European Council approves conclusions on EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy

The aim is to contribute to regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development

The Council of the European Union on Monday approved conclusions on a European Union strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to “reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions” in this region with the aim to contribute to “regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development,” at a time of “rising challenges and tensions in the region.”

“Current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific have given rise to intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological, political and security areas. Human rights are also being challenged. These developments increasingly threaten the stability and security of the region and beyond, directly impacting on the EU’s interests,” a statement from the Council said. “The Council tasked the High Representative and the Commission with putting forward a Joint Communication on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific by September 2021,” it stated.

The renewed EU commitment to the Indo-Pacific will have a long-term focus and will be based on “upholding democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respect for international law,” it stated. The EU will aim to promote effective rules-based multilateralism, it said, reiterating its support for ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) centrality, a point also stressed by India.

COVID-19 effects

The EU will work together in order to mitigate the economic and human effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and work towards ensuring an inclusive and sustainable socio-economic recovery, it said. The EU’s approach and engagement will look to foster a “rules-based international order, a level playing field, as well as an open and fair environment for trade and investment, reciprocity, the strengthening of resilience, tackling climate change and supporting connectivity with the EU.” “Free and open maritime supply routes in full compliance with international law remain crucial,” it said.

On trade partnerships, the EU will aim to conclude free trade agreements with Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand and take further steps towards the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China. “The EU will continue to explore deepening economic relations with India,” it said.

Security cooperation

The EU will continue to develop partnerships in the areas of security and defence, including to address maritime security, malicious cyber activities, disinformation, emerging technologies, terrorism, and organised crime, it said.

On security cooperation, the Council said building on its experience of protecting critical maritime routes in the Indian Ocean through maritime domain awareness, the EU has taken the decision to extend the geographic scope of its CRIMARIO (Critical Maritime Routes) II activities from the Indian Ocean into South and Southeast Asia with a view to contribute to safer sea lanes of communication with the EU.

Source: The Hindu