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Europe and the Indo-Pacific: Partners facing similar challenges


ON MAY 13, at our initiative, ministers from the Indo-Pacific and the European Union (EU) and partners gathered in Stockholm. Our meeting is a call for action as much as it is the demonstration of the EU’s continuous commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.

We meet as the world grapples with aggression, geopolitical tensions, economic turbulence, and the climate crisis. In these consequential times our partnerships are essential, and never before has the case for cooperation between our regions been so convincing.

The Indo-Pacific region is of strategic importance. The region holds the larger part of the earth’s population and economy. Through its waters passes the major share of world trade. Stability and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific are vital for our prosperity. The fate of climate change and the health of oceans are largely decided there. When fundamental freedoms and openness are threatened, be it in Europe, the Indo-Pacific or elsewhere, the European Union is not indifferent.

We live in a world of shared security. The rise of tensions in parts of Asia has global consequences. Correspondingly, developments in Europe reverberate also in the Indo-Pacific. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is felt through its flagrant breaches of the principles of the UN charter and through food and energy price hikes. We have a common interest in addressing these challenges and upholding the UN Charter and international law. Indeed, the aims of Ukraine — to protect its freedom, sovereignty, and territorial integrity — is of fundamental importance for all.

In the challenges we face there are many notable parallels between Europe and the Indo-Pacific. Supply chains are stretched, inflation destabilizing, energy insecure, technology competitive, disinformation proliferating, and cyber security threatened. In short, the futures of Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inextricably linked, and our interests align in many ways.

Together, the European Union and the Indo-Pacific are strong enough to make a real difference on free trade and supply chains, technology and climate change, and broad security. We account for more than two-thirds of global trade, GDP, and population. Through closer relations we can further influence cooperation on key global challenges.

In the European Union’s Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific we pledge a growing engagement and invite our partners to join us in addressing common challenges. We envision deeper partnerships on sustainable prosperity and the environment, digital connectivity, and security, including human security. Our Indo-Pacific Strategy is above all an invitation to our partners in the region to dialogue and to address the issues at stake.

The proposition of the European Union is clear. We are ready to act on a broad palette of cooperation reflecting our extensive and long-term commitment to the Indo-Pacific. The latter is exemplified through our Free Trade Agreements, where we have active negotiations with Australia, India, Indonesia, and Kenya, having relaunched negotiations with Thailand and expect to sign an agreement with New Zealand soon. We engage in infrastructure, development cooperation and ocean conservation stretching from the African coast well into the Pacific.

Importantly, the European Union’s approach constitutes an open and inclusive partnership model for the Indo-Pacific where we cooperate based on common interests and the protection of shared values and principles. This design allows us to address the challenges we face more effectively. Our goal is to build strategic trust and promote joint leadership in addressing global challenges.

As we welcomed participants to the EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum in Stockholm on May 13, our discussions will focus on our common interests, challenges and values with the goal of supporting closer coordination and integration. It is a clear message of the long-term European commitment to the Indo-Pacific.

Josep Borrell Fontelles is the EU high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy while Tobias Billström is the minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden.

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