Southeast Asia’s Contemporary Relations with Europe: Politics, Security, Economics, and Civil Society


Double Panel

Part 1

Session 1
Tue 09:30-11:00 REC A2.10

Part 2

Session 2
Tue 11:30-13:00 REC A2.10


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Part 1

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The objective of this panel (double session) is to examine Southeast Asia’s contemporary relations with Europe, discussing opportunities and challenges that arise in the areas of politics, security, economics, and civil society. The panel addresses both the relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) as well as those between individual countries and societies in Southeast Asia and Europe. All in all, the Southeast Asian-European relations are close and institutionalized – ASEAN and the EU share a strategic partnership since 2020. Especially the economic ties became stronger in the last years, as European trade with Southeast Asia and European investments in the region increased considerably. In its Indo-Pacific strategy, published in 2021, the EU strongly endorses the regional centrality of ASEAN in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Conversely, most Southeast Asian governments and citizens have a very positive perception of the EU, highlighting the EU’s diplomatic support for regional governance, its normative power and its economic strength.

The first session of this panel will focus on strategic and security relations between Southeast Asia and Europe. It will start with a comparison of the strategic approaches of the EU and Italy to Southeast Asia, emphasizing the respective security collaboration. The second presentation investigates why ASEAN and the EU view each other as strategic partners and how the EU’s contributions to peace and stability in Southeast Asia are perceived in the region itself. The following case study analyzes the EU’s political-diplomatic support for ASEAN in its attempt to maintain the rules-based order in the South China Sea. More specifically, it assesses the security and defense cooperation of the EU and selected member states with the Philippines. The fourth presentation will show why Russia’s war against Ukraine has increased Myanmar’s strategic importance for Moscow, while clearly outlining the obstacles to further deepening bilateral relations.

The second session examines economic cooperation between Southeast Asia and Europe. The first two presentations analyze how normative issues, notably human, social, and environmental rights, evolved since the 1970s in the EU-ASEAN economic collaboration. Particular attention will be paid to the negotiations of free trade agreements between Brussels and its Southeast Asian partners. The last two presentations focus on Indonesia, an increasingly important economic actor. The third presentation utilizes the concept of ‘weaponized independence’ to examine Indonesia’s strategy to leverage its geographic position and economic assets to promote its national interests as well as regional stability amidst the complex regional dynamics. It outlines why the EU could thereby become a pivotal strategic partner for Jakarta. The fourth presentation highlights how strongly Indonesia is embedded in the regional and global supply chains. Examining Indonesia’s trade dependencies on other ASEAN and East Asian nations, it uses a comparative analysis of supply chain integration in Central Eastern Europe. Drawing on the European experience, the paper concludes by assessing the policy instruments available to Indonesia to calibrate its economic relations with countries with which it has close supply chain links.