France calls for Asean-EU political engagement

France calls for Asean-EU political engagement
French President François Hollande speaks at 40th Singapore Lecture at Ritz Carlton. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY
Published: 4:00 AM, March 28, 2017
Updated: 11:16 AM, March 28, 2017

SINGAPORE — The Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) and the European Union (EU) should look beyond economic and cultural cooperation, and enhance political engagement, said French President Francois Hollande yesterday.

Responding to a question by Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee on where Asean stands in France’s strategic calculus, Mr Hollande said France has all along had an Asia strategy because its businesses understood the potential of the region.

“But we did not give it a political dimension. It is not just about the economy or culture. But also about sharing common interests … We (Asean and the EU) share the same attachment to independence and the willingness to set our own destiny.”

To kick-start the process, he said, both sides should sign a partnership agreement setting out political principles that all parties can identify with. He did not provide further details.

Earlier, Mr Hollande said, while delivering the 40th Singapore Lecture on France and Singapore, Strategic Partners in a Fast-Changing World, that Asean and the EU should consider signing a strategic partnership agreement.

He said France will support the Asean-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, which will strengthen air connections between Asia and Europe.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Asean-EU dialogue relations. Both sides have pledged to accelerate efforts in working towards a strategic partnership.

Last year, both groupings signed a declaration to promote partnerships in shared strategic goals including trade, connectivity, development cooperation, energy, research and on political and security issues among others.

The EU has applied to join the Asean-led East Asia Summit but there is a moratorium on the membership of the forum. ALBERT WAI