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EU-China Dialogue week

EU-China: Parliamentary, Economic and Human Rights Discussions in Brussels

1 June 2012

This week was a busy one for discussions on EU-China relations. The European Parliament hosted the annual exchange with the CCP, the EEAS hosted a round of the regular human rights dialogue and the Madariaga Foundation organised a debate on China’s economic prospects.

The third annual dialogue between the party groups in the EP and representatives of the CCP, led by Minister Wang Jiarui took place on 29 and 30 May. In the opening plenary speakers from both sides sought to emphasise the areas of common concern, especially the need to work together in a period of grave economic turmoil in Europe. Minister Wang and Qu Xing (President of the China Institute of International Studies) outlined some of the differences in approach on the foreign policy front – Syria, Libya, Iraq – all examples of the West’s penchant for intervention. China did not believe in the use of force or sanctions to resolve political disputes.

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NATO-Pakistan at low ebb

NATO-Pakistan relations at low ebb

1 June 2012

Relations between NATO and Pakistan have been rocky for some time, mainly over the war in Afghanistan. As NATO’s leader, Washington alleges that Pakistan could do much more to support the US in ‘the war on terror’ both domestically and in the region. 

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China, Japan and Korea agree to start FTA talks

China, Japan and Korea agree to start FTA talks

14 May 2012

At their fifth trilateral summit in Beijing on 13 May the leaders of China, Japan and Korea agreed to start preliminary negotiations on a free trade agreement. The leaders also signed a ‘milestone’ trilateral investment agreement and agreed to step up cooperation on regional security issues.

Trade between the three East Asian giants has been booming - up from $130bn in 1999 to $690 bn in 2011. China is now the biggest trading partner of both Japan and Korea.

China’s prime minister Wen Jiabao said that the investment agreement was the first legal document on trilateral cooperation in the economic field.  He also said  ‘the global economy is recovering slowly while the European debt crisis is not over. The establishment of a free-trade pact will unleash the economic vitality of the region and give a massive boost to economic integration in East Asia. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said economic co-operation was essential to maintaining the Asia-Pacific region as the growth centre of the world economy.

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Ashton opens EU office in Myanmar

Ashton opens EU office in Myanmar

30 April 2012

During her visit to Myanmar on 28 April Catherine Ashton opened a new EU office headed by Andreas List, an Austrian EU official and expert on the country. At the opening ceremony, attended by Aung San Suu Kyi and the Chief Minister of Yangon Region U Myint Swe, Ashton said that the office demonstrated the EU’s commitment to supporting the reform process in Myanmar. She said that the EU would be ‘a friend and supporter’ of change and promised EU aid for improving the situation of people in urban and rural areas. Ashton also called for an end to the ethnic conflict in Kachin and said this would be a key message when she met President Thein Sein on 30 April. 

Ashton’s visit coincided with that by German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, and followed similar visits by the UK, French and other EU ministers. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was also in town to meet Myanmar’s leaders and address the Burmese parliament.

Media reports suggest that the dispute between Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party and the government about taking a swearing-in oath which requires new MPs to pledge to safeguard the constitution has been resolved.

 

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EU-ASEAN Ministerial

EU-ASEAN Ministerial

27 April 2012

The smiles said it all. Catherine Ashton, EU and ASEAN foreign ministers looked very relaxed as they posed for the family photo after the EU-ASEAN ministerial in Brunei on 27 April. Both sides agreed to open ‘a new chapter’ in their relations after years of dispute over how to deal with Myanmar. ASEAN welcomed the EU’s decision to suspend sanctions and stated that ASEAN-EU relations have ‘matured and diversified.’ Straight after the Brunei meeting Ashton flew to pay her first visit to Myanmar and open an EU office in Yangon. 

ASEAN leaders had often criticised the EU for not showing up in force. This time the EU did send a top team including British Foreign Minister William Hague and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Perhaps this helped the EU in securing an agreement from the ASEAN side to support the EU’s early accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia which is a prerequisite for the EU to become a member of the East Asian summit.

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President van Rompuy - haiku poet

EU-Japan Haiku Event

19 April 2012

President Herman van Rompuy was the guest of honour at a Haiku ceremony at the residence of the Japanese ambassador to the EU on19 April. 

The EU president is an accomplished Haiku practitioner and read out his haiku to the guests:

Flowering orchard / born again every year. - / I welcome the blossoms.

Ambassador Shiojiro also read out his haiku:

Taste asparagus/Chorus of spring/Hope comes anew

The photo opposite shows EU-Asia Centre Vice President Piet Steel with President van Rompuy, Ambassador Shiojiro and his wife, and the mayor of Matsuyama

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New Aid for Pacific Islands

New Aid for Pacific Islands

18 April 2012

The devastating effects of climate change have been all too clear in the Pacific region. For inhabitants of islands in the Pacific, climate change is on their doorsteps.

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India-Pakistani lunch

India-Pakistan lunch

9 April 2012

On 7 April President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India met for a ‘private’ lunch in New Delhi. This should not be regarded as a surprising occasion between two neighbours sharing a 3,000km border. 

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ASEAN summit

ASEAN summit welcomes Myanmar changes

6 April 2012

The 20th ASEAN summit in Cambodia on 3-4 April celebrated its 45th anniversary and tackled a number of difficult issues (Myanmar, South China Sea) and avoided a few (North Korea satellite launch). The summit took place just three weeks before the EU-ASEAN ministerial which Catherine Ashton will attend before visiting Myanmar. Prior to the summit there was an EU-ASEAN business meeting where Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht, reiterated the EU’s desire to reach a bloc to bloc free trade agreement.

Myanmar has often been a problem both for ASEAN and for EU-ASEAN relations. On this occasion, the ten-nation grouping welcomed political and economic reforms in Myanmar and called for all sanctions against the country to be lifted ‘in order to contribute positively to the democratic process and economic development.’ The US has since promised to ease sanctions while the EU is expected to take a similar decision later this month

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EU-Korean Leaders

EU-Korea Summit

28 March 2012

Following the nuclear summit in Seoul, EU and Korea leaders met for the sixth EU-Korea summit. Inevitably attention was on North Korea’s intention to launch a satellite next month. But there was also a broad discussion on the bilateral relationship.

At a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, President van Rompuy said the EU was ‘gravely concerned’ at North Korea\'s missile and nuclear weapons programmes and called on it to refrain from any destabilising act. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso highlighted the gravity of North Korea\'s human rights situations and urged Pyongyang to divert more resources to feed its people instead of developing costly weapons programmes.

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