Senior officials of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the European Union met in Ho Chi Minh City on May 14-15 to review and discuss measures to enhance bilateral cooperation, and prepared for a ministerial meeting slated for July in Brunei.

The ASEAN-EU Senior Officials’ Meeting, held within the framework of the ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations, was co-chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister of Vietnam Pham Quang Vinh and Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific of the European External Action Service Viorel Budura.

Participants at the meeting highly valued the framework of the ASEAN – EU Enhanced Partnership as well as their achievements in bilateral dialogue and cooperative ties over the past time.

Various cooperation activities got underway effectively on the basis of the ASEAN – EU Action Plan for the 2007 – 2012 period as well as other development cooperation programmes.

The EU is now the second largest trading partner of ASE AN with two-way trade hitting 235 billion USD. It also ranks first in investment in ASEAN with a total capital worth 230 billion USD.

ASEAN members praised the EU’s participation in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in South East Asia in July 2012, which according to them, affirmed the EU’s commitment to peace, stability and cooperation in the region.

EU officials vowed to further support ASEAN in successfully building its community by 2015, and increase connectivity through development cooperation projects, such as the ASEAN – EU Regional Dialogue Instrument (READI) and the ASEAN Regional Integration Support by the EU (ARISE).

In the time to come, the ASEAN and EU will focus their resources on the effective implementation of the ASEAN – EU Action Plan for the 2013 – 2017 period and the Working Programme on Trade and Investment for the 2013 – 2014, with focuses on assisting the ASEAN in building the Community, increasing connectivity, stimulating economic – trade relations and development cooperation, coping with challenges like climate change, disaster management and water resources security.

The two sides will also work out a master plan to establish a regional Free Trade Area.

EU nations hailed the ASEAN’s important role and active contributions to peace, stability and cooperation in the region. The two sides shared the importance of ensuring peace, stability, maritime security and safety in the East Sea , and peacefully settlement of disputes in line with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as well as early negotiations for a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

Addressing the event, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh stressed that ASEAN and EU need to continue promoting dialogue and development cooperation ties in a practical and effective manner to cope with common challenges.

He also suggested the two sides bolster links to ensure peace, stability and security in the region, jointly deal with security challenges, such as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, trans-national and cyber crimes, piracy, disaster and epidemic management, as well as ensure peace, maritime security and safety, build trust in the East Sea, comply with international law, the 1982 UNCLOS and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and soon formulate the COC.

Vietnam , as a coordinator for the ASEAN – EU dialogue relations in the 2012-2015 period, will work closely with the EU and other ASEAN countries to lift bilateral partnership to a new level, for peace, stability and prosperity in the region, Vinh said.

ASEAN and EU officials also appreciated Vietnam ’s efforts in its capacity as a coordinator for the ASEAN – EU dialogue relations as well as the outcomes of the meeting.-VNA