EU Ambassador to ASEAN appreciates Vietnam’s efforts to host AMM 53, related meetings hinh anh 1Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh chairs AMM-53 (Photo: VNA)
Jakarta (VNA) – Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Igor Driesmans has appreciated Vietnam’s efforts in hosting the 53rd ASEAN Ministers' Meeting and related meetings amid unprecedented challenges.

“Vietnam has successfully managed to host a series of important ministerial meetings this year amid unprecedented challenges,” Ambassador Driesmans said in an interview recently granted to Vietnam News Agency correspondents following the closing of the ministerial meetings.

The technical and logistical aspects of this undertaking are impressive, taking into account the fact that the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) membership spans four continents and multiple time zones, he said.

The 27th ARF and the ASEAN-EU Post-Ministerial Conference took place at a time when Europe, Southeast Asia, and the entire global community are facing the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that both meetings were successfully held – albeit virtually – serves as an important reminder about the value that all participants see in a multilateral approach to solving problems and enhanced cooperation at a time of great uncertainty, he added.

This joint effort is reflected in the “ARF Statement on Infectious Disease Outbreaks”, which was endorsed by all participants and calls, among others, for enhanced regional and international solidarity and cooperation in addressing the current pandemic and preventing future outbreaks.

According to the ambassador, the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum addressed important regional and international security issues such as fight against terrorism and transnational crimes, situation in the East Sea, and the Korean Peninsula.

The global pandemic has accelerated existing trends towards digitalisation of economies and societies, which in turn bring to the fore the need for more cooperation on developing international norms and guidelines for safeguarding cyber-security. This is a new and increasingly important area of work for the ARF.

It was the first time since the start of his mandate that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell participated in the ASEAN-EU Post-Ministerial Conference, Driesmans said, assessing in what turned out to be a very fruitful meeting, both sides took stock of the width and depth of EU-ASEAN relations ranging from countering transnational crime, maritime security, human rights, sustainable development and smart cities to trade, education, connectivity, cybersecurity, and narrowing the development gap.

He went on more specifically, the meeting addressed a broad range of current issues such as EU-ASEAN cooperation to fight against COVID-19, in particular support from the EU for developing a comprehensive recovery framework and enhance collaboration for equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our key message is that the European Union continues to be a reliable, trustworthy, and predictable partner of the region, the ambassador affirmed.

In addition to responding to the COVID-19 crisis and providing 800 million EUR of Team Europe support to ASEAN countries, the EU emphasised the importance of looking ahead, he noted.

According to the diplomat, the EU stands ready to work with ASEAN partners in ensuring fair and equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines. The bloc will continue to support ASEAN’s efforts to achieve a prosperous, safe and united community, as this brings lasting benefits to both regions.

In addition to maintaining its current supply lines, the EU look forward to accelerating joint economic recovery by further strengthening trade and connectivity with ASEAN. Trade facilitation, removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers, and connectivity in all shapes and forms – physical infrastructure, transport, digital, and people-to-people exchanges – will be play key roles in the joint post-COVID recovery. The EU is willing and able to deepen cooperation with ASEAN to ensure that both sides are able to use the existing opportunities to the fullest possible extent.

At the same time, regional and global challenges must not be ignored, he said. He added the EU noted the recent developments in the East Sea and as a staunch believer in international law and peaceful resolutions of conflicts, encouraged further progress in the negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the East Sea. “We look forward to its early conclusion in line with international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS.”

During the Post-Ministerial Conference, the EU voiced its strong support to a more enhanced role for ASEAN in addressing the situation in Rakhine State and facilitating the repatriation process of the displaced persons, he said, adding that the bloc is proud to have cosponsored the ASEAN Regional Forum Statement on the Treatment of Children Recruited by or Associated with Terrorist Groups.

Looking ahead, green economy, digitalisation in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the fight against climate change will feature more and more prominently in the cooperation between the EU and ASEAN. The green agenda in particular remains a top priority for the EU and for our partnership with ASEAN, he stressed.

Commenting on Vietnam’s role as the Chair of ASEAN 2020 through its performances achieved from the beginning of the year, the diplomat said Vietnam has successfully managed to host a series of important ministerial meetings this year amid unprecedented challenges.

“While we have turned mostly online for now, we have been able over the past few months to maintain a good momentum in strengthening EU-ASEAN relations and reinforcing their strategic nature,” he emphasised.
Vietnam’s focus on strengthening a cohesive and proactive ASEAN cannot be more relevant than it is today, when the pandemic has provoked a global economic shock unlike any other in recent history. Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship has successfully upheld the spirit of solidarity, cooperation and the sense of responsibility towards the international community since the early days of this crisis.

Under the leadership of Vietnam, ASEAN has shown a real willingness to come together to find regional solutions and to mitigate the effects of this crisis, as illustrated by the Special ASEAN Summit on the Coronavirus Disease in April, he affirmed.

Ambassador Driesmans held that Vietnam has also been able to reaffirm the centrality and unity of ASEAN by maintaining the regular, substantive engagement between the region and its partners since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Looking ahead, EU-ASEAN relations will certainly continue to benefit from the steps taken during this year of crisis, allowing the two regions to take their strategic partnership even further, he added./.