EU Diplomacy in the Asian Century – Implications of the set-up of the European External Action Service (EEAS) on EU-Asia Relations |

EU Diplomacy in the Asian Century – Implications of the set-up of the European External Action Service (EEAS) on EU-Asia Relations

20121016_Michael-Mattiessen_w170Contrary to what the news says these days, the European Union is more than just its economic crisis, and it is already pulling itself up. When the EU was granted the Nobel Peace Prize of 2012, the move was deemed controversial. But Matthiessen explained to his audience why the prize makes sense. The EU began as a peace project to avoid another World War in Europe, and started with a coal and steel community between six states (including France, Germany, and Italy), an agreement between France and Germany. The peace expanded to the rest of the continent. For the past six decades, the region has managed to achieve a peace never witnessed before in history – Matthiessen said there is absolutely no prospect of war between one member state and the other. By the end of 2013, 28 countries will have joined the EU.

Matthiessen continued by discussing different roles existing within the EU. With the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, the European Council became an official institution of the EU, and so assumed greater responsibility. Matthiessen also delineated the EU’s foreign policy roles. Though the voice of the EU is constantly heard at international forums, there is a difference between the singular voice of the EU versus those of the member nations. In other words, represented states can still voice their own national interests, but when the voice of the EU speaks, it is when member states agree upon certain policies.

And how close are the relationships between the EU and Asia? Eighteen delegations of the EU can be found across Asia from Afghanistan to Taiwan, and the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) has prepared its policy vis-à-vis Asia. “There is a good pool of experts, experience and languages in the EEAS,” said Matthiessen. Because of the large trade taking place between the two continents, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have been implemented, one such being the FTA between the EU and South Korea. The main goal is to have a region-to-region FTA, i.e. ASEAN and the EU. Before that economic dream can come true, however, bilateral FTAs are being engaged. As a whole, the EU has strategic interests in Asia concerning trade and global challenges that the world faces.

The EU can actually learn from Asia, stated Matthiessen. The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s helped Asia recover rather quickly from the current global financial crisis. This is because the steps taken to recover during the Asian crisis are what the EU can adopt in order to pull out of this one. On the other hand, the ASEAN countries, and Asia as a whole, can learn from the EU in terms of its tolerance and regional cooperation that has proved to be so successful. Perhaps in the far future, it would be an Asian regional entity receiving a Nobel Peace Prize.


On 16th October, 2012, Mr. Michael Matthiessen, the EU Visiting Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy gave a talk to students and faculty of the importance of EU Diplomacy in the Asian Century. Beginning with a general description of the European Union and the various functions and offices held by its top personnel, Matthiessen elaborated on details concerning the EU which are usually overlooked.


By Meryl Haddad, a first year MPP student studying at the LKY school of Public Policy. She graduated from the American University of Beirut in 2009 with a B.A in Political Science and worked as a freelance journalist before coming to Singapore to pursue a MPP.


Even though most press headlines about Europe concern the "Euro-crisis", other crucial developments in the European Union (EU) are taking place and they will have a lasting impact is Asia. One of the important changes introduced by the EU's Lisbon Treaty was the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU's new diplomatic corps. It provides the EU with a foreign policy face and, to borrow from Henry Kissinger, a single phone number that third parties can refer to. The EEAS, which is under the authority of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, has its headquarters in Brussels and 140 Delegations around the world. After a transitional period in 2010, the EEAS started in 2011 and has now reached its cruising speed.

The EEAS forms a new and coherent body that initiates and coordinates the EU's comprehensive foreign policy in the years to come. What impact does this have for Asia and for EU-Asia relations? Is it a coincidence that its set-up has been followed by a current flow of EU high-level visits and summits in Asia? Are Europe and the US competing for attention in a rising Asia?

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Mr. Michael Matthiessen, EU Visiting Fellow 2012-2013, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Tuesday, 16 October 2012
5.15 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.

Seminar Room 3-1
Level 3, Manasseh Meyer
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
469C Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259772

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