|Opening Remarks at the Panel Discussion on EU-ASEAN Economic and Political Relationship, 26 Oct 2011|
|Written by Philippine Embassy Webmaster|
|Thursday, 27 October 2011|
Opening Remarks of
Ich wünsche Ihnen allen einen angenehmen Abend.
It is my honor to open this important event tonight here at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. In the past several months, the Berlin ASEAN Committee, composed of the ten (10) Ambassadors to Germany from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has been in constant coordination with the KAS to organize this event. I thank Mr. Frank Spengler, Deputy Head for European and International Cooperation of the KAS, for hosting this event. I also wish to express much appreciation particularly to Dr. Stefan Friedrich and his staff and especially to acknowledge the presence of our guests, Member of Parliament Dr. Michael Fuchs, and BASF Vice President Mr. Wolfgang Niedermark, who have given us their invaluable time to share their views on tonight’s topic.
“ASEAN Community in the Global Community of Nations” is the ASEAN theme this year under the chairmanship of Indonesia. Indeed, ASEAN has lived up to its role as a significant player in the global community. In the face of the ongoing fiscal crises and economic stagnation at both ends of the world, specifically in the United States and in Europe, Asia has emerged with offers of greater opportunities for growth for the global economy. In Asia, it is the specifically the ASEAN region that has been a key player in terms of economic achievements, and propelling the level of global average economic growth a notch higher from what would have been negative growth as a result of the problems in the developed economies.
Next month, Indonesia will host the 19th ASEAN Summit, and so, during tonight’s panel discussion, I would like to invite our colleague, His Excellency Ambassador Eddy Pratomo, to offer some insights on the accomplishments during Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year 2011. I also invite our other ASEAN Ambassadors to share their views on the tonight’s subject.
ASEAN’s Vision 2020 was the original target for the establishment of the ASEAN Community. However, in the light of significant socio-economic progress achieved in recent years, ASEAN made a bold decision to move forward the community-building process to the year 2015. At the 12th ASEAN Summit in the Philippines in January 2007, the Leaders affirmed their strong commitment to the region and signed the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015.
Allow me then to briefly highlight some of the milestones that ASEAN has accomplished in the road towards 2015:
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the founding States of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. In later years, Brunei Darussalam then joined (on 7 January 1984), followed by Viet Nam (on 28 July 1995), Lao PDR and Myanmar (on 23 July 1997), and Cambodia (on 30 April 1999), making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.
It may interest you to know that, at the time when ASEAN was born in 1967, several of our member-countries were not exactly with cordial diplomatic ties at all. ASEAN was born in an atmosphere of “guarded skepticism,” mainly because of differences regarding territorial boundaries at that time among some member States, while domestic/internal strife were going on in others. Over the past 44 years, however, the higher sense of regionalism has become a stronger force in building a regional community, overshadowing bilateral differences among ASEAN members.
As a political community, ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Charter in 2007 during the chairmanship of Singapore. It is ASEAN’s equivalent to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, binding the relationships of the 10 ASEAN members towards a more formal political grouping. Work is now in progress to strengthen ASEAN’s internal mechanisms to harmonize policies in such fields as human rights, transnational crime, law, defense, maritime security, disaster mitigation, and dispute settlement mechanism. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, an initiative of the Philippines, was established in 2010 as one tangible aspect of the ASEAN Political Community.
This year, all ASEAN missions abroad, and in all ASEAN formal diplomatic events, the ASEAN flag has been hoisted and the ASEAN Hymn, “The ASEAN Way” has been played as an expression of our formalized regional group.
I understand that ASEAN’s economic achievements will be discussed by Ambassador Jacky Foo’s presentation tonight, so allow me to limit only to some highlights about ASEAN’s road towards the ASEAN Economic Community 2015.
It was under the chairmanship of the Philippines in 1999, when ASEAN took a bold step in deciding to move forward the timetable for the ASEAN Free Trade Area from 2015 to 2010. In a landmark decision, the ASEAN Leaders at the November 1999 Summit in Manila, committed to eliminate all import duties on traded goods by 2010, ahead of the original schedule, for the six original members of ASEAN, and advanced the schedule for many goods from 2018 to 2015 for the less-developed ASEAN members.
ASEAN has already established Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) covering all three sectors (trade, investments, and services) with all the major economies geographically surrounding it: Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand and Korea. But the ASEAN FTAs are just but one part of the envisioned ASEAN Economic Community. A lot more still needs to be done by 2015.
In 2010, under Vietnam’s chairmanship, the Master Plan for ASEAN Connectivity was adopted, designed to create interconnection and inter-operability in the region in key sectors that are most supportive of economic growth and progress. [ASEAN Leaders realize that socio-economic progress across the region can even be better shared if the 10 countries are fully interconnected through enhanced physical infrastructure development (physical connectivity), effective institutions, mechanisms and processes (institutional connectivity), and empowered people (people-to-people connectivity).] The Master Plan is both a strategic document for achieving overall ASEAN Connectivity and a plan of action for immediate implementation for the period 2011-2015 to “intra-connect” ASEAN.
The people-to-people pillar of the envisioned ASEAN Community 2015 is an important aspect. When the ASEAN Charter was being drafted in 2008, the original version focused only on the political and economic aspects of regionalism. The Philippines, however, strongly batted for a third pillar: Socio-Cultural. After all, it will be the peoples of ASEAN that will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the ASEAN Community, and therefore it is also necessary that their welfares and well-being are safeguarded as well. In the socio-cultural pillar of the community, ASEAN envisions to put into place those mechanisms that will advance the social well-being of its peoples.
In 2009 under the chairmanship of Thailand, the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint was adopted, which represents the human dimension of ASEAN cooperation and upholds ASEAN commitment to address the region’s aspiration to lift the quality of life of its peoples. The ASCC Blueprint is a set of programmes and mechanisms by which ASEAN will focus cooperation in the social sectors: health, sustainable environment, human resources, education, civil service, science and technology, social welfare and protection, migrant workers, among others.
The Initiative for ASEAN Integration which was launched in 2005 and will continue until 2015 is one concrete mechanism of the Socio-Cultural Community, by which the more advance ASEAN-6 countries provide technical assistance to the government and social sectors of the lesser-developed ASEAN-CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) to upgrade their people skills and human resources.
Europe’s direct engagement with ASEAN is undertaken under the framework of the ASEAN-EU Dialogue Partnership. Annual meetings of EU and ASEAN foreign ministers are convened to discuss issues of mutual interest between the two groups. ASEAN, however, has repeatedly voiced out its opinion that less and less EU Ministers attend their meeting each year, which ASEAN views as a sign of the lesser importance and attention shown by the EU towards our region. Nonetheless, as a Dialogue Partner, the EU has extended substantive technical cooperation programmes with ASEAN in the areas of trade and economic liberalization, environmental conservation, and renewable energy, among various others.
On the other hand the European Union had been persistently sending signals to ASEAN for it to become more involved in the wider Asia-Pacific region, particularly through the East Asia Summit (EAS). In 2010, after years of discussions, the United States and Russia were finally admitted to the EAS. The EAS is now an annual gathering of the leaders of the Asia-Pacific rim, of which ASEAN is at the core and the driving force: ASEAN-10, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and United States. Indeed, a formidable regional grouping that includes the world’s three biggest economies. However, the efforts of the European Union to join the EAS have not been successful, primarily because of its geographical disconnect with the Asia-Pacific region. On this note, I look forward to the presentation of our guest speaker, Dr. Michael Fuchs, on how the EU can become better engaged with ASEAN.
In the coming years, I am very positive that much more achievements can be expected from ASEAN under the chairmanship of Cambodia (2012), Brunei (2013), and so on down the line, in the run up to 2015. Clearly, ASEAN is gearing up to be a major player in the global arena, and Europe and the rest of the world should start noticing this if they have not done so.
With this background, I hope that I have set the tone for an informative panel discussion tonight.
Ich wünsche Ihnen einen aufschlussreichen und interessanten Abend und danke Ihnen für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit.