Ambassador and Head of the European Union Delegation to Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- As EU and Asean Foreign Ministers gather in Brussels this week, they will be united in their condemnation of the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17, united in their resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice and united in their grief for the loss of life of innocent people travelling between the two regions.
The tragic event underscores how our regions have become linked up, how this makes us interdependent and how this in turn increases the need to work together in dealing with global threats.
Every year ten million people travel between our two regions
a testament to the depth of the EU's partnership with Asean. The vibrant exchange between our societies is the basis of our growing cooperation.
Together we facilitate trade and promote tourism. Together we tackle organised crime and cooperate to make the oceans safer.
Our societies are growing increasingly interconnected. The EU and Asean are the world's two major initiatives for promoting regional integration. We have worked to advance peace and security at home and abroad for almost four decades.
Economic ties between us are flourishing. Trade between our regions has increased every year since 2009. The EU is the biggest foreign investor in Asean
close to a third of all foreign investments from abroad come from the EU. With the prospect of economic integration in Asean, these numbers are likely to increase even further.
Our successful trade and investment ties are just one facet of our comprehensive partnership. Two years ago we decided to take the EU-Asean cooperation to a new level, making it more political and more ambitious.
More than any other Asean partner, the EU is committed to promote peace through regional integration. The European Union sees regional integration as a sensible answer to the challenges of our ever more complex, interdependent world.
Together we confront challenges such as climate change or maritime security. We inexorably rely on each other to sustain prosperous and safe societies.
Armed conflict and terrorism in one part of the globe influences the well-being of societies elsewhere. Together we are stronger and more resilient.
Within the Southeast Asian region, Malaysia holds a prominent place for the EU. Last year, bilateral trade reached RM135 billion (a 6 per cent increase over 2012) and the EU was Malaysia's third largest foreign investor.
But Malaysia is also valued as a stable and increasingly outward-looking partner in the world, a voice for moderation and an example for many developing countries. Both EU and Malaysia are committed to upgrading bilateral relations in view of their growing common interests and negotiations are ongoing for new political and trade agreements.
Malaysia will have a crucial role as Asean chair in 2015, a year when the region moves towards deeper political and economic integration and will be setting the agenda for the future. We look forward to intensifying our cooperation with Malaysia, supporting Malaysia in its chairman role and sharing what we have achieved in Europe as a source of inspiration and ideas, including lessons on what has worked less well. On 23 July, foreign ministers from 28 EU and 10 Asean Member States gather in Brussels to discuss how the EU-Asean partnership can best deliver on these issues.
Three concrete steps are on their agenda: Our first priority is connectivity - more and better links between and within our societies. We want to invest more in transport, education and communication. This brings people together, by learning and travelling, by trading and exchanging ideas.
Secondly, we also want to work on maritime issues. Safe and secure seas in South East Asia are a prerequisite for a stable and prosperous Asean. They are also important to the EU, as we conduct 90 per cent of our external trade by sea.
We believe that all territorial disputes should be settled peacefully, in a spirit of cooperation and respect of international law including UNCLOS. The EU also supports the efforts to work on a formal and legally binding Code of Conduct between Asean and China and hopes these discussions can be completed soon.
The EU and Asean have a lot of experience to share, from keeping our ports safe to sustainably managing our resources. On illegal fishing and marine conservation, the EU has created a set of policies that could inspire Asean countries grappling with similar challenges.
Our third priority is to eradicate poverty and to sustain the region's dynamic economies. The EU has decided to more than double development aid to Asean countries. The EU and Asean are investing in the future of our societies: every year thousands of students and scholars from Asean come to the EU. They are an important backbone for driving innovation and growth.
A strong EU-Asean partnership is strategically significant for both sides. A united and integrated Asean is good for regional stability, security and prosperity.
Four decades of cooperation have made the EU and Asean natural partners. It has been a successful cooperation in which we have achieved a lot. But there is still more work to be done together.
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