The Council of the European Union, currently presided over by Portugal, adopted on Monday (19 April) conclusions on the EU strategy for cooperation with the Indo-Pacific region, advocating stability and an “open and fair” environment for trade and investment.
The approved conclusions set out the EU’s intention to “reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in this region of prime strategic importance for EU interests,” the Council, which represents EU-27 governments, said in a statement.
“The aim is to contribute to regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development, at a time of rising challenges and tensions in the region.”
Portugal has stated as one of the priorities of its six-month presidency a strengthening of the partnership with the Indo-Pacific region, particularly with India.
Specifically, “the EU’s approach and engagement will look to foster a rules-based international order, a level playing field, as well as an open and fair environment for trade and investment, reciprocity, the strengthening of resilience, tackling climate change and supporting connectivity with the EU,” the statement said.
“Free and open maritime supply routes in full compliance with international law remain crucial. The EU will look to work together with its partners in the Indo-Pacific on these issues of common interest,” it stressed.
The conclusions also underline the EU’s commitment to continue “to develop partnerships in the areas of security and defence, including to address maritime security, malicious cyber activities, disinformation, emerging technologies, terrorism, and organised crime”.
Furthermore, the two regions also want to “work together in order to mitigate the economic and human effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and work towards ensuring an inclusive and sustainable socio-economic recovery.”
The statement, however, also noted the emergence of a number of other problems arising in the 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,” it said.
“Human rights are also being challenged. These developments increasingly threaten the stability and security of the region and beyond, directly impacting on the EU’s interests.”
Portugal plans an informal summit on in Porto 8 May to bring together the leaders of the 27 EU member states and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This EU-India Summit is a major focus of Portugal’s presidency at the global level, with which the government has said it hopes to “strengthen the strategic dialogue between the two largest democratic spaces in the world, relaunch trade and investment and deepen cooperation between the European Union and India in key areas such as digital, connectivity, health and climate action.”
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]