Germany and the EU attach great strategic importance to the Indo-Pacific region. This is demonstrated by Germany’s adoption of policy guidelines for the Indo-Pacific in 2020 and the EU’s adoption of an Indo-Pacific Strategy in 2021. In recent years, the region has grown in economic and political significance. It is home to the world’s fastest-growing economies, and it produces 60% of global CO2 emissions. At the same time, it is the major stage on which China and the United States fight out their increasing superpower rivalry. At the invitation of the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Foreign Ministers of the EU and Indo-Pacific states, as well as representatives of international organisations, are meeting on 22 February. The aim is to give new impetus to cooperation between the two regions. The core matters to be discussed include security issues, the digital transformation and connectivity, climate change, biodiversity and global health.
Protecting the climate, biodiversity and the oceans
Global challenges can be resolved only through joint action. This is particularly true when it comes to tackling global warming and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Five of the ten biggest carbon dioxide emitters are coastal states on the Indian and Pacific Oceans. At the same time, climate change is endangering the key life resources of millions of people in the Indo-Pacific region. In countries such as Bangladesh and Viet Nam, no less than half the population is in jeopardy because of coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels. Natural disasters like the tsunami in late January that destroyed the livelihoods of 80% of Tonga’s population are becoming more frequent, and more devastating. These developments exacerbate poverty and social inequality, stoke conflict and stir up instability. That is why Germany is working closely with countries in the region to cut emissions while also cushioning the effects of climate change. Furthermore, Germany is committed to protecting the region’s biodiversity and oceans. To this end, in the run‑up to the Ministerial Forum, the EU has launched two new initiatives designed to promote connectivity for sustainability in the ASEAN region and to ensure better protection for the oceans. Germany is contributing projects totalling at least 24 million euro to the two initiatives.
Security issues in the Indo-Pacific
The region is marked by a number of unresolved territorial disputes. These are exacerbated by historical conflicts and the increasing superpower rivalry between China and the United States. At the same time, there is a lack of collective confidence-building mechanisms. One result: the world’s fastest-growing arms expenditure. All this leads to a volatile security situation in which minor incidents can potentially trigger major conflicts.
Germany and the EU want to deepen their security engagement in the region in order to help strengthen the rules-based international order. This includes cooperation on strengthening international regulatory systems such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). At the Ministerial Forum in Paris, the EU will announce its intention to produce a coordinated maritime situational picture in the north-western Indian Ocean with the help of naval vessels from member states.
Impetus for European policy on the Indo-Pacific
Over half the world’s population lives in the region around the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The region accounts for some 40% of global GDP. In light of the Indo-Pacific’s increasing importance for the world economy and global policy, both Germany and the EU have adopted their own Indo-Pacific strategies in the past two years. They are convinced, namely, that stability in that region is also crucial for security and prosperity in Europe.