The Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific (Paris, 22 February 2022) will be an opportunity to showcase the European Union strategy for the region and develop tangible projects in this regard. It will bring together Foreign Ministers of EU Member States and some 30 countries in the Indo-Pacific region, representatives of European institutions and representatives of the main regional organizations.
The Indo-Pacific region is of increasing strategic importance to the European Union and its Member States. Its economic weight (it will soon account for 60% of global wealth) and demographic significance (three fifths of the world’s population), its increasing presence in current affairs and future geopolitical balances make it an essential space for Europeans. There are considerable economic exchanges between Europe and the Indo-Pacific, which contribute to the prosperity of the European Union. Through its Member States’ outermost regions in the Indian Ocean and overseas territories in the Pacific, the European Union is also part of this region, with which it has a closely-shared destiny.
Translating Europe’s desire for increased commitment to the region into action is one of the priorities of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This priority is in line with the publication of the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, which was endorsed by the European Council in October 2021. This Strategy includes seven priority areas for action, on which the French Presidency wanted to initiate dialogue with Indo-Pacific partners: Sustainable and inclusive prosperity; Green transition; Ocean governance; Digital governance and partnerships; Connectivity; Security and defence and Human security.
In this regard, the Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific will be an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the links between EU countries and those of the Indo-Pacific and our will, as of now, to strengthen them even further. This will thus be a European cooperation model, based on multilateralism and the rule of law, implementing the principles of sustainability, openness and reciprocity. The Ministers will discuss together, for the first time in this format, the initiatives and projects which can secure and strengthen the momentum of the EU-Indo-Pacific partnership. The role of overseas communities which are already participating in their own right in regional organizations of the Indian and Pacific Oceans (Réunion, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia in particular) will also be discussed.
The day of 22 February will begin with a plenary session, co-chaired by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, during which several Foreign Ministers from the Indo-Pacific region will speak, including Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn of Cambodia, who chairs ASEAN, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi of Indonesia, who chairs the G20, and representatives of two States that have a strategic partnership with the European Union, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar of India and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi of Japan, as well as the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans. It will be followed by three roundtables on connectivity and digital technology, global challenges (climate, biodiversity, oceans, health), and security and defence issues.
The first roundtable on connectivity and digital technology issues will focus on the Global Gateway strategy adopted by the European Commission in December 2021, by highlighting leading infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region, promoting the European model for personal data protection and supporting academic exchanges, especially in the area of science and technology.
[(Focus on the Global Gateway strategy
The Global Gateway strategy, published on 1 December 2021, is an extension of the 2018 Europe-Asia connectivity strategy aimed at proposing international opportunities to develop connections in the areas of digital technology, energy and transport and at bolstering health systems, education and research throughout the world. The strategy is based on key principles – democratic values and compliance with international law; good governance and transparency; equal, green and clean partnerships focused on security; mobilization of private security investments – and adaptation to the strategic interests and needs of the different regions. From 2021 to 2027, European institutions and EU Member States will invest €300 billion in a Team Europe approach.
In compliance with the priority given to connectivity in the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, the European Union will support a lasting, global, rules-based connectivity. Existing partnerships with Japan and India will continue to be implemented and new partnerships will be studied, including to enhance existing cooperation with ASEAN within the framework of the EU-ASEAN Joint Ministerial Statement on Connectivity of 1 December 2021. The European Union will make efforts to step up implementation of tangible impactful projects, through the upcoming signing of the comprehensive agreement on air transport between ASEAN and the EU, with a special focus on private investments.
The second roundtable will be devoted to global issues (climate, biodiversity, oceans and health). It will focus on tangible projects rising to the challenge of fighting climate change and its negative effects, supporting the blue economy and strengthening European action to curb marine pollution and illegal fishing, including via blue and green alliances with countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Regarding health, pandemic response systems will be strengthened and vaccine cooperation developed, including by creating pharma manufacturing hubs.
The third roundtable dealing with security and defence issues will highlight the contribution of the European Union and its Member States to security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Discussions will focus on the implementation of a Coordinated Maritime Presence (CMP) in the Indian Ocean and such initiatives as the CRIMARIO programme, which since 2015 has aimed to strengthen regional systems for sharing maritime information and coordinating operations, and the Enhancing Security Cooperation in and with Asia (ESIWA) programme regarding maritime security, cybersecurity, the fight against terrorism and radicalization.
The three roundtables will be followed by a joint press conference of the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The day before the Forum, a meeting organized by the Agence Française de Développement and India’s Eximbank will be held. At this meeting involving several official development banks of EU Member States, the European Investment Bank and Indo-Pacific banks, participants will discuss ways to strengthen their partnership to help transform economies and promote sustainable development.