Press Releases EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum: Opening remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell

EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum: Opening remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

A warm welcome to Brussels for the 3rd EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum.

The Indo-Pacific region is characterised by its economic vitality and a strategic importance, more and more.

Home to over half of the world’s population and close to 50% of the world’s GDP, the Indo-Pacific is a hub of commerce and innovation. Our prosperity is linked to its stability and growth.

The Indo-Pacific region serves as a critical route for global trade. 60% of [the] global maritime trade by volume sails through your waters.

The majority of commerce between Europe and Indo-Pacific nations occurs via maritime routes. 40% of all global containers go through the East-West shipping lanes.

These figures are impressive and show how much linked we are with you.

Yet, amidst this vibrant economic tapestry, and maybe also because of it, the Indo-Pacific region is the scene of complex geopolitical rivalries.

The erosion of trust, the weakening of international norms, the rise of force and coercion threaten the rules-based order. As you know, we are against a world where “might makes right”.

Yes, geopolitical rivalries can disrupt supply chains, can hinder trade, affecting business, markets, prices, inflations, economic activity [and] livelihoods.

On the other hand – do not forget about it – climate change. We are so much fixed on the “every week crises” that, maybe, the geopolitical trouble in which we are can make us to forget about the underlying big crisis of humankind.

Climate change threatens to disrupt our delicate ecosystems, exacerbate resource scarcity, and displace millions from their homes. We are seeing that close to our borders. That is also a security challenge – not the only one, but an important one.

Security challenges are quickly taking on global dimensions, ranging from terrorism and political instability to cyber warfare and natural disasters.

I do not want to be too bleak and negative, but I am sorry we have to face the reality. And the reality is not good in today’s world.

We have seen Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine that has highlighted the importance of cooperation and collective action. The principles at stake in Ukraine – we repeat that, once and again – are not just European, they are global. And the consequences of this war are being felt far beyond Ukraine and far beyond Europe.

But today, the hotspot, the most dangerous is what is happening in the Middle East.

The current volatile landscape in the Middle East casts a shadow over global stability and prosperity – and it is a scar open on the skin of the Earth.

To start with the Red Sea, which is a vital trade artery connecting Europe and the Indo-Pacific region. Major shipping companies are rerouting maritime traffic around the Cape of Good Hope, and as a result, Europe-Asia cargo traffic is prolonged by about 10 days. 10 days means about 6,000 km, and it is a real trouble for our business model, and for the security of supply and for the freedom of navigation.

Disruptions to freedom of navigation have consequences that go beyond economic losses. It is not just a matter of some days more or some dollars more, it is about peace and stability.

And that is why, we [are] actively working with our international partners to restore maritime security in the Red Sea. We are advancing the work on a new maritime operation that we call ASPIDES, from an ancient name of the Greek language to refer to a shield.

This is a shield. It [will be] purely defensive. Its task will be just to protect merchant vessels, to deter attacks with its presence, and to strengthen maritime situational awareness. Our purpose is not to conduct any kind of attack, but just to defend.

It will be deployed at sea, with ships and air assets, proportional to the threat we are facing. ASPIDES will not conduct any operation on land, only to protect navigation at sea.

It will start its [work] and I hope it will be approved by my colleagues Foreign Ministers on the next 19th of February.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are approaching our Indo-Pacific Strategy. This is already something that has some years behind, it was in 2021, we are in 2024. This is a Strategy for cooperation and inclusiveness.

And in order to show how it is a cooperation for inclusiveness, let me present a few notable examples of how our strategic vision has translated into meaningful [progress] since our last meeting in Stockholm in May last year.

Look, as regards political partnerships, we signed the “Samoa Agreement”, a new Partnership Agreement with the Members of the Organisation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACP) that was long due. It was a big success. It took a long time but finally in Samoa, we signed this new partnership.

Then, we launched the negotiations on a new EU-Bangladesh Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). Last year, we signed the EU-Thailand and EU-Malaysia Partnership and Cooperation Agreements.

We are continuing our trade agenda. Last year, we signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with New Zealand, and an Economic Partnership Agreement with Kenya.

With Australia, India, Indonesia, Eastern and Southern Africa, and Thailand, negotiations for new Free Trade Agreements are ongoing.

We are building our digital cooperation with Japan, with Singapore, the Republic of Korea, and India.

And we try to support our partners to advance their green transitions with important commitments towards Vietnam with €500 million of support, Bangladesh [with] €400 million, and the Philippines also [with] €466 million.

But it is not just about financial support. We want to continue to strengthen security and defence partnerships with countries in the region, and engaging in a more operational cooperation, by holding joint naval exercises and building up in the capacities of our partners.

This is a dense agenda and that is why we are here.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you once again for attending this important meeting. Thank you for travelling to Brussels, to share – all of us – the same purpose of security and prosperity, with the clear understanding that the European Union and the Indo-Pacific region have a clear interest in working together for a shared resilience in this troubled world.

We need resilient economies and supply chains that generate shared prosperity. We need resilient societies to face up climate change and advance the green transition. This transition will be fair, or it will not happen. We need a resilient governance based on international law and the rules-based international order.

I am sure, I am convinced that today’s [EU Indo-Pacific] Ministerial Forum, and in particular the three roundtable discussions, will provide the opportunity to share ideas on these three areas.

Thank you very much for being here. Let’s go to work.

Link to the video:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *