EU eyes stronger ties with Asean with PH as chair
Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for “noninterference” in Southeast Asia’s internal affairs, the European Union (EU) on Monday said it was eyeing to further strengthen its relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), especially with the Philippines as chairman of this year’s regional summit.
Speaking during the launch of the EU commemorative book “Ties That Bind” in Makati City, EU ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said the EU delegation, which marks its 25th year in the country, is looking to “push even further its relations with the Asean, including the Philippines, as it tries to maintain its global and regional position.”
“Our relationship with the Philippines is revolving around two anchors—our bilateral relationship, and the other one, which is very important, is the EU-Asean relations. And we work with the Philippines in both areas in closer angles,” Jessen told the media at Dusit Thani Hotel.
“I see that EU can play an even more important role because the Philippines has the chairmanship, and we look at Asean as our sister organization. So we are very happy to work with the Philippines hand in hand to promote agendas within the Asean,” he added.
The Philippines on Sunday formally launched its chairmanship of Asean 2017, with President Duterte emphasizing “noninterference” as he urged big powers not to meddle in regional affairs. Along with the United States and the United Nations, the EU has been at the receiving end of Duterte’s profanity-laced tirades after calling for a halt to extrajudicial killings in the country amid the government’s war on drugs.
READ: Don’t meddle in Asean, big powers told
‘Ties That Bind’
The coffee table book “Ties That Bind,” Jessen said, discusses the milestones of the EU delegation’s 25 years in the Philippines, as well as “challenges and actions that needed to be taken to further strengthen the growing relationship” between the two.
“It is titled ‘Ties That Bind’ because when you read it, you will find that our ties range from cultural to economic… Geographically, Europe may be far away from the Philippines, but as partners we are very close,” Jessen said in his speech.
“It illustrates the depths and richness of our bilateral relationship and puts it in a cultural perspective. Consequently, it also shows the way forward…It also discusses upcoming challenges on how the Philippines and the EU would be able to address them,” he added.
Jessen said the EU delegation will focus its support and resources on the Philippine development plan, support for the peace process in Mindanao, implementation of programs in the sectors of justice, energy, and health, and the incorporation of new programs in trade, biodiversity, civil society and human rights.
“Trade is one obvious area that reflects our growing and deepening relations. The bilateral trade that was worth 2.5 billion euro in 1990 has grown to almost 13 billion euro in 2015. The EU has also increased its investments in the Philippines and is the largest foreign investor in the country,” the ambassador added.
“Ties That Bind” also feature personalities who have been engaged with the EU delegation , including Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, and filmmaker Brillante Mendoza, among other stakeholders and sectors. RAM
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