ASEAN as a Partner for Europe Address by H. E. Rodolfo C. Severino, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at the ASEAN-EU Conference Brussels, 28 June 2001. (Documentation)

Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, December 2001 | Go to article overview

ASEAN as a Partner for Europe Address by H. E. Rodolfo C. Severino, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at the ASEAN-EU Conference Brussels, 28 June 2001. (Documentation)


I consider this conference to be part of the process of dialogue between ASEAN and the EU. That dialogue is anchored on the annual meeting between the ASEAN Foreign Ministers and the EU Presidency and the European Commission and on the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, which, most recently, convened in Vientiane last December. Regular meetings between senior officials of ASEAN and EU member-states and between ASEAN officials and those of the European Commission are part of the dialogue. Encounters between officials on specific sectors of co-operation -- trade, the environment, energy, science and technology -- between the business communities, and between academics -- these are all elements of the dialogue process. I consider my own visit to Brussels last March to be part of it. So is this conference. This time, we focus on the very specific, very concrete, and very substantive issues that concern the European business community -- the circumstances and the conditions that weigh on business decisions as to where to trade and where to invest and where to locate outside of Europe.

I thought that I might best contribute to this dialogue by sketching out the latest developments in Southeast Asia and ASEAN, as I see them. I begin with the obvious. ASEAN, like the EU, has maintained its unbroken record of peace among its members. In a world of turmoil and conflict within regions, this is a remarkable record. The Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia has been in place for twenty-five years as a code of behaviour for the region and a mechanism for the peaceful settlement of disputes. Southeast Asia is now a nuclear weapons-free zone. ASEAN is consulting with the five nuclear-weapon states, including the two in Europe, on their accession to the protocol to the nuclear weapons-free zone treaty. ASEAN is negotiating with China on a code of conduct for the South China Sea, pending the resolution of the disputes in that vital area.

The ASEAN Regional Forum is now a going concern as a venue for countries in East Asia and others with interest in it, including the European Union, to discuss issues of regional security. In Hanoi last month, exchanges among senior officials of ARF reflected a remarkable consensus on an extraordinarily wide range of issues -- the urgency of resuming the dialogues on Korea, support for the territorial integrity of Indonesia, assistance for East Timor and the probable necessity of a continued United Nations presence there beyond independence, and the absolute need for good and stable relations among the major powers in Asia and the Pacific. The situations in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea were openly discussed, including subjects normally considered as internal to those countries. Contentious issues like the South China Sea and the United States' ideas on missile defence were touched upon without rancour or confrontation. The participating officials charted directions for extending the ARF process from the present stage of confidence-building to the area of preventive diplomacy and for expanding the role of the ARF chair.

The ASEAN-Plus-Three process, which links China, Japan and the Republic of Korea to ASEAN, is gaining momentum. Although focused primarily on economic and financial co-operation, the deepening linkages in East Asia contribute, too, to the peace and stability of the region.

A Sense of Regional Security

I think that it is right to begin a discussion of the business opportunities in ASEAN by scanning the security environment in the region. That environment, after all, plays a major role in trading, investment and financial decisions. The current environment tells us that the prospects for peace and stability are bright. The momentum for dialogue on the Korean peninsula -- between North and South Korea and between North Korea and the United States -- seems to have resumed. The disputes in the South China Sea are being contained and managed through consultations. …

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ASEAN as a Partner for Europe Address by H. E. Rodolfo C. Severino, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at the ASEAN-EU Conference Brussels, 28 June 2001. (Documentation)
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