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Asean must come together with one voice, say EU execs

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—A single voice on maritime security detailed “in a coherent framework” could help the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in resolving the overlapping claims in the South China Sea, officials of the European Union said here.

“We talked about the idea of Asean putting all the agreements in one coherent framework on maritime cooperation,” Basil Constantinescu, special advisor to the Asean from the EU, told the Inquirer during the recently concluded EU-Asean high-level dialogue here.

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Officials of the EU, the world’s most powerful trading bloc, floated the idea of Asean having one framework for maritime security cooperation, similar to the Maritime Security Strategy adopted by the European Council last year.

But Constantinescu clarified the EU’s strategy could not be a model, citing the differences between the two regional blocs.

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“But it could be an inspiration. Asean has a plethora of agreements but there is no common umbrella for that. By having this kind of architecture, Asean will be in a better position when engaging with external partners, not just China on the South China Sea,” he said.

The EU official cited the need for Asean to be united “with a clear vision” to gain the respect of other nations.

A high-level dialogue between Asean and the EU on maritime security cooperation showed the interest of the two blocs to “scale up a strategic political partnership.”

“At the senior level, there is interest to build a more ambitious and, yes, a more political relationship and scale up the partnership that we have,” Steven Everts, EU’s adviser for Asean and the European External Action Service, said.

Everts noted the leaders of the two blocs must meet regularly to discuss strengthening the alliance, which could come in the form of financial support or a combined effort on maritime cooperation.

After the high-level dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, a road map for a strategic alliance between the EU and Asean will be crafted at the Asean-EU senior officials meeting in Brussels in July, Everts said.

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TAGS: ASEAN, EU- Asean dialogue, maritime dispute, maritime security, sea row, South China Sea
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