Thirty five years of partnership and cooperation were marked when ASEAN and EU Foreign Ministers, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Secretary-General of ASEAN met in Bandar Seri Begawan on 27 April 2012 for their biannual ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM).

N120430cSG met Danish FM

Under the co-chairmanship of HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Brunei Darussalam as Country Coordinator of ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations; and HE Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission; a new Action Plan was finalized and adopted to further benefit the people of ASEAN and the EU. The Action Plan aims to reach out to all possible areas of cooperation between ASEAN and the EU. ASEAN and the EU also witnessed the launch of two important €20 million ASEAN-EU cooperation programmes that aim to support ASEAN integration.

N120430dSG met German FM

“We certainly appreciate the importance the EU side has attached to ASEAN. The meeting in Brunei saw the highest number of Ministers from the European Union at any such meeting between us. The issues and topics covered were wide and substantive,” said HE Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN.

N120430eSG met Hungarian FM

ASEAN and the EU have actively worked together towards a mutually prosperous future for the people of both regions. The two sides had in-depth discussions on other issues of mutual interest such as EU’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), and  developments in Myanmar .

N120430fSG met Lady Ashton

Economic and trade relations were also featured prominently in the Meeting with emphasis on implementing the ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work Programme and  the  importance of the bilateral FTAs between individual ASEAN Member States and the EU as building blocks’ for a region-to-region FTA. Technical support and capacity building for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in ASEAN and the EU have gained broader attention at the Meeting.

N120430gSG met Irish FM

“The high spirit at the conclusion of the meeting pointed to a closer future cooperation. Not only what the EU and ASEAN can do together between us, but also what both can cooperate on issues and challenges faced by the global community,” Dr. Surin Pitsuwan further added. “Lady Ashton said she would be back for the ARF and Post Ministerial in Phnom Penh in July and to Vientiane for the ASEM Summit in November. Now that is a real show of confidence and a recognition of ASEAN’s growing role in the world.”

Dr. Surin also held bilateral meetings on separate occasions with the Hungarian Foreign Minister of Hungary, HE János Martonyi, the Irish Minister of State for European Affairs, HE Lucinda Creighton T.D., Danish Foreign Minister, HE Villy Søvndal, and German Foreign Minister HE Guido Westerwelle at the sidelines of the AEMM. At these bilateral meetings, Dr. Surin and the Ministers exchanged views on further enhancing relations and cooperation with the respective countries and the EU.

Cooperation on education and science and technology were highlighted during these bilateral meetings. As highlighted by Dr. Surin, the year 2012 has been designated as “ASEAN-EU Year of Science, Technology and Innovation.”

ASEAN and the EU have a thriving business relationship. The EU has been the number one source of foreign direct investment to ASEAN in the past several years. The total FDI from the EU to ASEAN in 2010 stood at over US$ 17 billion. Total ASEAN-EU trade in 2010 was US$ 208.5 billion, accounting for 10.2% of total ASEAN trade with its Dialogue Partners. The EU is ASEAN’s number two largest trading partner (after China).

The EU was ranked first in the number of visitor arrivals from the EU to ASEAN in 2010 which was 7 million, accounting for 9.5% of total visitor arrivals to ASEAN.