ASEAN and EU leaders plan to meet in Brussels in December

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To mark the 45th anniversary of ASEAN-EU relations, their leaders are planning a summit in Brussels in December, according to an informed diplomatic source, who asked not to be identified.

The source said that the summit is currently at the planning stage. If it takes place, all ASEAN and EU leaders will meet at the EU headquarters in Brussels.

The EU was the first of ASEAN’s eleven current dialogue partners. In recent years, the EU has seen its ties with ASEAN elevated and, in 2020, the EU’s status was upgraded to a strategic partnership. The EU is also eager to be a part of various ASEAN-led mechanisms.

In the past, the relationship has often been hampered by political issues pertaining to human rights, undemocratic governance, human trafficking and illegal fishing. These days, however, the crisis in Myanmar tops the bilateral agenda.

Late last year, the EU released its Indo-Pacific strategy paper, which outlines its policies towards the region, especially Southeast Asia. Due to the new strategic environment across the Atlantic, the EU would like to step up its partnerships in Southeast Asia.

The EU is ASEAN’s second-largest partner, with a 13% share of ASEAN’s total trade with the world. The bloc is the EU’s third-largest partner outside Europe (after the US and China). Last year, ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner, replacing the EU.

In 2021, both sides concluded the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, which became the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air transport concord. It aims to increase and streamline passenger and cargo services between Europe and Southeast Asia.

The EU has donated 61.5 million doses of vaccines to the international COVAX scheme, under the administration of World Health Organization and gave 10.5 million doses of vaccines to the ASEAN members.

ASEAN represents a market of 655 million people, which is larger than that of the EU, which is 550 million. Both sides are resuming free trade negotiations, although Singapore and Vietnam have already concluded theirs.


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