EU targets stronger air links, economic ties with ASEAN

EU targets stronger air links, economic ties with ASEAN

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EU targets stronger air links, economic ties with ASEAN
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  • The European Union’s priorities this year include boosting air connectivity with ASEAN and deepening bilateral economic relations, EU’s envoy says
  • EU Ambassador to ASEAN Igor Driesmans said the comprehensive air transport accord signed last October by the two blocs provides a boost to their aviation link
  • The EU wants to increase investment in ASEAN and negotiate free trade pacts with members and resume FTA talks with Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand

Boosting air connectivity between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and deepening bilateral economic relations will be among the priorities of the 27-member union this year, EU Ambassador to ASEAN Igor Driesmans was reported as saying.

Vietnam News Agency quoted the diplomat as saying the signing on October 17, 2022 of the EU-ASEAN comprehensive air transport agreement, the first ever region-to-region aviation pact, will provide a boost to air connectivity between the two blocs comprising 37 countries.

Driesmans said the EU wants to increase its investment in the region, with leaders of the bloc announcing €10 billion ($10.88 billion) in investment in Southeast Asia over the next two years through the “Global Gateway” sustainable investments, hoping to address some of ASEAN’s big connectivity needs and building on the successes of previous cooperation in that respect.

The EU has already signed free trade agreements (FTA) with Singapore and Vietnam, he said. The union will negotiate FTAs with other ASEAN countries and resume FTA discussions with Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

Driesmans said that the EU’s second priority is to develop a joint green and sustainable agenda with the region, a top priority for the EU and for its partnership with ASEAN, the report said.

The diplomat said the union is rolling out the EU Green Deal to make the EU circular, carbon neutral economy by 2050, so it needs to partner with ASEAN to make that a reality because the entire region is increasingly a CO2 emitter due to rapid growth.

The EU has been developing a few cooperation projects and programs with ASEAN, for example, to support smart green cities improve biodiversity to manage peatlands more sustainably, he said.

“And we look forward to working with Indonesia to hold the first ever EU-ASEAN environmental ministerial meeting this year, and I will add one other dialogue that we will be opening is a dialogue on energy with ASEAN,” Driesmans said.

The diplomat said the third priority is security partnership, as there are security issues in both ASEAN and EU, especially Myanmar in Southeast Asia, and Ukraine in Europe.

The EU hopes to work with ASEAN to ensure free and open maritime supply routes in the East Sea in full compliance with international law, in particular the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Driesmans said, pledging that the EU will also support negotiations for a Code of Conduct on the East Sea.

The ambassador also underlined other priorities of the EU in promoting Indo-Pacific partnership, and ensuring a safe, prosperous ASEAN.

RELATED READ: Efforts renewed to forge an ASEAN-EU free trade deal

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