Portugal: Europe needs ‘comprehensive, balanced view’ of Asia

Portuguese foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva. [EPA-EFE/ANTONIO PEDRO SANTOS]

The European Union must adopt a “comprehensive and balanced view” on Asia, Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs has told a conference, stressing the “enormous challenges” posed by the United States-China-Russia triangulation.

In the closing session of the conference “EU-Asia: challenges and future” on Friday (16 April) an initiative of the Future Forum of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Augusto Santos Silva, said that “it is necessary to take into account the different dimensions of a relationship” that go beyond the mercantile perspective.

For example, he said, India cannot be sought out as a partner solely for medicines and vaccines, nor should interest in China be limited to car exports.

However, “the EU still suffers from a certain self-limitation” when it comes to developing the “extra-economic dimension”, he acknowledged.

The EU has focused mainly on the commercial dimension or else on development cooperation. “These two sides are crucial, but Janus [a mythical figure with two fronts] is not enough. We need a polyhedron,” he said.

The EU should be “firm” in its geopolitical relationship with Asia and exclude the idea of “shifting the centre of interest” towards this continent.

It is not a question now of leaving us with no alternative but to multiply the number of interlocutors,” he said.

“It is not a question now of losing interested in Latin America or Africa or the near neighbourhood and become more interested in Asia,” he stressed.

The minister also rejected the idea of “an Asian or Pacific century”.

He also stressed that “a relationship of tension does not necessarily have to be one of confrontation” and said that the EU “has made progress” in terms of common foreign policy and “its own foreign policy, which is not just an offshoot of other states or entities”.

The EU must now adopt “a new, closer look” at Asia, always in step with its ally, the United States, but one that is “comprehensive and balanced”.

It is in this context, he explained, that Portugal, which holds the presidency of the Council of the EU until the end of June, has made a summit with India one of its priorities, so that economic negotiations between the two blocs, which have been suspended for eight years, can be resumed.

“It is a key event for geopolitical balance in our relationship with Asia,” he stressed.

In addition to India, the EU should “pay more attention to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), he added.

Anticipating the Portugal-India summit and the meeting of EU-India leaders, scheduled for 8 May, in Porto, under the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU, the conference that brought together several experts online today, aimed to “contribute to the process of analysis and formulation of the European Union’s foreign policy in its relations with Asia in general – and with India in particular”.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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