It is an unprecedented Forum that is being held on Tuesday, February 22 in Paris. It is neither more nor less than an exceptional meeting which brings together the foreign ministers of the 27 countries of the European Union and 33 countries of Asia-Pacific.
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From Malaysia to New Zealand, via Fiji, Samoa, the Seychelles and Indonesia, all of these nations which constitute more than half of the world economy are seeing “accumulating security challenges , economic, technological and environmental” of this XXIand dawning century, in the words of French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The EU has important interests in Asia-Pacific
While Europe is struggling in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis under Russian pressure, this forum on the other side of the world illustrates the European Union’s desire to consolidate its role and its links with the immense Asia-Pacific region where Chinese influence is of growing concern. “The responsibility of the European Union, added the French minister, is to build, with its partners in this region, a path of cooperation respectful of all sovereignties, in the service of international law, sustainable development and a humanism commensurate with the upheavals of our time. »
In the Pacific, 1.6 million French and 7,000 soldiers
President Emmanuel Macron, who holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, should recall the growing strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region for the European Union: 60% of the world’s wealth and three-fifths of the world’s population. But also for France where more than 1.6 million French people live there and where 7,000 French soldiers are stationed. A Pacific power, France has a very unique role to play there with its historic Japanese and Indian allies.
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Three major themes will be addressed during this Forum, which will only last one morning: connectivity and digital issues, climate and biodiversity issues and finally security and defense issues. A European cooperation strategy was launched last year in order to strengthen the presence of the European Union in a region increasingly at the heart of the stakes of the Sino-American rivalry. It should be noted that neither China nor the United States participate in this Forum.
“Europe has a card to play in this region, points out Philippe Le Corre, sinologist at the Harvard Kennedy School, in a contribution to the Japanese daily Nikkei, because many Asian countries do not want to choose between China or the United States and prefer to navigate between the two. » In other words, getting closer to the European Union perceived as more neutral. In this context, France can play a central role in European strategy in the Indo-Pacific.