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Leaders at ASEM Meeting in Madrid

Successful ASEM in Madrid

17 December 2019

The ASEM foreign ministers meeting in Madrid was a useful opportunity to cement European and Asian support for multilateralism; and for Josep Borrell to meet his Asian interlocutors. The ministerial paved the way for the ASEM summit on 16-17 November 2020 in Cambodia.

Ministers engaged in a lively debate during their retreat session touching on the above and other sensitive issues such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Kashmir, Syria and the Donbas.

The new High Representative used the opportunity of the ASEM foreign ministers meeting in Madrid this week to hold bilateral talks with a number of Asian colleagues. He judged the ASEM to have been a success and hoped that in future there could be more focus on fewer subjects with the possibility of joint actions.

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Abe, Juncker sign connectivity partnership

30 September 2019

On 27 September 2019, Jean-Claude Juncker and Shinzo Abe signed a connectivity partnership designed to boost cooperation between the EU and Japan on infrastructure projects. 

Building on its Connectivity Strategy of last September, Juncker said the EU wanted to do more with Asia and specifically Japan, a likeminded country. He praised Japan’s contribution to the rules-based international order and said that there were limitless possibilities to future cooperation.

Abe welcomed the EU’s initiative and said that Japan shared the EU’s approach to promoting rules-based connectivity that is sustainable across the board – fiscally, economically, socially and environmentally.


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China’s Defence White paper

26 July 2019

26 July 2019

On 24 July, the Chinese government released its latest white paper on defence, updating the 2011 document, published before President Xi took office. In the press conference accompanying the launch of the white paper, State Council officials said that China had always been a peace-loving nation, as illustrated by the lack of offensive military action since 1949. The central concept at the basis of the nation’s military strategy had always been ‘self-defence.’

But the paper also indicates that China will not shy away from employing its military to defend its national interests. Compared to the previous strategy, this year’s white paper not only strikes an increasingly assertive tone towards Taiwan, but also identifies the United States as the single most precarious threat to China’s national security.

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Mogherini on the EU's Security Role in Asia

7 June 2019

7 June 2019

Federica Mogherini outlined the EU’s growing security role in Asia at the Shangri-La dialogue on 1 June. She said that the EU’s ambition was not only to be the key economic partner for Asia, but also to become a security partner.

She said that Asian partners were showing a constantly growing interest in closer and deeper cooperation with the EU on security issues; from counter terrorism to maritime security.

The EU had military-to-military talks with eleven Asian countries and there were a growing number of military advisors in the EU delegations. A number of Asian partners had also signed agreements to participate in CSDP missions. Many had contributed to Operation Atalanta, fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia.

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EU-Japan Harmony

30 April 2019

The EU-Japan summit on 25 April was full of harmony with both sides emphasising how much they had in common: preserving the rules-based multilateral system, fighting protectionism, promoting democracy and human rights, protecting the environment, supporting the Iran nuclear deal and the complete nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

Prime Minister Abe was visiting a number of countries to prepare for the G20 summit in Osaka in June. Immediately after Brussels he flew to Washington for a meeting with Trump. The US was the elephant in the room at the summit as both the EU and Japan were suffering from tariffs imposed by Trump and both faced the prospect of further tariffs on cars.

The leaders agreed on an extensive joint statement, illustrating the breadth of the current and future cooperation between the two parties, which now jointly constitute the world's largest free trading area.


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EU-China Summit Ends with Smiles

10 April 2019

10 April 2019

After lengthy and tough negotiations, the EU-China summit on 9 April ended with smiles and a joint statement. Presidents Tusk and Juncker plus Premier Li Keqiang spoke of a win-win outcome despite the fact that the EU had recently labelled China ‘a systemic rival,’ a description borne out of frustration at China’s failure to keep to promises made at previous summits.

Tusk said the united EU position had led to progress on some of the EU's most difficult problem areas with China, notably an agreement to tackle the sensitive issue of industrial subsidies within the WTO framework. There was also movement on geographical indications and a pledge to wrap up the bilateral investment treaty talks by 2020. For the first time China acknowledged there was a problem with enforced technology transfer. 

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International outcry over Brunei revision of penal statutes

5 April 2019

5 April 2019

On April 3, a revision of the penal code entered into force in the Kingdom of Brunei-Darussalam, foreseeing death by stoning as the sole legal punishment for gay and lesbian sex, adultery, and abortion. The Sharia-inspired code, which entry into force had been postponed for four years due to mounting international pressure, has come under renewed criticism from governments and NGOs around the world.

The new law testifies to the conservative turn the country has taken in recent years under Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. In a statement by the EEAS, the EU condemned those aspects in the revised penal code which amount to “torture, acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which are prohibited by the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” to which Brunei is a party.

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Thai Elections Standoff

2 April 2019

The long delayed general election in Thailand on 24 March has failed to produce any clarity let alone heal the divisions in Thai society. With final results only to be released after the coronation ceremony on May 6, it remains unclear which party will be leading in forming a new government. 

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EU Takes Tougher Line on China

13 March 2019

13 March 2019

The Commission and EEAS issued a communication on 12 March on EU-China relations proposing that the EU takes a tougher approach towards its strategic partner and top trading partner. The paper proposed ten actions (see annex) urging China, described as a ‘systematic rival,’ to deal with the lack of reciprocity in economic relations and to act as a responsible stakeholder in tackling global challenges. The paper also raised sensitive issues such as human rights and the situation in the South China Sea.

The paper will be discussed at the March European Council which will also prepare guidelines for the EU-China summit set for 9 April in Brussels. Before then China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 March. 

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