It is an urgent global challenge, so we need to join forces to fight, mitigate and adapt to climate change. At the same time, we should address broader environmental degradation, including plastic pollution and biodiversity loss.
Under the strategy, we have stressed that we want to enhance our digital partnerships by, among others, working closely together on setting the standards that will shape our digital lives. We also want to deepen our security engagement, including counter-terrorism and cybersecurity, seeking to make that cooperation as concrete as possible.
We commit to an open and rules-based regional security architecture, including secure sea lines of communication, capacity-building and enhanced naval presence by EU Member States.
In terms of whom we want to partner with, the EU’s strategy is inclusive of all partners wishing to cooperate with us. Certainly, Asean and Malaysia are at the heart of this crucially important region. The EU will work closely with Malaysia on how we can further deepen our bilateral relationship.
We do also include China in our Indo-Pacific plans. On many areas, such as climate change and biodiversity, China’s cooperation is essential. In short, the EU’s Indo- Pacific strategy is about scaling up and diversifying our political and economic partnerships across the region with one overall motto: “Cooperate whenever possible, protect whenever necessary”.
JOSEP BORRELL High representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs/ European Commission Security Policy vice-president