The Security Relations Between EU and Southeast Asian Nations

Sevinç İrem BALCI

The European Union (EU) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a long past, and the two regional organizations are both quite influential in their continents. Therefore, it is frequently expressed that the relationship between the two organizations is very crucial, even they are geographically far from each other. While in 1972, the informal relations have established, in 1977 the relations turned into a formal form, and the organizations have become dialogue partners. Following that, in 1980, ASEAN and European Economic Community (EEC, former version of the EU) has signed a cooperation agreement; therefore, official political relations have started between them.

In addition, security was quite important topic for the two organizations, yet the relations based on security is implemented in recent years, not as old as the established dialogue. However, in recent years significant steps were taken to develop strategic and security relations as well. In July 1993, The Twenty-Sixth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and Post Ministerial Conference, which were held in Singapore on 23-25 July 1993, agreed to establish the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the EU was one of the founding and active members of the Forum. On the other hand, in 2020 the two organizations have become “strategic partners.” They pledge to have recurring summits at the level of leaders, which strengthens their relationship. Based on similar goals and principles including a rules-based international order, effective and sustainable multilateralism, and free and fair trade, the two regional organizations have a strong working partnership.

Therefore, until today, many summits on different areas between the organizations were held. In addition to those meetings, recently the officials have declared that the EU and the Southeast Asian Nations are going to have a meeting on “security fears.” As it was in the Cold War period, today there are still various security threats for the nations of the two different geographies. While Europe faced a conventional war and threatened from Russia, the challenge for the Southeast Asians is China. Thus, the two organizations will hold their first full summit in December, a sign that the two blocs are looking for closer ties amid concerns over security threats from China and Russia, officials told Reuters.

This occurs as certain EU nations, notably in eastern Europe, reportedly want guarantees from ASEAN members that they won’t aid Moscow in evading sanctions and explicit allusions to its “aggression” in Ukraine. Besides the Russian threat, additionally, China has rights over practically the entire South China Sea, which puts it at conflict with several of its neighbors in Southeast Asia who also have claims. This also shows the meeting will search ways for blocking China’s claims.

The detailed information about the meeting is yet to be cleared; however, it is known that an inquiry for comments received no response from the ASEAN secretariat. There were no quick comments from the governments of Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, or Malaysia as well. According to the Philippines’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ties between the EU and ASEAN have been solid for many years.

On the other hand, it is known that The EU’s condemnation of the junta that seized control there by force following elections in 2020 is reflected in the decision to not invite the leaders of Myanmar to the summit. According to several accounts, the nation would send an ambassador to represent it in accordance with other international conferences following the military takeover.

In conclusion, it is a realist approach to strengthen security dialogue for both organizations since the origin of the challenge is common. Although the regions of the two organizations are quite different and far from each other, the planned security meeting shows that globalization and changing international conjuncture of 2022 affects bilateral relations. Thus, it is definite that the two sides will benefit from cooperation on those critical issues.


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