Press Releases EEAS : Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the joint press conference following the EU-ASEAN Ministerial meeting

EEAS : Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the joint press conference following the EU-ASEAN Ministerial meeting

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the joint press conference following the EU-ASEAN Ministerial meeting

Bruxelles, 21/01/2019 – 20:17, UNIQUE ID: 190121_23

Let me start by thanking you, Vivian [Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore], for an excellent experience in preparing and co-chairing this excellent meeting we just had with our Ministers on the ASEAN [Associations of Southeast Asian Nations] side and on the European Union side. It is impressive to see how many Ministers travelled all the way to Brussels – and it is a far-away place and a cold place on top of it – for having this important Ministerial Meeting that we just had. I would like to thank you for your leadership in preparing the good outcome of today’s deliberations.

First of all, I am pleased to say that we agreed today, in principle, to upgrade our relations to a Strategic Partnership between the European Union and ASEAN. As we both said in our meeting, it is indeed a recognition of an already strategic partnership we are having in many different fields, which is extremely important for our citizens, for our people, but also for sending a signal to the rest of the world that the two most advanced and most successful regional organisations’ processes in the world – ASEAN and the European Union – not only stand firmly behind multilateralism and a cooperative and regional approach, but also come together to promote a common agenda globally.

Now, more than ever, it is vital that on key political and security issues, we work more closely together – even more closely than before – region-to-region, to defend and promote multilateralism and a global rules based order. We both believe in rules-based multilateralism, in regional cooperation, in a cooperative approach to international issues, and not in geopolitical spheres of influence. We have this as our approach internally, and it only comes natural to share this approach.

We have a joint interest in upholding the principles of free and fair trade and to counter the rise of protectionism. We have been making progress in negotiating bilateral free-trade agreements with a number of ASEAN countries – of course the last of such agreements we signed was with Singapore in October here in Brussels when you were last here, Vivian [Balakrishnan] – and our ultimate goal remains to establish a region-to-region Free Trade Agreement, as we have reiterated today.

We are also moving closer to concluding a region-to-region Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) with ASEAN, which would be a first of its kind and a landmark in our cooperation.

We have also shared the ambition to establish a meaningful EU-ASEAN Connectivity Partnership, based on our respective strategies on connectivity that have so much in common.

We also discussed very openly, very clearly some specific issues that are relevant for all of us.

As regards the situation in Rakhine State, the European Union has stressed the importance of finding a comprehensive and durable solution. We urged the implementation of the 2017 Myanmar-Bangladesh arrangement on the return of displaced persons affected by violence. We have underlined the need to provide for full and unhindered humanitarian access for the UN and humanitarian agencies to the region affected and to establish conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of displaced persons. We also underlined the importance of accountability and of the need to address the root causes of conflict and displacement, notably through the full implementation of the recommendations of the Annan Advisory Commission – something we have discussed several times with our partners in the region and directly with the authorities in Myanmar.

On our part, our partners today have heard a very firm and strong commitment from the European Union side to work with them on the sensitive issue of palm oil. We will establish an European Union-ASEAN Working Group to look at all the related issues in depth. We all have a common interest in addressing the possible negative environmental and social impacts of the production of palm oil, by ensuring that it takes place in a sustainable manner.

We also discussed several other issues of specific interest, either on the EU side or on ASEAN developments, and most of all, our common agenda from climate change to cybersecurity, and the list is so long – we were joking that it could take us a couple of hours to debrief you fully on all the exchanges we have had.

Let me conclude by saying that we have certainly come away from our meeting – for sure on the European Union side – inspired by the fact that half-way around the world there is another group of countries, that we know very well, that are working together to bring their people together, to integrate their economies and to stand as one on the world stage as an effective force for stability and progress.

Our partnership is a natural one, the decision to upgrade it today to a strategic level is a natural choice. We are proud of this choice today and we are very much looking forward to continue working together very closely.

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