– Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Co-Chair of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting,
– Excellency Mr. Jan Kohout, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, EU Presidency and Co-Chair of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting,
– Excellencies Heads of Delegations of the EU and ASEAN Member-States,
– Distinguished Delegates,
– Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
– Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great honor for me to be present at the opening session of the 17thASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting and to deliver my keynote address at this important meeting here in Phnom Penh. I am very much pleased that Cambodia is hosting this ministerial meeting before the end of its role as Country Coordinator for ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations. In my view, there is no doubt that the convening of this ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting is very much timely and highly relevant when our two regions, let alone the world at large, are confronted by numerous global challenges, in particular the current international economic and financial crisis.
Our ASEAN-EU cooperation dated back to more than thirty years ago, and our close relations at present are becoming ever stronger and covering a wide range of areas. In recent years, the ASEAN-EU cooperation and partnership have been growing and expanding in scope and depth, especially following the convening of the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Singapore, in 2007, which brought together leaders from both sides. The ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit was a historic milestone for both ASEAN and the EU, as the relations between the two sides were raised to the highest level.
At the more practical level, I wish to note the ASEAN-EU cooperation has been carried out through the various existing frameworks and mechanisms, such as the Trans-Regional EU-ASEAN Trade Initiative (TREATI) and the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (READI). At the same time, the ASEAN-EU partnership and cooperation are strategically guided by key documents, namely the Nuremberg Declaration on EU-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership, the Joint Declaration of the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit, and the ASEAN-EU Action Plan.
In the area of political cooperation, ASEAN and the EU have been working closely together through the various frameworks, such as the present ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conferences (PMC) with the EU. At the same time, ASEAN has welcomed the significant number of accreditation of ambassadors by the EU Member-States to ASEAN, which clearly has demonstrated the EU’s strong commitment to strengthen its close cooperation and partnership with ASEAN.
Moreover, I am delighted to know that ASEAN and the EU will be signing the “ASEAN Declaration of Consent to the Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia by the European Union/European Commission” and the “Declaration on Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia by the European Union/European Commission” at this meeting later today. The signing of these documents represents another significant step forward in ASEAN-EU relations. As you all would agree, the EU/EC’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) will undoubtedly promote peace, security and stability in East Asia as well as in a wider region. Given the important role of the EU in world affairs and the significance of ASEAN-EU relations, I am of the view that we need to continue accelerating the process of the EU’s accession to the TAC as early as possible, perhaps sometime within this year in order to maintain the momentum, the interest, and the political will of both sides.
With respect to the economic cooperation, ASEAN and the EU have been working closely and actively to promote trade and investment between the two sides. While more could be done to expand and deepen economic and trade relations, I am of the view that it is in the best interest of both ASEAN and the EU to move forward, with concrete progress, on the FTA negotiations on a region-to-region basis. Given the size of the markets, the enormous economic potentials, and the volume of trade between the sides of the regions, it is essential for ASEAN and the EU to proactively continue the FTA negotiations because it will bring enormous benefits and interests to ASEAN and the EU. Therefore, I personally feel that we should not lose sight of the broader and longer-term interests of the two regions, and we need to maximize our great potentials and the strategic window of opportunity that we now have.
On global issues and challenges which negatively affecting both regions and the world at large, I strongly believe that ASEAN and the EU can play a more active and more forceful role in the world. There is no room for a passive role for us, and we—ASEAN and the EU collectively—need to take on the global challenges with head on. In this regard, I wish to share my view on the global issues and challenges, as follows:
First, the global economic and financial crisis. Today, we are confronted with serious implications of this economic and financial crisis throughout the entire world, to a varying degree. The current global economic and financial crisis has clearly undermined the progress that it has been made thus far, particularly in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and poverty reduction in the developing countries. Surely, the current crisis presents with both the danger and the opportunity for some countries, particularly those in the developing world. The danger is that some countries may resort to protectionism and other national measures, as a way of coping with the fallouts of this global economic and financial crisis. The opportunity is to work together to reform the international financial institutions so that they will serve the interests of all. In addition, ASEAN and the EU can exchange their experiences in policy responses and the sharing of best practices on how to manage the ramifications of the crisis and to learn from the G-20 on how they are committed to achieving the recovery. I think this is one area that ASEAN and the EU can engage each other more in the future.
Second, climate change and the environment. At present, we all know well that the global warming and climate change have negatively affected our world, our region, and our respective individual member-states and societies. In recent times, the entire world had witnessed more frequent natural catastrophes, tsunamis, droughts and floods, and the rising sea level. In this context, I believe it is important for both ASEAN and the EU to work together in addressing climate change and the environment, especially at the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Summit in December of this year. I hope that all participating ASEAN-EU countries in this Summit will be able to build a consensus on a post-Kyoto global framework in Copenhagen. At the same time, we should collectively urge the most industrialized countries to respect the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), especially the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Roadmap, in order to for us to take the necessary steps to prevent the increasing degradation of the world’s environment, to reduce the greenhouse gas emission and to help make the world a better place for humanity. In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the EU for choosing Cambodia this year as one of the pilot countries for the Global for Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) project.
Third, food and energy security. Food and energy security will remain as one of the world’s global challenges for some time, despite great efforts and coordination to deal with and manage this challenge. I am of the view that both ASEAN and the EU could give their priority and attention to the cooperation in this area, especially in coming up with alternative clean and renewable sources of energy, such as hydropower, wind energy, solar energy and so forth. To ensure food security for our two regions, if not for the whole world, I think that we should avoid encouraging others to really develop bio-energy which could have real impact on food security, if more arable farmland will be used for bio-energy production only while the world is facing with an increasing of population.
Fourth, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I believe that the world is not safer or more peaceful when more countries have access to nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction or when more countries could produce such weapons. To the contrary, I think that we should work more concertedly and systematically to reduce the number of stockpiles of those WMDs and to continue building a more credible non-proliferation regime throughout the world. In ASEAN, we have the Treaty of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ). Over the years, we have been trying to get nuclear weapon states (NWS) to accede to this treaty, and so far only China has indicated its willingness to do so. I hope that more nuclear weapon states will be considering their accession to this treaty and by doing so they would support a region free of nuclear weapons or other WMDs. At the same time, ASEAN and the EU should work together to actively urge those countries that have not become members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to do so because it is in the interest of ASEAN and the EU as well as the world at large if they could join the non-proliferation regime.
Fifth, non-traditional security issues. Another area that ASEAN and the EU have been collaborating closely is combating of human smuggling, drug trafficking, illicit trade and circulation of small arms and light weapons; and fighting money laundering and international economic and cyber crimes. I believe that this is in this area of non-traditional security issues where ASEAN and the EU should be strengthened in the future, especially in capacity building and sharing of information and best practices. We should expand the scope and the depth of our cooperation in addressing the non-traditional security issues for mutual interests and benefits.
Sixth, the pandemic diseases. With the recent outbreak of the swine flu, the world, once again, has focused its attention and priority on this emerging infectious disease. In fact, in our region, I proposed to convene a two-day special meeting for the health ministers from ASEAN and the Plus Three Countries to meet as urgently as possible. On May 9, in Bangkok, the health ministers met in the framework of ASEAN Plus Three and agreed to boost the stockpile of antiviral medicine and protective equipment to fight this deadly disease (H1N1) as well as to look at other ways of sharing the supplies in case of a pandemic. The swine flu is just one of the global infectious diseases that we need to actively promote our closer cooperation. We should not wait until such an outbreak of infectious disease. Instead, we should enhance our collaboration within the region, and certainly between the regions, such as ASEAN and the EU, to ensure that we can respond more effectively to the outbreak of any infectious diseases, such as this swine flu, Avian Influenza, and so forth.
Before concluding my remarks, I wish to underline the following areas where the ASEAN-EU cooperation and partnership should give more priority to:
First, we need to continue implementing the ASEAN-EU Action Plan, especially in carrying out the Phnom Penh Agenda to Implement the ASEAN-EU Action Plan, which will be adopted by the ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers later today.
Second, we need to move quickly to realize the EU/EC’s accession to the TAC, without further delay.
Third, we need to work closely together to ensure the success of the FTA negotiations as early as possible.
Fourth, we need to cooperate more actively and support each other in the areas of integration and the community building process, especially as ASEAN is now implementing its Charter.
Fifth, we need to continue strengthening the ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership by ensuring that the existing mechanisms and frameworks are working effectively and efficiently, especially the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting.
Sixth, we need to strengthen ASEAN-EU cooperation in the regional and international fora, where ASEAN and the EU have an important role to play, such as the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).
Finally, I wish to congratulate and thank all of your for participating in the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh. I also would like to extend my best wishes to all of you for a very successful meeting and a pleasant stay in Cambodia. I have full confidence that the 17th AEMM will be a success.
Thank you very much and a good morning to all of you.