European Union (EU) foreign ministers have agreed that the union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) need to work together to move the relationship to a strategic level.

In a statement following their discussions in Luxembourg on June 22, the EU Foreign Affairs Council reiterated that the move to an EU-ASEAN strategic partnership would be matched by the EU’s presence at the region’s strategic table, including at summits, through the EU’s involvement in the East Asia Summit process.

The council stressed the importance of EU-ASEAN cooperation and connectivity, adding that the EU has valuable assets to support ASEAN in achieving its connectivity goals and is looking forward to stepping up mutually-beneficial cooperation through dedicated mechanisms on sustainable and inclusive economic integration, trade and border management.

The EU will also provide financial support from its cooperation programmes through the European Investment Bank, Asia Investment Facility and bilateral assistance programmes by EU member states.

ASEAN is currently the EU’s third largest trade partner outside Europe, and the EU is the biggest investor and the third biggest trade partner of ASEAN after China and Japan.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.-VNA