A joint communication on the "EU Strategy" for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific has been adopted saying the European Union (EU) is stepping up its strategic engagement with the Indo-Pacific region as the region is increasing its strategic importance for Europe.
The joint communication adopted by the Commission and the High Representative on Thursday contains concrete actions to reinforce the strategic engagement with the region, as tasked by the Council on 19 April 2021.
The EU will deepen its engagement with partners in the Indo-Pacific to respond to emerging dynamics that are affecting regional stability, reports UNB.
"The economic, demographic, and political weight of the Indo-Pacific region is expanding, from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific island states," said President Ursula von der Leyen.
With today's proposals, and guided by values, Leyen said they are offering a strengthened partnership to advance trade, investment and connectivity while addressing common global challenges and reinforcing the rules-based international order.
High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said the world's centre of gravity is moving towards the Indo Pacific, both in geo-economic and geo-political terms.
"The futures of the EU and the Indo-Pacific are interlinked. The EU is already the top investor, the leading development cooperation partner and one of the biggest trading partners in the Indo-Pacific region," Borrell said.
The High Representative said their engagement aims at maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific for all while building strong and lasting partnerships to cooperate on matters from the green transition, ocean governance or the digital agenda to security and defence.
The EU and the Indo-Pacific are highly interconnected, with many shared interests and solid ties, from trade and investments to research and innovation, as well as sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity protection and security.
Its growing economic, demographic, and political weight makes it a key player in shaping the rules-based international order and in addressing global challenges.
The EU aims to contribute to the region's stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development, in line with the principles of democracy, rule of law, human rights and international law, according to a statement issued from Brussels.
The implementation of the EU Strategy will include in particular the following actions: completing EU trade negotiations with Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand; resuming trade negotiations and starting investment negotiations with India; completing an Economic Partnership Agreement with the East Africa Community; assessing the possible resumption of trade negotiations with Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, and the eventual negotiation of a region-to-region trade agreement with ASEAN.
The EU mentioned concluding Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) with Malaysia and Thailand; starting PCA negotiations with the Maldives, and bringing the EU's upcoming new Partnership Agreement with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (ACP) to full fruition.
It also mentioned concluding Green Alliances and Partnerships with willing and ambitious Indo-Pacific partners to fight against climate change and environmental degradation.
The first has been agreed with Japan in May 2021.
Strengthening ocean governance in the region, including increasing the EU's support for Indo-Pacific countries' fisheries management and control systems, the fight against Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and the implementation of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements and expanding the network of digital partnerships with Indo-Pacific partners, as well as exploring the possibility of new Digital Partnership Agreements with Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore are also part of the particular plan of action.
The EU will step up implementation of the Connectivity Partnerships with Japan and India; supporting partners in establishing an appropriate regulatory environment and facilitating the mobilisation of the necessary funding to improve connectivity on the ground between Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
It will also strengthen cooperation on research and innovation under 'Horizon Europe'; explore the association to this programme of eligible like-minded Indo-Pacific partners such as Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand and Singapore.
The EU will explore ways to ensure enhanced naval deployments by EU Member States to help protect the sea lines of communication and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific while boosting Indo-Pacific partners' capacity to ensure maritime security.
It will reinforce support to healthcare systems and pandemic preparedness for the least developed countries in the Indo-Pacific region, enhancing collaborative research on communicable diseases in the context of the Horizon Europe research programme.
The adoption of the Joint Communication follows Council Conclusions on an EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific adopted on 19 April 2021.