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ASEAN-EU Ministerial Strengthens Ties

17 October 2016

The ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting in Bangkok on 13-14 October was a quiet success although overshadowed by the death of the King of Thailand. The two sides reinforced their determination to deepen relations, had good discussions on common security challenges, and agreed to launch talks on a new Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement aimed at increasing flights between the two regions.

Ten EU foreign ministers made the journey to Bangkok with five on the ASEAN side. As Federica Mogherini was ill the EU delegation was led by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak who reminded the meeting that the EU was the largest investor in the region and would continue pursuing its aim of bilateral FTAs with a view to a region to region FTA at a later date. He also promised that the EU would continue to support regional development including the Lower Mekong delta project.

The EU secured increased support for its aim of becoming a member of the East Asia summit but as ASEAN operates on a consensus basis there was no overall ASEAN agreement. The meeting agreed the Bangkok Declaration on Promoting an ASEAN-EU Global Partnership for Shared Strategic Goals which should help pave the way for elevating the partnership to a strategic level. The declaration noted that a future ASEAN-EU Strategic Partnership ‘must be based on substantive action from both sides and concrete results.’ Interestingly, apart from the usual raft of official meetings, the two sides agreed to establish an ASEAN-EU Forum of Strategic Thinkers to be convened in Thailand.

The declaration also agreed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their relations in 2017 through a special programme of activities.

In the margins of the meeting there was discussion about the impact of the new president of the Philippines on regional security, on the timetable for political change in Thailand, on the US elections, and the implications of Brexit for the future of the EU.

For the full declaration click HERE