By Urvashi Seth. With the changing times, global economic power has been shifting to Asia. Now it is no longer considered as a continent with the third world nations. Countries like China, Singapore, India and Japan are few of the largest growing economies in the world. With time, it is important for European Union to shift its focus from the United States to Asia.
After Donald Trump’s administration took office, the relationship between European Union and the United States has been uncertain. Many analysts around the world has already called the European Union to take charge in Asia. With Brexit bound to happen, a drop in the economic progress in European Union is expected. Furthermore, United Kingdom has always acted as a bridge between the Asia and European Union. Now with the mediator gone, the future of the relationship between European Union and Asia stands uncertain.
The European Union and Central Asia
‘The European Union (EU) is outlining its vision for a renewed partnership with Central Asia, updating its strategy on relations with the region first set out in 2007.’ This was the statement released by the European Commission in a press release on 15th May, 2019. The five Central Asian countries which took part in the discussion were Kazakhstan; the Kyrgyz Republic; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; and Uzbekistan.
The Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said, “The European Union is a leading development partner for Central Asia, supporting the region with over 1 billion Euro between 2014-2020 in areas such as the rule of law, environment, water, trade and border management. Through a renewed partnership, we want to strengthen our engagement with Central Asian partners to help them make the region more resilient, prosperous and better inter-connected.”
The future European Union engagement includes partnering for resilience and prosperity to help with the sustainable development and reform processes to benefit all the citizens.
Furthermore, the European Union is determined to invest in regional cooperation in Central Asia, helping the countries of the region to promote dialogue and cooperation at their own pace.
The European Union and Northeast Asia
In a recent international conference hosted by John Cabot University, a panel of speakers from Europe and Italy came in to discuss on ‘New Game Changers in the European Union-Asia Relationship’. Here the panellists emphasised on the need of the European Union to focus its attention on Taiwan. This is because Taiwan is going for its presidential elections in 2020. “Recent developments between China, Taiwan and the United States illustrate the challenge Europe has in making an impact in Asia, but at the same time speak to the need to think carefully about the role that Europe should play in defending its shared values,” said one of the panellists.
It was also noted that earlier, from the European Union, United Kingdom has always played a huge role in maintaining the relations between northeast Asia and EU. With Brexit happening, individual European Union nations will have to participate in a dialogue with northeast Asia to maintain their relations.
European Union also needs to note the growing ties between the United States and North Korea, both nuclear power nations. Even though the Hanoi summit between North Korea and United States didn’t give the result expected, it is still important to note that dialogues have been happening. This is with the help of South Korea who is acting as a mediator between the two nations. It is believed that UK and France can play important role in deepening over areas of nuclear security use.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative was one of the most discussed topics among the panellists. “There is often a gap between the rhetoric and the reality of developments and thus a need for careful review of what is actually happening on the ground and its implications. Europeans often do not understand the strategic and cultural assumptions in China’s foreign policy approach, and in reflecting on the BRI and why different countries in Europe are adopting new ties and new forms of connectivity, further review is needed of who is winning and losing in these developments,” said one of the panellists.
European Union and Southeast Asia
There has been a long history of European Union’s role in the southeast Asia. It is believed that strengthening the economic ties between European Union and southeast Asia is essential for the region’s mutual development and security, though the regions have shown difficulties in ‘balancing concerns with and conflicts over values, security and economic interests.’
One of the main issues for European Union in this region is China. China has made the most impact in this region and has been dominating its market by providing cheaper goods and services. China has been expanding its rule of law through the South China Sea and this has made many analysts question the security of the region. The European Union’s presence in the region is essential to keep China’s power in control in the region.
European Union, for long, has tried ignoring Asia. Now, with Trump administration changing its rules and Asia emerging as a power pact continent, it has become vital for the European Union to start actively engaging with Asia. The European Union needs to start developing new strategies for Asia. One of the Asian diplomats said, “Asia’s view of Europe has not been improved by the EU’s poor economic record, the constant talk of secession (Brexit), and its failure to deal with regional challenges such as migration. A strong, vibrant EU that can ensure growth, political stability, and a secure neighbourhood would do wonders for the EU’s image in Asia and elsewhere.”
European Union needs to engage in multiple dialogues with multiple countries to make an impact in region, sign some important deals and make the countries believe that they do have an alternative option in the European Union as a business partner, a friend and a peacemaker.
The European Union and Central Asia: New opportunities for a stronger partnership
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Post-Trump: Europe’s Asia pivot should be now
EU-Asia Relations: New Game Changers