The Indo-Pacific is evolving and has become “the power center of world geopolitics.” The region is responsible for two-thirds of global economic growth and has three of the world’s four largest economies – China, Japan, and India. Likewise, Southeast Asia, which is at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, has more than half a billion people and boasts among the world’s fastest-growing economies. The vast region is thus central to the global value chain, international trade, and investment flows - 40% of global trade passes through the Strait of Malacca and 30% through the South China Sea (SCS). At the same time, current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific featured tensions over contested territories and waters and rising geopolitical rivalries which have spilled over the economic, political, and security areas. Therefore, in light of these new realities, the European Union (EU) was compelled to reassess its engagement strategy towards the region.
On 16 September 2021, the Council of the European Union published the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. It marked the beginning of the EU’s new approach to the region, diversifying its relations beyond traditional regional partners like China, Japan, and members of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to include India, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, and other “like-minded“states.
Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, Inc., with the support of the Philippine Office of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, organized a Track Two Observer Discussion Forum on Europe in Southeast Asia: Maritime Security Aspects. The forum’s discussion focused on European perspectives on the major maritime security issues in the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia region, with an eye to better understanding the implications of the European Union’s new Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and other security moves from the E3 (the United Kingdom, France, and Germany).