Editorial by: Alessandra Schiavo, Deputy Director General/Central Director for Asia and Oceania Countries at MAECI
The 1st EU-ASEAN Summit at the level of Heads of State and Government was held in Brussels on December 14. The event celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Dialogue Partnership between the then EEC and ASEAN, as well as its gradual strengthening. Since 1977, the bi-regional relationship has grown exponentially, with the respective members now facing multiple risks and a radically changed international framework: climate change, health vulnerability, post-Covid recovery, energy crisis, food security, as well as intense competition on the political and security fronts.
Against this backdrop, ASEAN has emerged as a key player for the European Union, interested in promoting the values of pluralism and tolerance against crises that undermine stability, such as the aggression in Ukraine and the heinous coup in Myanmar.
The gained realization that only by working together can peace be preserved and shared prosperity generated, the EU became ASEAN's Strategic Partner in 2020, with an increasingly fruitful dialogue on security matters. The EU is also the Association's third largest trading partner. In October, the EU-ASEAN Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, the first interregional air transport agreement, was signed. At the Summit, the Team Europe Initiative on Sustainable Connectivity with ASEAN (joined for Italy by CDP) was presented; Partnership Comprehensive Agreements with Thailand and Malaysia were also signed.
The Summit concluded with a Joint Final Communiqué, which emphasized economic cooperation and on connectivity, sustainable development, green and digital transition, and identified a point of consensus on some of the thorniest international issues. It was attended by the Presidents and Prime Ministers of EU and ASEAN countries (except Myanmar), as well as the heads of the two Regional Organizations. With the participation of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Italy intended to renew its growing attention to ASEAN, a pivot of stability in the Indo-Pacific and a part of the world that is increasingly essential for geostrategic balances and to which we are increasingly committed. Not surprisingly, the Summit was also an opportunity to enhance the Development Partnership between Italy and ASEAN (in its political-security, economic, cultural and development cooperation volets). A bond that is cultivated through concrete and capacity-building initiatives, and that finds in the annual "High Level Dialogue on ASEAN-Italy economic relations" (whose next edition, in 2023, will be hosted by Thailand) a crucial moment of synthesis.