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Recap: Europe-Asia Relations in 2022: Reflections and Predictions

As we reach the halfway point of 2022, STEAR had the opportunity to evaluate events spanning the last 6 months, and review what this may mean for the latter half of the year in EU-Asia relations. Additionally, this was also the last external Guest-Speaker event held by STEAR in its first term since it was founded - a fitting time indeed to discuss the overall trends and sentiments in the relationship between both continents as STEAR's inaugural board steps down and the new board begins its term.

From the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, to the first major European military conflict in decades, the events of 2022 so far have been unprecedented. At a time when global unity to tackle the growing environmental crisis is needed, the entire world has been rocked by instability. Relations between Europe and Asia have generally been shaped by development aid and trade, but as Asia continues to rise, and Europe faces manifold problems, 2022 may shape a new era of Europe-Asia relations. Many countries are cautiously observing China’s actions and relations with Ukraine and reaffirming security as a top priority. Meanwhile Asia’s own conflicts continue under a much-reduced spotlight. Both Europe and Asia have experienced major events throughout the course of the year, with important European elections, the G7 and G20 Summits, and the 20th National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

This event, held on the 8th of July, aimed to analyse the impact of recent and ongoing events on Europe-Asia relations, how they may impact upcoming events, and anticipate future trends. With around 40 participants from all over the world and a stellar panel of speakers, the event was the platform upon which an engaging discussion took place throughout the entire duration of the event. The panel discussion began with a brief introduction and outline of today's Europe-Asia status-quo by STEAR's Event Officer and moderator of this event, Juliet Pegg. Following this, our special guest, Ambassador Nong Sakal, set the scene by delivering a brief but comprehensive keynote speech, focusing on EU-ASEAN relations, the EU's Indo-Pacific strategy and various initiatives undertaken under the leadership of Cambodia in formats such as the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) or the ASEAN Chairmanship.

Anne McNaughton used her statement to highlight the international law dimension of the event topic, speaking on topics such as the strong commitment of the EU, ASEAN and the constituent states of both entities to international law, as well as the importance of adhering to and understanding the various treaties, agreements and rules that shape our world and define how different actors should interact with one-another. Professor McNaughton went on to emphasise that in an issue area as broad and diverse as Europe-Asia relations, and in a group of nations as heterogeneous, we must persevere all the more to reach a common understanding. She commended STEAR for its significant initiative and its mission to reach across cultural, historical and geographical differences to engage in conversation.

Frederick Kliem continued by pointing out that under the broad umbrella of Europe-Asia relations, there are in fact many different Europe-Asia relations, with EU-ASEAN relations as one of the most essential ones, having recently just celebrated 40 years of dialogue. We should therefore not see Europe-Asia relations as a monolith. He continued by underlining the diversity and inequalities both among member states within either supranational organisation but also between the EU and ASEAN. Dr. Kliem also provided commentary on current affairs, including the implications of the ASEAN Chairmanship going to Indonesia, the state of the EU-ASEAN region to region FTA, the EU's covid alleviation efforts in the Indo-Pacific and the logic behind the securitization of climate change, just to name a few.

Following this excellent round of statements came the opportunity for a moderated discussion between our speakers as well as audience questions. Here the panel touched on various topics such as climate change, education policy, the EU's Indo-Pacific strategy and the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war. We’d like to thank our guest speakers for their valuable contributions and their time, as well as all audience members for their interesting questions and participation. More exciting events are happening very soon, so we encourage you to stay up to date through our website and social media platforms!

About the speakers

His Excellency Ambassador Nong Sakal joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia in 1994 as a career diplomat. He has been appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Cambodia to Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and the EU in November 2021. From February 2019 to September 2021, he served as Under Secretary of State for ASEAN affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia. From March 2015 to November 2016, he served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Cambodia to the Republic of Indonesia while holding a parallel function as Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Cambodia to ASEAN in Jakarta. Subsequently, he was nominated as a dedicated Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Cambodia to ASEAN (November 2016 to February 2019).

Anne McNaughton is a comparative lawyer who researches at the intersection of international and comparative law. She was appointed as Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies (ANUCES) in March 2020 (having been its Deputy Director since 2015). Anne has been particularly interested in the complex issues associated with how global economic integration affects the local legal framework at various levels. Anne researches the concept of mutual recognition as developed in EU jurisprudence and its migration into international trade treaties and agreements. Building on this work, her current research examines the nature of legal transplants between new and emerging legal systems of international law. Anne has conducted this research as a member of an Australian Research Grant Linkage project that examined the changing nature of the trade and business relationship between Australia and the European Union. She has also been a member of several research projects funded through the European Union’s Jean Monnet activities programme and is currently a research lead in a Jean Monnet network and Centre of Excellence based at the ANU Centre for European Studies.

Frederick Kliem is a Research Fellow and lecturer at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. Frederick is with the Centre for Multilateralism Studies at RSIS and his main research interests are regional integration and multilateralism as well as the geopolitics of Asia and Europe. Specific research projects include the study of ASEAN and EU institutions, inter-regionalism and comparative regionalism as well as European Indo-Pacific engagement. In addition, Frederick is a freelance Consultant and a EU Key Expert on ASEAN-EU matters. His latest book is Great Power Competition and Order Building in the Indo-Pacific: Towards a New Indo-Pacific Equilibrium. United Kingdom: Routledge, 2022.

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