It is a pleasure to lead once again the EU delegation to the EU-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Post Ministerial Conference.

Since our last meeting a year ago, there have been three key developments towards a more effective European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy which will be of interest to our ASEAN partners.

The first is of course the enlargement of the European Union on 1 May this year. It is now my privilege to co-ordinate and represent the collective interests, objectives and efforts of twenty five European countries. The European Union is now more diverse, but also more vibrant and united than it has ever been before.

The second is the agreement by EU leaders at their summit two weeks ago to a new Constitution. Once ratified, this Constitution will introduce a number of important changes in the area of foreign policy, including the creation of a Foreign Minister to replace the rotating Presidency system. This should help to ensure greater continuity in our dealings with our key international partners, including ASEAN.

Finally, in December 2003, EU Member States endorsed my proposal for a European Security Strategy. For the first time, EU Member States have agreed on the key security threats which face us, and have given clear direction on the measures which are needed to combat them.

Both Europe and the wider world are threatened by the scourges of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Terrorists use increasingly sophisticated techniques to operate with impunity across national borders. The spread of technology which would enable development of weapons of mass destruction has been slowed by the long-established international treaty regimes and export control measures, but has continued: current developments in both Iran and North Korea are of deep concern to the EU in this respect.

To combat these threats, EU Member States have agreed and are implementing wide-ranging and challenging plans of action. In both areas, the EU has made clear our need and determination to cooperate closely with our international partners. And this brings me to the other key theme of the Security Strategy: the need to strengthen international order, on the basis of effective multilateralism.

Working together, we can be far more effective in tackling the threats which face us. The United Nations is the fundamental framework for international relations, and we should do all in our power to support its further development. We also need to work together in international organizations such as the World Trade Organisation and the International Criminal Court. The Strategy also makes clear that the EU must work together with other regional organisations to pursue our common objectives, and ASEAN is one of the only such organisations to be mentioned specifically by name.

I want to conclude my opening comments by underlining the commonality of our approach in many areas, and the scope for us to do more together. This was the publicly expressed wish of EU Foreign Ministers following their discussion on South East Asia earlier this year, and I look forward to discussing in greater detail later in this meeting how best we might do this.