Written by IDU Vice Chairman David McAllister MEP, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the European Parliament
The Indo-Pacific region is vital for the European Union’s interests as the world’s largest and most populous region with increasing political, economic, and geostrategic importance.
It is home to 60 percent of the world’s population, producing 60 percent of the global GDP, and contributing two-thirds of the current global growth. The European Parliament has welcomed the renewed commitment to the region outlined in the recent Council’s conclusions on an EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. We support the need to reinforce the EU’s strategic focus, presence, and actions in this vital region.
Current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific have given rise to intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains, as well as in technological, political, and security areas. In this respect, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region matters to the EU and our geopolitical interests. This renewed EU commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, spanning from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific Island states, will have a long-term focus and be based on upholding democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respect for international law.
As a result of the above, our approach and engagement will look to foster the following:
The EU-Indo-Pacific relations open multiple dimensions of cooperation. However, the strategic plan so far has centred on economic integration. The region is home to three of the world’s large economies — Japan, China and India. Sixty percent of world maritime trade passes through its oceans, including a third through the South China Sea. Free and open maritime supply routes, in full compliance with international law, remain crucial. The adoption of the Council Conclusions allows the EU to enhance cooperation further in many areas (such as ocean governance, health, research and technology, security and defence, connectivity), and strengthen working together on tackling global challenges (such as climate change). Working together with our partners in the Indo-Pacific on these issues of common interest is vital. Mitigating the economics and human effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is also of utmost importance. This is an opportunity to work towards ensuring an inclusive and sustainable socio-economic recovery.
The EU Member States have tasked the High Representative of the European Union and the Commission with putting forward a fully-fledged Joint Communication on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific by September this year. In my opinion, our strategic approach and engagement with the region should be principled and include a long-term perspective, contributing to our capability to act as a global actor. We should foster a rules-based international order, a level playing field, as well as an open and fair environment for trade and investment. We should also foster reciprocity, the strengthening of resilience, tackling climate change, and support connectivity. In this respect, I look forward to the ambitious realization of a new EU-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. The EU needs to reinforce its strategic focus, presence, and actions in the Indo-Pacific region with the aim of contributing to the stability, security, prosperity, and sustainable development of the region, based on the promotion of democracy, rule of law, human rights, and international law.