Indo-Pacific, the EU seeks its own way

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The US announces a new defensive pact with the UK and Australia. Brussels also relaunches its presence in the Indo-Pacific

Editorial by Valerio Bordonaro, Director Associazione Italia-ASEAN

The first reactions coming from the EU regarding the new pact of defense Aukus have been substantially negative. The agreement brings together the US, the UK and Australia in the Indo-Pacific area and provides for the sharing of technologies in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, underwater systems and long range attack capability and plans to equip Camberra with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Peter Stano, spokesman for the High Representative for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, said that Brussels had not been notified in advance about the decision. France was especially complaining, considering that, with the birth of Aukus, a contract signed in 2019 for the supply to Australia of 12 conventional submarines for an amount of EUR 56 billion was cancelled. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke of a “brutal” decision. Several EU officials point out that this is, after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the second important strategic decision taken by Washington without consulting its European partners. The timing between the announcement of the trilateral agreement and the expected publication of the EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific should also be noted. The document, presented by Josep Borrell, the High Representative for Foreign Policy, contains many ideas on the ASEAN area. Indeed, the conclusion of Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (Pcas) with Malaysia and Thailand, the assessment of a possible resumption of trade negotiations with Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand and the possible negotiation of an interregional trade agreement with the entire block of Southeast Asian countries are expected. It also aims to expand the network of digital partnerships with Indo-Pacific partners, as well as exploring the possibility of new digital partnerships with Japan, South Korea and Singapore. In addition to Quad and Aukus, the EU can try to carve out the space for a regional presence with its specificities and devoted to cooperation, not to contrast. 

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