Remarks by President Donald Tusk at the ASEAN-EU commemorative summit in Manila

Thank you very much for your warm welcome, Mr President. I am honoured to be here today to celebrate 40 years of ASEAN-EU friendship. I would like to thank the Philippines’ Presidency of ASEAN for convening this Summit and Thailand as coordinator for ASEAN’s dialogue with the EU.

Over four decades, ASEAN and the European Union have forged a relationship of which we can rightly be proud. The potential for greater engagement is enormous. From trade to climate, from maritime security to counter-terrorism, together we can make our two regions stronger. Like the EU, ASEAN is vital for stability in a challenging regional context and a time of geopolitical volatility. We both believe in rules-based multilateralism as opposed to geo-political spheres of influence.

The European Union fully supports ASEAN’s efforts and its mission. We are working towards a Strategic Partnership, to encompass not only trade, investment and sectoral cooperation, but also more security cooperation. The new ASEAN-EU Plan of Action contributes to this goal. We remain committed to a strong and cohesive ASEAN, developing in its own character, in the best interests of regional prosperity, stability and security. Further enhancing our relations based on common interests and the shared values of democracy, human rights and rule of law, is a priority for the EU.

Many of our interests coincide, as do many of the challenges we face. Forty years on, I am personally very glad we have the ASEAN-EU ready and available as a bridge between Asia and Europe in troubling times. If we look at security issues, it is evident how close our regions have become. Most crises today have a global impact. Conflicts in the EU’s neighbourhood have an impact on markets and societies elsewhere, including here in South East Asia. And tensions and radicalisation in the Asia-Pacific can destabilise the world well beyond your region. Terrorist ideologies have spread across continents. We can mitigate this threat if we work together, sharing information on suspects and trends of concern. ASEAN and the EU are already developing anti-terror co-operation through information sharing via Interpol and Europol and the exchange of best practices on dealing with violent extremism. We in Europe are grateful to be able to draw on the considerable experience ASEAN countries have on this issue.

Beyond counter-terrorism, we have co-operated since 2012 on tackling a variety of other threats. Last June, we had ASEAN representatives visiting the headquarters of the EU’s anti-smuggling naval mission Operation Sophia, which targets people smugglers and trafficking networks in the Mediterranean. Be it in the fight against piracy, against illegal and unregulated fishing or any other type of transnational criminality at sea, the EU has a strong record and know-how that we are sharing with ASEAN partners.

ASEAN and the EU are both economic powers. Free and fair trade is and always will be in our DNA. The bilateral trade agreements between the European Union and Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand will be the stepping stones towards a future region-to-region trade agreement that can set a new standard for global trade. Today, EU investors are the leading providers of foreign direct investment to ASEAN countries. As was presented yesterday at the ASEAN Business Summit, EU investment rose by 46 percent in the last year, making our investment in ASEAN more than that of the US and Japan combined. This transfers know-how, technology and management systems that boost productivity in ASEAN.

Our relationship is also about investing in people. Each year over 1,300 ASEAN students and staff from universities receive scholarships and almost 600 European students and staff travel to ASEAN countries under the EU’s Erasmus+ programme. Here is one area where, for sure, the best investment in the future is to do more so that more talented students and researchers can be exchanged between our regions, and that we both reap the huge cultural benefits of global tourism.

Last but not least, I would like to thank you all – and the Philippines in particular – for inviting the European Union to attend the East Asia Summit today as your guest. The East Asia Summit plays an important role in promoting cooperation and trust in the region. We look forward to contributing to this work, as a partner and as a friend. Thank you.