The Jakarta Post
Indonesia is shaping up to be the diplomatic capital of the Southeast Asia region, as marked by the inauguration of the EU Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta.
"We'd like to see Jakarta, as the host city of ASEAN and missions of our foreign partners, in the long run signify itself as the diplomatic capital city of ASEAN," the Foreign Ministry's ASEAN dialogue partners and inter-regional cooperation director, Derry Aman, said on Tuesday.
As a concrete step in strengthening bi-regional ties, the EU has officially assigned a mission to conduct its relations with the ASEAN Secretariat, the office of which is also located in the Indonesian capital.
"The EU, its institutions and member states rightly regard ASEAN as a vitally important partner," European External Action Service ( EEAS ) director general for budget and administration, Patrick Child, said.
Child said the EU aimed to intensify political and economic relations with the region which was marked by the commitment of doubling the cooperation funds, to be channeled through the secretariat, amounting to over '¬170 million ( US$184 million ) for the period of 2014 - 2020, making the commission the biggest donor to the ASEAN Secretariat.
In the months to come, Child said, the EU sought to advance bilateral commercial relations with ASEAN member states while keeping the region-to-region Free Trade Agreement ( FTA ) as its final objective.
He further said the EU had also appointed for the first time an ambassador to ASEAN whose duties would be carried out by Francisco Fontan Pardo.
"We have right now an understanding with ASEAN member states that we want to have a region-to-region FTA as the horizon of the trade relations. To get to that goal we are advancing on the bilateral FTAs as the stepping stones," Pardo said.
The EU has concluded an FTA with Singapore and is still negotiating agreements with Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
Representing the Indonesian perspective, Derry said the region-to-region FTAs had been identified as one of the objectives in the discussion of the roadmap toward the strategic partnership.
"We already have a commitment, it is now a matter of further technical discussions and political commitment in order to realize it," Derry said.
He went on to say that aside from the the formation of the regional FTAs, both ASEAN and the EU were cooperating on a wide range of issues, including counterterrorism as one of the highlights, under the pillar of political security. Both parties would continue to forge cooperation in technical and concrete ways in maritime cooperation and maritime security, he added.
ASEAN secretary general Le Luong Minh said he was confident that the presence of the EU in ASEAN would contribute to further strengthening the strategic partnership between both regions. ( ebf )