Monday, September 25, 2017

ASEAN and Europe must cooperate on security

ASEAN and Europe must work together on issues that impact peace and stability in Southeast Asia.

Surin delivering his keynote speech at the Asia-Euro Policy Forum. Photo - SuppliedSurin delivering his keynote speech at the Asia-Euro Policy Forum. Photo - Supplied

Dr Surin Pitsuwan, former secretary general of ASEAN, said that given the current global situation, ASEAN and Europe should join hands on strategic and security matters, as well as on other issues such as international crime and climate change. He said the US under President Donald Trump is moving away from free trade and globalisation.

“Europe has to show ASEAN that it has our interests on its agenda,” Surin said in the keynote speech yesterday at the Asia-Euro Policy Forum, organised by the Jakarta-based Center for Security and International Studies, the Asia Center, the Japan Foundation and the Paris-based L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS).

He said that back in the 1990s, ASEAN and Europe both saw the need for the two groupings to get together, so “they formed the Asia-Europe Meeting or ASEM.” However, he said, after the economic crisis of 1997, Europe quickly lost interest in the region because of the group’s poor economic performance. “Only two EU leaders attended the second ASEM meeting in 1998 in London,” he said.

“Now, we need a new agenda that both sides can work on,” he said, adding that multilateralism is being questioned and globalisation is being discredited.

Surin said that the EU and ASEAN support economic integration and multilateralism, so the two groupings need to cooperate more. He urged ASEAN and European leaders to hold dialogues on security issues. “More European leaders should attend ASEAN-led meetings,” he said.

Sebastian Lechevaliers, director of EHESS, echoed the sentiment, admitting that ASEAN and Europe have lots of room to cooperate and hold a dialogue. He said the Asia-Euro Policy Forum will be continuously convened in the next few years.

It is an open secret that the EU would like to become a strategic partner of ASEAN and be invited to join the leader-only security forum known as the East Asia Summit. Current ASEAN chair the Philippines has already invited Canada to attend the EAS as its guest.