ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, Nuremberg, Germany
Nguyen Thi DInh – Asean Affairs correspondent
On the 14-15 March 2007, Foreign Ministers from the European Union (EU) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Nuremberg, Germany. The two regional organizations will seek to expand their cooperation to create enhanced partnership.
The ministers of the EU and ASEAN adopted a statement calling for closer security, energy, environmental and development ties. While the two sides have enjoyed good relations for 30 years, analysts say ASEAN is looking to ties with Europe to balance China's growing might and it also wants to emulate the EU by establishing its own single market by 2015.
The EU, which now has 27 participating members, called for more corporations between two regions to combat climate change, energy matters, resolve world trade disputes and to counter terrorism. EU president, Germany’s Frank Walter Steinmeier said of these objectives “we will only be able to face them if we work together”.
Combined, the two regions share a huge pool of resources, with the EU’s population estimated at 500 million, while ASEAN’s is estimated at 560 million. “The challenges posed by climate change are obvious” said Steinmeier, identifying the issue as one that the two sides can not afford to ignore. Last week, the EU leader pledged to cut green house gas emissions to 30% if the other countries join the initiative. “These targets will only be fully effective if other international partners come on board too” said Steinmeier. Another issue on the agenda, closely related to that of climate change, was energy.
Steinmeier said it was crucial to conclude World Trade Organization talks regarding international security, saying crisis regions such as the Middle East and Afghanistan posed equal threat to the citizens of both the EU and ASEAN. Europe also wants to “continue to cooperate closely, indeed even more closely, on issues of international security”, improving relations that have previously been damaged by discord over human rights and other sensitive political issues.
The EU is seeking to expand economic cooperation with the ASEAN countries, said Steinmeier, noting that the EU is ASEAN's second largest export market and third largest trading partner after the United States and Japan. They are looking into possibility of a free trade agreement with ASEAN and are also negotiating comprehensive partnership agreements with a number of ASEAN states. They had initially hoped to launch talks by April, however ASEAN’s insistence on including Myanmar (formerly Burma) in any deal is blocking the way to such an agreement.
Myanmar’s military rulers are widely criticized for failing to democratize. The country's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been under almost continual house arrest after leading her party to victory in the general elections in 1990. Despite her widespread popularity, Myanmar's military junta regularly calls her a “threat to national unity” saying she and her party are trying to undermine the government by collaborating with foreign powers.
The EU and ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting closed on Thursday 15 March 2007. The result was the Nuremberg Declaration, adopted by the two blocs after the two-day meeting which is of "strategic significance" for the development of both regions on the issues mentioned above.