Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung co-chaired an unofficial ASEAN-EU Summit with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso in Milan, Italy, on October 16.

This was the first summit co-chaired by Vietnam as a coordinator of ASEAN-EU relations, and the EU.

During the event, the two sides reviewed their bilateral cooperation and presented a vision to improve and foster ASEAN-EU dialogue relations in the future.

They also discussed regional and international issues of mutual concern, including the East Sea, Middle East, and North African issues; and the fight against terrorism.

Regarding the East Sea dispute, both sides stressed the importance of ensuring peace, stability and maritime safety, security and freedom in the sea; abiding by international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the principle of settling disputes peacefully, and the principle of non-use of force or threat to use force; fully and seriously implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC); and working towards the early formation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

With regards to economic cooperation, the two sides agreed to resume negotiations for a post-2015 free trade agreement between the two parties in 2015, and increase their transport links via land, air and sea.

The EU pledged to continue to share its expertise and support ASEAN in its efforts to establish an official community, especially in the bloc’s priority areas, such as narrowing the development gap and improving the capacity of management apparatus.

The meeting took place in the context of drastic changes at the regional and global arena, and the positive development of comprehensive cooperation between the EU and ASEAN in general, and between the EU and Vietnam in particular.

At present, ASEAN and the EU are vital trade partners, with two-way trade worth 242.6 billion USD in 2013, accounting for 9.8 percent of ASEAN’s total trade.

The EU is also one of the biggest foreign investors in ASEAN, with a registered capital of 23.3 billion USD, 22 percent of ASEAN’s total FDI.-VNA