Speech by President von der Leyen at the opening ceremony of the EU-ASEAN Commemorative Summit

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.

Your Majesty,

Royal Highness,

Fellow leaders,

Let me add my warm welcome to Brussels, after such a long trip. One thing is for sure, there might be many, many miles that divide us but there are much more values that unite us. For 45 years now indeed, ties between the Europe Union and ASEAN have grown stronger and stronger. And today, our strategic partnership is more relevant than ever. Because if we literally stand at the opposite sides of the world, our destinies are linked more than ever before. We have seen it with the pandemic. We see it in the connection of our value chains. We see it with climate change and with geopolitics. Russia’s war against Ukraine has sent shock waves through the world. Not only is it an attack against the rules-based order, which protects every country’s rights, at all corners of the world. Russia’s war of aggression has also destabilised the global economy and made global commodity prices soar. I know that ASEAN has just signed with Ukraine the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. And this speaks louder than a million words.

Fellow leaders,

Both the European Union and ASEAN have multilateralism in our DNA. We have strong economic ties. We have a similar outlook on the Indo-Pacific. This Summit gives the opportunity to discuss how we can join forces even more to achieve our shared goals. And I see three key areas where we can do more.

The first is on energy and climate. Russia has unleashed a global energy crisis, which comes on top of the ongoing climate crisis. The answer to both crises is the same. We must support each other to speed up our transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. Renewable energy is not only good for the climate, but it is also home-grown, it gives us independence and security of supply. At the G20 in Bali, we signed a Just Energy Transition Partnership with Indonesia. And, together with partners, we have just concluded a similar partnership with Vietnam. I know that Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for an ASEAN Green Deal. So let us discuss how the European Green Deal and the ASEAN Green Deal can reinforce each other.

My second point: We should also reinforce our economic ties and trade. We are each other’s third largest trading partner, but it accounts for only 5% of our trade. There is so much untapped potential. The lesson of the pandemic should be that we should all diversify our partnerships. We all know that today, trade agreements are much more than tariffs and quotas. They are vehicles of cooperation to jointly address the twin green and digital transitions. They are also about digital trade, about clean technologies, about resilient supply chains. I very much welcome that our Trade Ministers focus on that now. Our trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam are already delivering on the ground. And Europe wants to conclude more free trade agreements with other ASEAN countries. Our ultimate goal is one of a region-to-region agreement. And I think we now need to seize the opportunity and make it work.

My third and final point: Meeting the challenges of the twin green and digital transitions requires massive investments in infrastructure and people. And we all need to diversify our sources of investment. Many investments will be private and some will require public support to make them happen. This is where Global Gateway comes into play. And today, Team Europe is putting forward an investment package for ASEAN worth EUR 10 billion until 2027. If we want to link our zones of growth, we need to upgrade our economies; from clean energy to the digital infrastructure, from wind farms to solar power plants. We will support the integration of electricity infrastructure and electricity markets in ASEAN. And we will invest in trusted and secure digital submarine connections. We will cooperate on research and on academic exchange programmes. And we will strengthen together the response systems for pandemic preparedness in ASEAN. So there is a lot of good work ahead of us for both Europe and Southeast Asia.

Once again, a very warm welcome to Brussels.

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