EU keen to partner Asia in more areas beyond trade (The Straits Times)

THE European Union is pitching strongly for a bigger role in Asia.

Ms Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said yesterday that the 28-nation bloc has the means and wants to do more by expanding its partnership with Asia beyond trade to include political and security issues.

“So please, please don’t look at us just as a big free trade area – the European Union is also a foreign policy community, a security and defence provider.

“For our own people – within our borders and in the rest of the world… we are ready to take more responsibility,” said Ms Mogherini, adding that the EU is “developing instruments” to step up its involvement in this part of the world and, “you can count on Europe”.

The EU will double its assistance to Asean to €170 million (S$252 million), work towards inking an EU-Asean free trade deal, build up expertise and exchange ideas on disaster relief work.

It would also like having increased diplomatic engagement and even membership of institutions such as the Asean Regional Forum.

Germany, Europe’s No. 1 economy, lent its weight to the case for a bigger European role in Asia.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the security challenges faced by Europe and Asia were similar. These include transnational terrorism, failing states, a trend towards military power projection and increasing territorial conflicts.

Citing Germany’s experience, Dr von der Leyen said it has benefited from the partnerships and alliances it is part of, such as the EU and Nato.

She said cooperation between Asean and the EU over common defence and security policy “should intensify”.

“The globalised world is more and more one. But it is far from being united. Dialogue and the sharing of expertise across the continents should lead to a world that is more united, more stable and safer,” said Dr von der Leyen.