Indo-Pacific - Second EU-Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum - Preliminary Remarks from Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Stockholm, 13 May 2023)


Your Majesty,
Your Royal Highness,
High Representative, dear Josep,
Minister, dear Tobias,
Dear Colleagues,

I am honored to be taking part in the second EUIndo-Pacific Ministerial Forum, launched in Paris by the French Presidency and delighted that the Swedish Presidency has picked up the baton. This platform for discussion embodies the partnership between the European Union and Indo-Pacific countries.

The Paris Forum was held on 22 February 2022, just two days before Russia invaded Ukraine. This illegal and unjustifiable war is ongoing. We all feel its impact and it concerns all of us. Indeed, compliance with the United Nations Charter is at stake. And indeed, if this aggression meets no reaction, other nations will feel free to act in the same elsewhere in the future.

Response to this war mobilizes us Europeans more than ever, united and determined as we are, with a number of Indo-Pacific partners represented here – each in our own way We respect our differences because we, all of us, agree on what matters: defending international law, starting with respect for sovereignty and nations’ territorial integrity, those cardinal Charter principles trampled by Russia.

This war takes nothing away from our goals in the Indo-Pacific. We firmly believe that that security represents a strong link between both ends of the Eurasian continent.As does the economy.

Our European vision is to work towards preserving a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific, by creating partnerships among equals, with the region’s countries and organizations. The aim is to achieve “the freedom of sovereignty”, in President Macron’s words, for each country. To that end, they need to have various sovereign options to make their own choices, as Dr Jaishhankar rightlysaid in Paris a year ago.

In this regard, Europe’s approach is a unique approach, a European approach. This approach rejects the bloc scenario, where escalation and in the end, confrontation, are either willed or enacted.And our approach is no less clearsighted regarding the challenges the region faces.

Our shared aim, based on my earlier remarks, requires that the Forum remain an autonomous space, cleared of major strategic rivalries and a platform for exchanging views between European Union and Indo-Pacific countries. The Forum must continue to aim for practical cooperation, by undertaking projects and making them known, in all fields.

Our European approach intends to be fundamentally multidimensional. Its first objective is to better connect Europe with the Indo-Pacific. This consists in the European Union activating theGlobal Gateway, by mobilizing the whole of Europeto support sustainable and high-quality infrastructure projects, without beneficiary countries being labelled as dependents. Ports, transport and digitization come to my mind. Agreements with Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore provide good examples of these initiatives. They are to be extended to others, in particular as regards the critical challenge of data privacy, following on from the declaration adopted in Paris last year.

Equally, the approach aims to preserve our commons, together with you: climate, biodiversity and health. One example is how France, together with the EU, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, via the Kiwa initiative, is working to reinforce adjustment to climate change in Pacific island countries. In fact, we have just doubled our contribution to this programme.

Lastly, our approach is resolutely based on security, to defend international lawcollaboratively, especially regardingfreedom of navigation. France will continue to shoulder all of its responsibilities in this regard. Regular deployments from our Navy will increase in scope, as will the resources dedicated to reinforcing our partners’ capacity.

On all these topics, France is taking action as a European, as well as an Indo-Pacific country. It is proud to belong to both Indian and Pacific oceans, via our overseas territorieswhich are also European. They represent the many bridges between Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

Let me end with a word on the Forum, because the Forum needs to continue. To that end, dear Josep, dear Retno, dear colleagues, I suggest that our meetings join those the European Union holds with ASEAN. This would provide forum meetings with greater frequency and the possibility of a summit, similar to the highly successful one held on 14 December. Our joint ambition deserves it. Thank you.