2020 is a year that will be remembered for several reasons. Above all, it will be remembered as the year we all fought COVID-19 – and I look with much respect to many Asian partner countries that have been extremely successful in doing so.
And with the ASEAN Summit series and the signing of RCEP (gesprochen: ARR-SEP), ASEAN has just sent a strong signal of how multilateral approaches will help us to overcome the Crisis.
This is exactly what the partnership between the EU and ASEAN stands for as well: multilateral solutions to common challenges. That is why I have made it a priority of our EU Council Presidency.
The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the risk of ending up in a new bipolarity, demonstrate the strategic dimension of our partnership. Never has there been a better moment for endorsing the Strategic Partnership between the European Union and ASEAN.
The Strategic Partnership stands for our shared belief in multilateralism; no country should be forced to decide between two poles. And it stands for jointly advocating for common EU and ASEAN interests.
The Strategic Partnership stands for the European Union’s strong interest to intensify its relations with ASEAN and its member states. This means more exchange at all levels – from Heads of Government to civil society .
The Strategic Partnership stands for our shared commitment to a rules-based order and our shared interest in safe and open shipping routes. It stands for our shared engagement for free trade – including the ambition of a region-to-region FTA –, for a connected and integrated world and for our joint fight against climate change.
It stands for a strategic, but inclusive, approach towards the Indo-Pacific. That is why ASEAN is at the core of our German Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific.
Last but not least, what this Strategic Partnership stands for are 37 states and 1.1 billion people. Together our voice is strong. Let us make it heard.