Javier Solana

Only together can we meet the challenges of the future.

It goes without saying that Asia matters to the European Union. Europe has a major stake in a stable and prosperous Asia. Our political, security, and economic interests are more intertwined than ever. But our relationship goes far beyond the economic and trade realm: The European Union and its Asian partners contribute actively together to resolving different regional and global problems. We also share an important vision in which a system of global governance, with regional structures as its cornerstones, effectively addresses trans-national problems.

It is with this vision that I am once again returning to Asia in early August for the ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and bilateral consultations with our ASEAN partners.

Impressive progress

The progress we have made together over the past year is impressive, perhaps even the most important in our 30 years of formal ties. And, the EU’s early accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation can only bring us closer still, with positive implications for the political and security interests of both groups of countries. We have also agreed to strengthen our political exchanges further and to promote practical cooperation in many areas of mutual interest.

One such area, where we work very well together and are set to become closer still, is crisis management. We are, for example, open to sharing more information, boosting technical cooperation and strengthening capacity-building in this field. It was crucial for the EU-led Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), which supervised the peace agreement between Indonesia and Aceh rebels from the summer of 2005 to the end of 2006, that ASEAN partners participated in it. This not only helped ensure the success of the mission but also led to the creation of real ties between the two regional organisations.

As a result of our joint efforts and, of course, the achievements of the Indonesian government, Aceh was stabilised and is now is developing steadily after 30 years of conflict and the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami. Its development, which included the elections held last year, was so positive that the Aceh Monitoring Mission was able to complete its work and leave the province. But the European Union has not left Aceh. On the contrary, we are continuing to give active support to the reconstruction efforts of the Indonesian authorities and the local administration in Aceh with a very substantial and visible development programme.

Just six weeks ago the EU deployed another mission on Asian soil, a police training mission in Afghanistan, which is also open to Asian partner countries. This mission seeks to help establish sustainable and effective civilian policing arrangements under Afghan ownership and in accordance with international standards. The fact that the mission is to run for at least three years underlines the EU’s increased and long-term commitment to security and stability in Asia. We could also envisage cooperating more closely with our Asian partners in future crisis management operations on other continents.

We are following with great interest the historic decisions by ASEAN to further develop the South East Asian community and its work on the ASEAN Charter, which includes the development of an appropriate institutional framework. For obvious reasons, the EU appreciates the ambitious integration project of another region. It has also lent practical support.

I myself have met both the Eminent Persons Group and the High-Level Taskforce of Charter drafters and I was very impressed by their vision and commitment and the pertinent questions they asked about the EU’s integration process. I wish the region every success in finalising the new Charter and I give it every encouragement to pursue an ambitious result. In our European experience, far-reaching political and economic integration has not only overcome divisions between former enemies and ensured stability and prosperity in Europe but it has also proved to be the best solution in tackling regional and global problems that do not stop at national borders.

The ARF, which we value greatly as the only political and security dialogue forum in the Asia-Pacific region, is increasingly recognising the need to find collective solutions to trans-boundary security issues, in particular when it comes to new challenges. Once a year, the ARF meets in a unique forum that brings together the Foreign Ministers of Asian and Pacific countries and their key partners for dialogue on a wide range of issues with a bearing on Asian security. In addition to this fruitful exchange, the forum is also achieving concrete outcomes at the various seminars and workshops which have made it more results-oriented than in the past. The European Union, which attends and contributes to the ARF as a long-standing dialogue partner of the region, is looking forward to the creation of a mechanism that enables the ARF to be active between meetings. This will be a very important and welcome step towards the construction of a regional architecture for Asia.

Asia matters to Europe, and it also goes without saying that the European Union matters to Asia. Together, the EU and ASEAN represent two regions, 37 countries, and more than one billion people. In Europe, Asia has a partner in its search for solutions to global problems such as climate change, energy security or organised crime. It has a partner in the economic and trade realm and it has a partner in development issues. Only together can we meet the challenges of the future.

(The writer is EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.)